Managing staff holidays in any busy office is tough, but in a high-billing recruitment office, it can be something of a logistical nightmare – particularly when the market is as crazy as it currently is! But there are steps you can take to minimise disruption to the business during busy holiday periods.
One thing’s for sure, you can never plan too far ahead when it comes to managing your team’s holidays. But it’s also important for recruiters to take responsibility for covering their own desks when they take time off to ensure a smooth sail so their targets aren’t too negatively affected.
Here are some steps you can take to ensure things tick over business as usual when your staff are off taking some much-needed recuperation time:
Make sure you have cover
It’s likely your recruiters will all want to take holidays at similar times (over summer, during school holidays, as a way of extending bank holidays, etc.) and it’s up to you to ensure the business still has enough manpower to sustain it during these times when approving their requests.
Use an HR tool to help you get a clear overview of confirmed and requested holidays so you can make sure there’s not too many overlaps between employees when approving them.
The last thing you want is for one or two of your recruiters to be lumped with carrying the weight of the rest of the team, who’ve all taken time off at the same time. This will only leave them stressed, exhausted and resentful (towards you as well as their holidaying colleagues)!
It’s also really important to encourage clarity and good communication in the weeks or days leading up to the recruiter’s holiday period too. There’s nothing worse than holidays springing out of nowhere and everyone descending into panic.
Encourage holiday-goers not just to keep their colleagues in the loop about when they'll be out of the office, but also clients and candidates so they manage expectations in terms of when they shouldn't be expecting to hear from them.
Prioritise and assign tasks
Set out the criteria for jobs that need to be worked before the recruiter leaves on holiday and think about the commercial impact if any of the tasks are not completed.
Then, give the recruiter space to prioritise the highest-priority tasks that must be done by them before they leave, and ask them to distribute what’s left into tasks that should be put on hold until they get back and those which can go to handover.
Create a fool-proof handover system
Creating a buddy system where recruiters pair up and agree to cover each other’s holiday periods works well – provided they write good handover notes.
It’s likely there will be a team member who sits close to the holidaying staff member and has overheard a lot about the client relationship/current jobs they have on, so they will be the best person to pick things up. They should be introducing their 'buddy' on each new search in the run up to their holiday so the client know they’re in good hands.
Encourage both sides of the buddy system to make best use of the CRM so they’re able to jump on to help even in undiscussed areas unexpectedly if necessary. They should also be recording calls with their candidates and clients within the CRM system so the person doesn’t have to hunt to find notes and everything is nicely captured.
Put out a ‘no new job’ policy 1-2 weeks prior to their holiday, as they won’t be available to work on anything new coming in. If a new job comes up, they should instead introduce a trusted colleague to the client so both recruiters are working together initially and the client is comfortable with the person that will be handling the job on their absence.
It’s a good idea to introduce a split policy on any jobs filled that the buddy covers for them so there’s a motivation to assist with another recruiter’s work and to keep up an excellent standard of service.
And make sure they don't forget to include their buddy's contact details in their email out-of-office message!
Debrief them when they return
It’s easy to think your recruiters will come back from their holiday revitalised and ready to roll, but the reality is they’ll be chasing their tale to get back on track and feeling the pressure as soon as they’re back through the door.
It’s in everyone’s interest for each recruiter who takes a holiday to get a good debrief on the day they return so they can pick up where they left off.
Ask their buddy to continuously take notes of anything that happens in the holiday-goer’s absence that concerns them so this can guide them through the barrage of emails they'll come back to. This prevents any situations where the client is having to fill them in or repeat themselves - which is a real inconvenience and looks unprofessional too.
If you’ve got a slog of staff holidays coming up and you’re dreading the impact it could have on business and team morale, put these steps into motion and you should be able to minimise disruption substantially.
And remember, there’s only so much you can do here – at the end of the day, your recruiters are responsible for maintaining their own desks and should be doing everything they can to minimise any negative impact on their billing targets.
Katie once headed up the Firefish blog and marketing team. She now works as a freelance copywriter and continues to contribute to our award-winning blog.