A few years ago (2018 to be precise) we wrote a blog post on automating your way out of summer staffing gaps. We think it’s time to revisit the subject from another angle: What do you do if you have a mad panic pre-summer and you need to fix it now? What if you don’t have time to play the long game?
1. Keep Playing the Long Game
When things are incredibly busy, as they always are this time of year, it’s easy to lose sight of the long-term success of the business and concentrate on making it through to when we feel like we might be able to breathe again. Whilst this is natural, it’s important to make sure you don’t shoot yourself in the foot by prioritising the short term over the long term.
No matter whether you are a privately-owned business, a non-profit, or a public corporation, the long-term strategic goals must win over the short-term interests if the organisation is to succeed in the future.
The best way to handle the end of year business panic is to make sure that all parties are communicating effectively. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Which of your staff members have too much on their plate?
- Do any staff members have too little to do, and could they help out?
- Which customer/client/stakeholder deadlines are absolute, and must be done by a certain date?
- Which deadlines are softer and could extend into next year?
- Which tasks and projects should be prioritised over others?
Once the priorities and resources have been discovered and set, you can then communicate that effectively to your team, and to external stakeholders.
3. Set Expectations
If people are going to be disappointed, it’s far better to let them know sooner rather than later. Giving stakeholders advance notice of problems gives them time to plan alternatives, which makes problems easier to deal with for all sides.
4. Document Everything
As you go through the next month or so, take a little time to document the decisions you have to make to deal with the current rush. This documentation will become invaluable when designing systems during the calmer periods next year. You will be able to look back on the decisions made and consider whether they were correct or not, and put in place policies to guide future decisions.
As an example, you might place client A’s work ahead of client B’s work this year. Looking back next year, you can define a policy for deciding which client has the priority. This helps decision making internally as staff won’t feel personal pressure to make the right decision. It can in some circumstances help when informing external stakeholders as well, but this will depend on the communication strategy of the organisation.
5. Set A Goal
Our final recommendation is to recognise the need to change. Unless you want to be in the same position next summer, something will need to change. Unless change happens, things will stay the same.
We recommend setting a SMART goal. The exact goal will depend on your organisation, but it could be something like:
By December 1st 2022, we will have in place the procedures that will allow us to:
- handle the pre-Christmas rush of work,
- arrange staff leave in an organised way,
- train staff to be multi-role when needed,
- and communicate well if problems arise.
Our lead on this project will be Jane, who will create policies and systems, and build automation to make this happen.