By Scott Chesworth, operations director, RAM Tracking.
Easter is always a popular vacation period, with many workers hoping to make the most of the Bank Holidays and milder spring weather by booking additional annual leave.
With logistics managers likely to find themselves receiving an influx of requests for days off over the coming weeks, there is a risk that businesses may find themselves running on skeleton staff. In order to minimise the stress felt by remaining workers and reduce any negative impact on operations, procurement companies should begin planning early and taking advantage of any available technologies. This will allow firms to streamline operations and boost productivity where numbers are limited.
Managing staffing levels
In a busy workplace environment, it can be tempting for logistics managers to let annual leave planning slip down their 'to do' list. Therefore, to be successful in maintaining a strong team this spring and keep business operations running smoothly, it is essential that companies prioritise the annual leave process and communicate to staff early.
In order to prevent issues relating to staff leave, company policies should be outlined to employees not weeks or even months prior to peak holiday periods, but from the very start of the staff induction process. As well as ensuring that the workforce possesses a clear understanding of the holiday booking process, including their annual entitlement, staff should be provided with a set deadline for submitting vacation requests. This will help logistics managers to maintain a strong team all year round by allowing sufficient time to plan staffing levels and project how absences might affect production.
One common issue experienced by businesses prior to popular holiday periods is a conflict in workers' requested dates. To mitigate any impact on overall productivity, logistics managers should identify which team members should be prevented from taking leave at the same time, for example, individuals working within the same department. Another key part of annual leave planning involves identifying peak periods in the working calendar and restricting annual leave accordingly. While it is possible to maintain operations on skeleton staff, it is important to ensure that remaining workers are not left with an impossible task.
Maximising available resources
While some employees may have the hope of 'winding down' in the days leading up to a holiday, in reality this is rarely possible. Instead, staff are likely to find themselves rushing to get tasks completed before their break and consequently may end up running out of time to hand work over to their colleagues effectively. In order to avoid important tasks being neglected or any costly dips in productivity, logistics managers should ensure workers are fully informed about all aspects of their colleague's role in good time. An important part of this involves checking that covering staff have sufficient access to critical information and equipment allowing them to carry out a co-worker's job in their absence.
Often, the approach of a much-anticipated break combined with low staffing levels can cause team productivity to drop. To prevent against this, logistics managers should consider offering premium pay or other incentives to boost motivation and avoid harmful disruption to operations.
On the road
For logistics businesses operating fleets, running on skeleton staff can pose a particular problem. As such, it makes sense to make good use of available technologies such as vehicle tracking, which provides managers with access to drivers' real-time locations. When introducing such software, it is important to emphasise that rather than representing an invasion of staff privacy, telematics offer a vital tool for protecting employee safety and boosting productivity.
The ability to locate the driver closest to a job allows logistics teams to save valuable time, while notifications sent to headquarters when a vehicle remains stationary for a significant period allow managers to alert customers to delays in advance. In this way, telematics can help fleets to maintain a high quality of service when numbers are reduced.
Staff holidays are crucial to individual and business productivity, allowing staff to return to work for the busy summer period refreshed and ready to take on new challenges. By planning employee annual leave in plenty of time and using relevant technology to streamline business processes, logistics managers can keep their workforce happy whilst ensuring that operations stay on track.