One of the biggest juggling acts small companies face is a surge in business during the holiday season just when there’s an increase in staffers’ vacation requests.
It’s a problem companies can contend with even if they’re not the retailers, restaurants and caterers that make a significant portion of their revenue between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Companies as diverse as accounting firms, graphic designers and payroll providers have business cycles that ramp up at year-end and require employees to work.
Human resources and staffing professionals say owners can avoid stress and resentment by setting expectations early with staffers — as early as the interviewing process before they’re hired. Making a good hire — an employee who’s on board with a company’s needs — is critical, says Kate Zabriskie, president of Business Training Works, a company that offers management training.
“If you don’t have a good team and you’re not a good manager, this is the time of year when you begin to see the cracks,” she says.
Owners should also create a formal, written vacation policy detailing how many employees can be on vacation at the same time during the holidays and how conflicts are resolved.
The year-end crunch/vacation collision course is particularly a problem when it’s not feasible for a company to hire freelancers to help out. That’s the case at firms that have ongoing relationships with customers or clients; for example, an accounting firm is unlikely to be able to bring in per diem accountants to help small business clients with year-end tax projections.
Companies that do want to get help will find a hard time finding it if they’re just starting their search now. While in the past employers started recruiting for the holiday season 90 days ahead of time, “now they’re looking as much as six months or a year out,” says Ellis Norman, head of sales at Adia, maker of an app that helps businesses find freelance workers.