Prepare for summer staff issues
It's time to head to the beaches and cottages and to schedule that well-deserved vacation. I'm sure you'll agree, there's a sense of excitement in the air -- well, at least for some people.
Many employers actually dread the summer season. That's because there is no holiday from human resource issues in the workplace. In fact, there is a wide variety of human resource issues that seem to occur more during the summer than any other season. These issues create havoc in the workplace.
At the same time, the summer is typically a slower time of year and so it may be a good time to review your human resource policies, to develop new training programs, revamp your recruitment processes and perhaps to computerize some of your HR functions.
Here are some of the more common HR issues that seem to arise during the summer period:
Summer work hours -- Do you change your work schedules or offer compressed work weeks to accommodate the summer season? Are the start and end dates for the new work schedule clear to both employees and customers? If you close your workplace on Fridays or Mondays, can you assure that your customer needs are being attended to? Do you provide emergency numbers for clients?
Vacation policies -- Are your vacation policies up to date and known to all employees? Have you clarified if seniority plays a role in vacation scheduling and how this is applied? Do you specify how far in advance employees need to schedule their vacation? Is this notice period being adhered to by your managers? Do you have a policy on vacation carry-over? Do you have a policy on "borrowing" vacation days from the next calendar year? Summer is a great time to review those HR policies.
Staff coverage strategies -- Have you examined how you will provide coverage for each of the employees who are off on vacation? Work can't stand still and customer needs must be met. Use this as a professional development opportunity for high-performing employees but be careful not to overload them with unfamiliar work. Be sure to communicate the staff coverage changes to all employees and especially the receptionist who deals with your public.
Dress code policies -- With business attire becoming more and more casual, employers need to pay more attention to how employees are dressing and what impact this has on fellow employees and customers as well as the public persona of your organization. Unfortunately, women seem to take the most liberties in this regard. While open-toed sandals for women are acceptable, those colourful flip flops need to be reserved for the beach. Diligence is important here because as your mother used to say, one thing leads to another.
Seasonal worker strategy -- Do you have a seasonal worker and/or summer student strategy? Does this strategy include comprehensive training on the workplace health and safety regulations within your organization? Are you compliant with your local legislation with respect to student age and work hours? Check out any new legislative requirements. As well, be certain to follow your regular recruitment and selection processes, especially with references.
Keep performance on track -- That old saying about the lazy, hazy days of summer can also be applied to the issue of employee performance. Have you thought about your success metrics during the summer season? How do you determine if these metrics are being met? Or, are your employees being a bit lazy and not performing up to par? Summer is also a good time to meet employees individually to get to know them better and to learn more about what motivators excite them.
Monitor absenteeism -- There is nothing more challenging than seeing the abuse of Friday sick days during the summer. Employers are counting on vacation scheduling to ensure smooth operations and Friday sick days create havoc in the workplace. Workloads suddenly need to be shifted and team morale may be negatively affected. Put your contingency plan in place, but be sure to deal with this issue immediately if it arises. Also pay close attention to late arrivals and early departures.
Special project management -- Have you overloaded your workforce with too many HR projects to implement in the summer season? Are your goals feasible now that you have scheduled employee vacations? On the other hand, summer is sometimes a great time to implement these projects. A project may well provide an opportunity for employee cross training or to create an acting or project leadership role that wouldn't otherwise be available.
New employee recruitment and orientation -- In spite of the fact an employee termination may create challenges, there is nothing more disturbing for a new employee than to start work and not have any support. So, if you are recruiting and hiring new employees in the summer, be sure to assign someone to oversee their entry process and to provide some basic training. Also be sure there is a designated workplace and sufficient work for the new employee to do.
Workplace temperatures -- Some like it hot and some like it cold! Believe it or not, temperature is a common summer complaint in the workplace. I am sure there are many stories that can be told of individual employees turning the temperature down, only to have someone else turn it right back up. Be sure that employees know what the rules are with respect to adjusting the temperature in the workplace. It is best to assign this to a facilities person rather than allow everyone to access and change the temperature to their own taste.
Outside workers -- Summer is also the time when many outside work projects are scheduled. While working outside sounds like a pleasant opportunity, in fact there are many health-related dangers to be aware of. First of all, these employees may be faced with the potential of sunburn. Secondly, extreme heat can cause heat exhaustion, dehydration and death. No one wants this to happen. Ensure that your working conditions are safe and that employees have access to shade and water. Also ensure your training programs make employees aware of the dangers and symptoms of heat exhaustion and how to combat this hazard.
For most employees, summer is a great season for family fun and personal rest and recuperation from the long work year. Unfortunately, human resource issues don't take vacations and so summer season can create numerous headaches for employers. Taking the time to think through the potential of any HR issues, reviewing outstanding policy issues and developing contingency plans will enable you to have a successful season.
About the author
Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC is president of Legacy Bowes Group. She is also host of the weekly BowesKnows radio show and is the author of Resume Rescue and Taming the Workplace Tigers. She can be reached at email@example.com://www.barbarabowes.com
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