Holiday period prep


28th October, 2020

Preparing your mid-sized business for the holiday period

With the extensive changes that most companies have had to implement this year due to COVID-19, it’s no surprise that as we approach the holiday period, business owners are feeling a lot more stressed than they are festive.

Whether you own a business that provides services or sells products, ensuring your company is prepared for the unique set of challenges associated with the upcoming Christmas period is essential to ensure consistency, cash flow and a productive start to the new year.

Whilst it might seem like a headache to start organising for Christmas when you’re still a few months away, getting started early will guarantee that you save time, money and a whole lot of stress in the long run.

Here, we examine a few key activities that all mid-sized businesses should get started on as soon as possible, in order to be efficient and profitable over the festive period.

Analyse historical data, pivot if needed and plan ahead

Forecasting is the science of predicting the future. It might sound tricky, but with the use of business management software, website statistics and ad-accounts, you can easily (and quite accurately) analyse your company’s historical data trends and make an educated call on what might happen this year when it comes to product sales, customer needs and even staff scheduling.

Have a look at your sales over the last Christmas period, and then add or deduct what expect to be the growth or loss percentages for this year. The best way to do that is by looking at the data you’ve collected throughout the year, and to carry the same yearly growth or loss rate through to the specific holiday period.

What your historical data can’t take into account is just how significantly things have changed over the past 12 months. In this case, not only will you be looking at past data, but you’ll likely also need to build in a few contingencies based on new assumptions. For example, have you switched to remote working since last year? How will that impact the holiday trading period? Have you considered any impacts as a result of border closures or the loss of key suppliers due to the pandemic?

Combining historical data with some shrewd guesstimates for 2020 will give you a solid idea of the amount of product you need, and you can then calculate how much manpower you’ll need for packing, shipping, monitoring customer service channels and other tasks associated to your sales. Having a comprehensive business management software in play will make this part of the process much more straightforward.

Supporting staff with their leave entitlements

It is very common for staff to use their accrued annual leave over the Christmas period. For industries like retail, these breaks tend to be much shorter, but for some firms, such as law offices, these breaks can be up to three weeks long and most staff do not have the option as to whether they take it or not.

Fairwork explains that an ‘employee can be directed to take annual leave during a shutdown if their award or registered agreement allows it’. If the employee does not have enough annual leave saved up, ‘an employer can direct an employee to take annual leave in advance of accrual, or unpaid leave, for some or all of the time’.

When it comes to companies who actually want their staff to work over Christmas, Fairwork advises that staff are not required to work on public holidays, but ‘an employer can ask an employee to work on a public holiday, if the request is reasonable’. In saying that, they also note that an employee can still refuse a request to work if they have reasonable grounds.

Before discussing annual leave and Christmas closures with your staff, it’s essential that you first understand the predicted needs your company will have over this period. Without understanding the level of manpower you will need, there is the risk of staff organising their leave ahead of time, leaving you unsupported.

That’s where having a clear picture of leave balances is necessary, enabling to build a picture of who of your staff have excess leave, as well as those with none. This will help you predict who’s likely to be in need of a longer break, so you can’t start a discussion around spending some of that leave without becoming short staffed.

Once you have predicted the workflow for your business for the Christmas period and you understand the staff support that you will need, it’s best to meet with staff ‘sooner rather than later’ in order to plan ahead for the festive season.

If it’s possible in your company, a personal check in with each staff is often the best way to get this done. During a one-on-one meeting, you can check in on their current workload, and present them the predicted changes to workflow in the lead up to Christmas and New Year.

Armed with your predictions, you will be in a much more informed space to negotiate staff leave requests during this time.

Don’t forget the gift of gratitude this year

Something many business owners overlook is the importance of celebrating with their staff.

While end of year celebrations might seem like a waste of money or resources to organise, the morale boost that it provides to staff is invaluable. Celebrations enhance team spirit and help to retain your company employees by encouraging a collaborative, fun environment they want to work in.

Christmas, or ‘end of year’ parties are all about taking the time to thank your staff, celebrate the year and provide them with a chance to relax with their teammates.

For many businesses, social distancing restrictions and border closures could make it difficult to have the kind of pre-COVID end of year bash you’re used to, but that doesn’t mean 2020 is the year to forget about your staff.

Instead, consider activities and experiences you can deliver remotely. Some companies are already booking stand up comedians or other performers to provide entertainment over the internet. You might also consider pairing whatever activities you’re hosting with a small gift for your staff, like a voucher they can use to order food and drink.

With everything that’s going on, it’s tempting to think the work end of year celebration can be reduced, and for some businesses, that might be a financial reality. But even if you’re in a position where you need to cut costs, it’s just as (if not more) important this year to demonstrate gratitude to your team.

If you get planning now, you’ll find that the festive season can be a period of reflection, celebration and, if you get it right, seamless organisation.

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