Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Absence management 'Nightmares Before Christmas'?

Anyone who knows me will know that my beloved husband is a big kid who absolutely adores Christmas - we don't have our decorations up yet this year, which is a first (they were up on 1st November last year), but he's already started playing Christmas songs in the car and the inevitable Christmas movie playlist has started.

I watched his first choice of Christmas Movie last night (no doubt there are more to come!) Mark always seems to start with 'The Nightmare Before Christmas'.  It struck me that for many HR departments, the next month really will be an absence management nightmare!

The first dread for many is the end of annual leave year.  For those HR Managers still using spreadsheets or paper forms, this will mean a laborious end of year process that often takes days to calculate.  

The inevitable reporting ensues, who did and didn't take all their annual leave, who has taken how many days off sick and who (if anyone) is allowed to carry over their leave for the next year - all done largely manually.  The thought of all that admin is a mean burden that is no doubt pressing on hearts and minds at this time of year - you have our sympathies. 

That leads us to the second source of nightmares for the HR team - annual leave.  All of a sudden, everyone wakes up to find it's December and they haven't used all their leave entitlement.  It's often only absent mindedness rather than deliberate, but nobody wants to lose their leave if they can't carry it over.  A battle ensues to race the seasonal sleigh and get your request in first - and where clashes ensue, particularly when there is a 'no carryover' policy, the HR Manager is expected to juggle the roles of Mum, Judge and Boss in one.  

Of course, if you just give in and let everyone take a year's worth of annual leave in one month, you risk leaving yourself short staffed - and instead of unhappy staff, its unhappy managers - either way, HR is the fall guy - and if some of your team have to work over the season (like those who work in hospitality or care), you need the wisdom of Solomon to deliberate who works what shifts!

As if your HR team are not already stressed enough, those seasonal sniffles and the fallout from a month of partying combine to create a perfect storm for your overworked HR team, giving them additional absence challenges in an already stressful month.  When they finally settle down in front of their Christmas Dinner, those managers will have earned their entire salary in one month.

There is however a speck of light from Jack's pumpkin in the midst of the Christmas HR nightmare.  

Lots of the above challenges can be made a lot easier with cloud based software - users of our software have the end of year process reduced to a click of a button, you can use trigger alerts to remind staff to spread their annual leave throughout the year, and better absence management systems usually result in fewer sick days.

However, the end of year is always going to present a challenge for HR.  I for one will be raising a glass to the people-people who are often the glue that holds a business together in the 'seasonal season' - to quote Tiny Tim - 'God Bless them Every One'!


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