4 Best Practices to Improve Production Scheduling with Employee Vacations
June is here. Summer travel has begun. Depending on your geography, restrictions on business and gatherings are over or soon will be. B2B employees are beginning to return to their offices. Mail volumes are up significantly over this time last year and many print service providers are experiencing growth in print volumes across many sectors. After overcoming the hurdles of 2020, the biggest challenge of the summer may be adequate staffing for production volumes.
Use It or Lose It
HR and payroll managers are beginning to inform employees that they must use their earned paid time off (PTO) and vacation time before the end of the calendar year. So, employees are planning much needed vacations after 15 months of being at home – working, schooling and everything else.
Sales, client services and other non-production teams have adapted to working from home. And they may crave some completely unplugged vacation time where they are not checking email or on Zoom calls from the lake or beach house. Production staff who postponed or cancelled vacation plans last summer and fall also need more than a long weekend to refresh and recharge.
The challenge of increasing production volumes and scheduling earned time off for employees can be an operations manager’s worst nightmare.
The Art of Scheduling
Clients don’t want to hear it may take longer to get their jobs done. Scheduling vacations for production staff is both art and science. You can do the math of expected volumes and machine throughput to determine how much staff is needed. And it is far from this simple. You can plan for the expected volume. You can implement any number of vacation/PTO policies based on tenure, first request, and only one week at a time to attempt to accommodate everyone. The art is making sure employees feel supported and comfortable taking their earned time off while also meeting customer demands. The management challenge is knowing when employees are burnt out and encouraging them to take their PTO even if production is behind. Even if they are your best employee.
Many printers have experienced higher turnover and tougher competition in keeping hourly production employees on staff. To address these issues, printers have increased hourly wages and offered free meals and cash bonuses to get and keep production staff.
Try these four best practices for balancing the scheduling demands for customer work and employees’ vacation time. Consider the positive long-term impact of:
- Cross training
- Automating workflows
- Flexible scheduling
- A culture of planning
An effective way to enable multiple people to take time off at the same time is defining and implementing cross training across all departments. Production managers make it a priority to schedule regular time for cross training throughout the year mitigates the challenges of summer vacations. With IT, data services, and client services teams, documentation and a commitment to cross training allows for back-up planning and coverage when key people are out of the office. This doesn’t happen during a one-hour meeting on the day before a key staff person is leaving for vacation. Plan for this.
In the last year, many companies enhanced and automated workflows so account management teams and production teams could interact remotely. Investing in automating workflows, eliminating redundant and manual steps, and leveraging technology frees up staff and provides strategies for coverage.
In annual HR surveys that rank the best places to work, employees across all verticals indicate flexibility as one of the most important criteria for staying with their current employer. Printers should take this to heart to determine the best way to provide flexibility to your staff. Flexibility can mean many different things to different people such as flex time, working remotely, summer hours, etc.
A Culture of Planning
A culture of planning isn’t one thing. A culture of planning enables employees to understand their role, where the company is going strategically, and how their department fits in with the larger strategic goals and client requirements. Planning also means communication about scheduling PTO and cross-training sessions. A planning culture includes ongoing communications from leadership to define strategic and tactical goals and measures for success. Regular communications from leaders empower employees to make better decisions on projects large and small.
I hope you and your teams have much needed vacations planned and scheduled. Wishing all of you reading, plenty of time away from work to unplug and recharge in 2021.
Input for this piece was provided by Mark M. Fallon, president and CEO, The Berkshire Company:
Mark M. Fallon is president and CEO of The Berkshire Company, a consulting firm specializing in mail and document processing strategies. The company develops customized solutions integrating proven management concepts with emerging technologies to achieve total process management. He offers a vision of the document that integrates technology, data quality, process integrity, and electronic delivery. His successes are based upon using leadership to implement innovative solutions in the document process. You can contact Mark at email@example.com.
Lois Ritarossi, CMC®, is the President of High Rock Strategies, a consulting firm focused on sales and marketing strategies, and business growth for firms in the print, mail and communication sectors. Lois brings her clients a cross functional skill set and strategic thinking with disciplines in business strategy, sales process, sales training, marketing, software implementation, inkjet transformation and workflow optimization. Lois has enabled clients to successfully launch new products and services with integrated sales and marketing strategies, and enabled sales teams to effectively win new business. You can reach Lois at highrockstrategies.com.