Dr. Lisa: So business owners cope with the issue in several ways. Many let the problem happen to them. They have long-standing vacation policies that dictate how much time off people get, most often dictated by length of service. Many times, the employees get to choose when they would like off, with no limit as to how many people can be off at a time. But, some business owners do manage this, placing a limit on how many people can be off at the same time, and from the same department.

Brad: In my experience, once employees make enough money, time off becomes a high priority. And, that is in conflict with the needs of the business and business owner. I want a secure, satisfied work force to keep turnover down, but the more secure and satisfied they are, the more time off they desire.

Dr. Lisa: Interesting dilemma to have with your best and longest term employees. And, I would guess that you also have employees who constantly need last minute time off to deal with the crisis of the moment.
Brad: Yes, of course.
Dr Lisa: Unplanned time off can be very disruptive. Sometimes, it is the same people who need or take unplanned time off over and over again. That requires enough people in total to cover for the lost productivity. It may be additional “protective capacity” in the department, or in other departments that pitch in to help. Sometimes, the work just sits and waits for the employee to return, especially when no one else has that skill set. That interrupts flow, and flow is the most important thing a business needs to maintain.
Brad: Again, these problems hit small businesses especially hard. There is no one else with the needed skill set and/or there aren’t enough people to get the job done in the first place.

Dr. Lisa: How did you handle it as an owner of a label printing business?
Brad: By installing a system that wasn’t popular, but was very effective. For all non-exempt employees, I raised pay rates and the vacation that was possible to earn. That was the good news, and provided me the opportunity to put in a system that had some teeth to it. Everyone earned vacation by working a full work week. Any unplanned absences during regular hours (being late, sick, etc.) resulting in earning less vacation, and required using existing vacation time for the time off. No longer was vacation an entitlement that was just given, and we actually had a system for “earning” it. We coordinated employees’ vacation such that two weeks of vacation were taken by employees in blocks, one week in December and another in July. Otherwise, two weeks notice was required, and we quoted two weeks lead-time, so we could predict available resources accurately.
Dr. Lisa: Would you recommend something like that for other business owners.
Brad: Only if they have a problem with availability of people.
Dr Lisa: Nice answer and as you know, I agree. We should only do those things that are necessary and sufficient to achieve the results we’re after. So my recommendation is to do the Velocity Scheduling System Coaching Program first (or Project Velocity System for service companies). Then, if you have this issue, it will show up in the red zone of the buffer and you now know what to do about it.

Here’s to maximizing YOUR profits!

Dr Lisa

(c)Copyright 2010, Dr Lisa, Inc. All rights reserved.

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