Employee Leave Management is one of the main things HR departments handle. But, many companies get bogged down in unnecessarily long, complicated processes. Here are 5 common mistakes that can hurt your company, and ways to fix them.
1. Creating a “Vacation Shaming” Culture
In many companies, employees have to deal with comments about choosing to take vacation. These can come from higher-ups at the company, but more often than not, they come directly from peers. We’ve all heard the “You’re taking a vacation? How nice, I wish I had the time to do that,” comment.
If you hear this kind of talk in your workplace and no one speaks up about the various benefits of vacation, it continues to foster negative feelings towards time off. If employees fear their boss’s reaction to a vacation request, it’s highly unlikely they’ll request it at all.
According to the closely watched Allianz Travel Insurance Vacation Confidence Index, as many as 25% of millennials are nervous about requesting time off from their employer and 48% of them are not using all their paid time off each year.
This steers employees away from taking much-needed time off, and increases rates of employee burnout. The same index shows that those suffering from this vacation deficit are more than twice as likely to show signs of depression than the US average.
It is your job as an HR representative to clearly outline the benefits that come with taking vacation, encourage employees to take it, and talk with employees about how to end “vacation shaming.”
Read more: How to take the stress out of taking vacation.
2. Requiring Employees to Stay Connected on Vacation
“Vacation shaming” may not completely deter an employee from taking their time off, but the employee will feel pressure to work while on vacation. This may seem productive, but it takes away from the benefits of taking time off in the first place.
Employees who work on vacation feel increased levels of stress, and return to work without getting the rest they needed.
According to a recent study, only 1 in 4 employees stays completely unplugged while on vacation. And many companies contribute to this by requiring employees to monitor their work accounts while taking time off, causing more stress and anxiety instead of helping ease those feelings.
Requiring or encouraging employees to check their emails and answer phone calls while taking time off from work is counteractive and can cause employees to feel resentment towards their companies and jobs. Stressed employees that don’t enjoy their jobs don’t produce high quality work — which hurts the company even more.
3. Communicating Poorly With Employees
Poor communication leads to unnecessary conflicts, unproductive time and dissatisfied employees. If the HR department doesn’t make vacation policies clear upfront, employees get caught up in the confusing process of requesting vacation. This leads to lots of wasted time that should be spent on work projects.
Additionally, companies must keep employees informed about their vacation balance. When an employee doesn’t know exactly how much vacation time they have left, it’s highly unlikely they’ll take the vacation time they need and deserve.
Or what if that employee requests 5 days of vacation but finds out they only have 3 left without any warning? Your HR department now has to spend valuable time figuring out how to diffuse the situation. Do you let the employee take 5 days or tell them they have to make it 3? How will this interaction affect the employee’s performance at work?
Keep employees informed about vacation balance in the first place and prevent this unnecessary conflict.
4. Disregarding Understaffed Departments
Companies often use outdated technology to track employee vacation, which can very easily lead to multiple employees being out at once. This affects team productivity, and your company will suffer as customers have subpar experiences and projects have to be postponed. Poor customer service has devastating consequences in today’s business world. When someone voices their complaints on social media, it spreads rapidly to other current or potential customers and erodes trust.
Companies that don’t have a rigid routine of tracking and updating time off are prone to making these mistakes. Make sure each team and individual employee knows how to function regardless of who’s missing. This will prevent unhappy customers and your company will stay out of negative social media.
5. Using Outdated Leave Management Technology
Outdated technology to manage leave requests results in overly complex processes, employee frustration, and unnecessary delays. Approximately 51% of digital workers at “technology laggard” organizations expressed frustration with their employer.
It can lead to multiple employees being out at once, but it can also lead to the opposite. Your employees may choose to avoid the process completely, fearing they’ll get caught up in a lengthy and convoluted process. If your company is tracking time off with Excel Sheets or Word Documents, you are running the risk of passing around incomplete information. With these kinds of software, simple mistakes slip by unnoticed. For example:
- Say an HR representative accidentally writes that Employee A will be out from 07/18/19 to 06/22/19. If Word or Excel could warn you that your dates are incorrect, it would be an easy fix. However, if they don’t catch it immediately, it creates problems with the approval. Extending the process even further, Employee A will get frustrated as they have to wait longer.
- Another common problem is using email to secure needed approvals. Say that Excel Sheet gets emailed to the Head of HR, but they don’t have time to look at it right away. That one email will get buried by hundreds of others before they look at their inbox.
When looking through those emails, they may miss the important update to the Employee Time Off Excel Sheet. Or they may be receiving so many updates for the same sheet that they don’t know which one is most current. If they accidentally pick the wrong one, any employees added after that version will have to wait even longer for a signature.
How HR Can Address and Solve These Issues
Your HR Department can start making small changes to improve the happiness of your employees. Here are some simple steps you can take to make requesting vacation less stressful for your company.
1. Create a “Vacation Friendly” Culture to Retain Talent
This is the first and most important change. Leadership has to buy into the notion that employees need time off, they need to unplug, and that periodic rest is a net positive for the company.
Periodic vacations decrease rates of employee burnout. You’re also far more likely to retain talented employees. Given the scarcity and intense competition for top talent, retention must be a key priority within the company.
So, you should strongly encourage your employees to take periodic time off. Keeping pushing the mental, emotional, and physical health benefits of vacation, and tell them to take their well-deserved leave. Lead by example, and encourage other higher-ups to take time off when needed. This will help dispel the negative mentality surrounding vacation.
2. Let Employees Unplug so They Can Fully Recharge
If your employees take time off but stay “plugged in” to their work devices, the benefits associated with vacation greatly reduce. Instead of encouraging or requiring employees to stay “plugged in,” do the exact opposite.
Tell employees to step away from their phones and computers for the duration of their trip. Don’t require or expect emails to be answered or phone messages to be returned, and make sure the rest of the team has the same expectation. Some companies have started offering incentives to stay “unplugged.” Acceleration Partners even offers a salary bonus if employees take vacation and stay completely disconnected from work.
There are many “tech-free friendly” vacation spots in the US and around the world — suggest these destinations to your employees.
3. Be Direct and [Over-]Communicate With Employees
Clear communication is a core HR function. It’s especially important to be upfront about the company’s policies including its leave management policy. Unclear policies stress employees out and prevent them from taking the time off they need. It’s better to be over-communicative than under.
When employees know exactly when and how to take vacation, they will take advantage of it more often. It also accelerates the overall process since employees don’t need to use time to figure out how to send a request. Your company should also give employees the ability to check their vacation balances at all times to avoid unnecessary conflict.
4. Cross-Train Employees to Increase Trust & Collaboration
Employees often avoid taking leave because they worry about what will happen to key projects when they’re away. The fact is that most companies function just fine if a particular individual is away for a couple of weeks. People underestimate how well colleagues can handle problems in their absence.
For example, When Jon Stewart took 3 months off from the Daily Show, he trusted his colleague John Oliver to handle things. Oliver did such a fantastic job that he picked up his own show on HBO.
Your company can also take specific measures to avoid feeling understaffed when an employee takes leave. Cross-train employees so things continue to run smoothly even if a specific person is missing. This has more positive effects, because it increases teamwork and communication within and between teams. Each employee will have a solid understanding of their colleagues’ jobs, so if someone chooses to leave permanently, HR doesn’t have to look very far to find potential replacements. And, employees that understand each other’s jobs are more likely to collaborate better in the future.
How Leave Management Automation Software Can Help
Automated Leave Management Software helps address these issues so your HR department can focus on people instead of paperwork. Automation takes care of many routine details such as:
- Who requested vacation?
- How many employees will be out of office on each day?
- Who approved each vacation request?
- How much vacation do I have left?
Electronic forms also help employees catch mistakes before submitting a request. Updates occur in real time so users no longer have 20 versions of the same form crowding your inbox.
Employees can see how their vacation request is progressing, and managers can approve and sign electronically on any device. No more employees chasing after higher-ups, and no more confusing paperwork!
Unless you’re a large company, you don’t need to deploy a large, expensive ERP system such as PeopleSoft or SAP. Affordable workflow management software such as frevvo gets the job done. It’s easy to use, available in the Cloud, works with your existing HR systems, and eases the process for your employees.
Vacation should be a positive and rejuvenating experience.
But, many companies don’t prioritize “taking time off” as much as they need to. Employees need to feel supported by their company when requesting vacation, and they will search for companies that provide that support. Your company can become one that employees look for if you implement these changes.
Create a vacation-friendly culture. HR should make it clear that vacation time is extremely beneficial to employees’ health and work performance. Employees that get stressed about merely requesting time off can’t unwind fully while on the vacation itself.
Communicate openly with employees. Clear policies make happier employees. Employees who understand the process of requesting vacation are more likely to go through that process.
Cross-train each employee to improve colleague collaboration. Employees that know they have trained coworkers to stand in for them while they’re gone will have an easier time detaching from work.
Finally, invest in efficient, effective automation technologies. If your company continues to use paper forms or other outdated technology like Excel, the process becomes more complicated than it needs to be. Don’t let complicated vacation requests take up time and energy that’s better spent on customers.
The company will benefit from increased customer satisfaction, as well as relaxed and productive employees. HR won’t have to track down paperwork and all vacation-related information will stay in one place.