For many businesses, including retail and hospitality, the holiday season brings many opportunities. Increased traffic, a higher turnover of stock and – if all goes to plan – higher profits. One of the challenges, however, can be managing your staff.
If the holiday season means increased traffic for your business, here are some tips to help you manage the needs of your staff – and keep customers happy so you can make the most of the holiday spending spree.
1. Plan ahead
While you probably know from past experience when to expect a rush, determine what specific days and times will likely be the busiest. Consider checking other variables, such as the schedule for nearby events or the weather forecast if they could affect your rush times.
When planning, also review the employment rules in your industry and make a list of good sources of casual and temporary staff. (Tip: Ask your current employees.)
2. Manage all leave in advance
Determine, communicate and stick to your criteria so you are not only fair but also transparent.
As far as possible ensure that:
- Leave is taken before or after the holidays.
- You give staff a closing date for leave applications.
- You base the leave priorities on pre-set criteria that might include seniority, need, performance and reasons for the leave. For example, a senior level employee who wants to attend a close friend’s wedding would probably receive priority over a junior employee who asks for time off to see a concert.
3. Let your stars shine
Instead of keeping your best staff busy on tasks that don’t directly contribute to higher sales, arrange the workload to maximise their customer interaction. Chances are they’ll be happier and more productive, too, if customer service is their strength.
This may require you to rethink when and how routine tasks get done so you don’t take your stars away from serving the customers. For example, we spoke to a hairdressing salon manager who hires extra cleaning help during the busy pre-holiday rush so the stylists can focus on the clients and not on cleaning up. This has the added benefit of keeping the salon look neat and clean, even on the busiest days.
4. Make breaks easy
Your employees need their breaks – especially when it’s busy – so they can continue to provide the level of service your customers expect. Make sure you’re clear with them about how and when breaks will happen. It’s critical that you manage breaks so that your key customer contact points are never understaffed.
If you rotate breaks and encourage employees to return on time, staff will feel they’ve been treated fairly and haven’t been overworked. You can make things easier for your staff by, for example, organising food supplied to your premises during the busiest periods so employees don’t have to spend time fighting crowds.
Remind your team always to take their breaks out of sight of customers, so you avoid the unwelcome situation of customers waiting for service while they can see your employees on a break.
5. Expect the unexpected
Even the best-laid plans can fall apart in the pressure of the holiday season, so it helps to have some contingency plans when it comes to staffing. Ahead of time, work out what could go wrong and what you could do about it if it did. Even if you’ve only rehearsed a situation in your head, you are less likely to panic when things go off the rails, making it easier to get back on track when needed.
It would be great to be able to say ‘Wave my magic wand and you won’t have any problems’ but real life doesn’t usually work that way. However, by planning ahead and using your imagination, you may find can have both happy customers and happy staff this holiday season!