As we’ve mentioned in a previous article, employee scheduling is often a significant time consumer for managers. Employee leave requests are an aspect of scheduling that not only takes management time to process, but also requires adjustment to the schedule. In this chapter we will explore four ways to streamline and expedite employee leave requests to save manager time and reduce complexity in the schedule.
Establish clear and transparent leave policy
As with so many issues related to scheduling, the first time-saving step is to invest time in establishing a robust foundation. In this case, that means setting clear and transparent policy on employee leave and leave requests. In many companies leave policy is found buried in the back of the handbook (if present at all), and exists almost as an afterthought. This is ineffective because it decreases likelihood that employees will be familiar with the policy, and it makes employee leave appear unimportant.
A better strategy is to ensure employee leave and leave requests are treated with the same significance as other issues such as punctuality and workplace procedures. The policy itself should lay a foundation of guidelines that empower managers and supervisors to make decisions, but not constrain them from addressing specific situational needs.
Increase employee ownership of the leave request process
Once a clear, well-communicated policy is in place, managers can further save time and effort by transferring ownership of a large portion of the process to employees. Without a sense of ownership in the process, employees don’t think about the overall impact of their absence on the company and their colleagues. At worst, this can permit in an isolated mindset to form where employees game the system and get as much time off as they can, even to the detriment of their team.
Instead, establish a system whereby employees analyze the schedule, take stock of the impact their absence will have on operations and on their coworkers, and then create a proposal for how work will continue uninterrupted during their leave. In such a system, the employee takes the initiative to find cover for a shift, arrange for lost productivity to be made up, or simply get work done ahead of time. This takes a significant amount of pressure of managers, who traditionally must arrange such details.
Require formal requests and keep clear records
Requiring formal request documentation goes hand-in-hand with employee ownership of leave requests. A formal, well-documented process gives employees clear expectations as to how to arrange their leave, and also helps them communicate it clearly to management. Leave requests should follow the same standards of clarity and specificity as other forms of official HR documentation so that they can be called on later as useful reference materials. To avoid messiness or conflict later on, it’s crucial to avoid verbal leave requests and approvals. Vague or disorganized documentation isn’t much better. To further streamline the process, consider transitioning to an online employee time tracking system that includes digital leave request processes.
Automate the process
In addition to keeping leave request documentation consistent, organized, and archived, online employee scheduling and time tracking software streamlines a number of other issues related to employee leave. Rather than filling out, processing, and filing paper requests, employees can use cloud-based apps to submit leave requests any time, and managers can process them via the app at any time. Then, rather than digging through filing cabinets or Excel spreadsheets, managers can simply generate a report from the app to see how much leave an employee has taken and decide whether or not to approve the leave. Such software also typically includes messaging and reminder features, so that managers can keep employees up to speed on important changes or updates that occur in their absence.