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With holiday requests coming in thick and fast it can be very difficult for SMEs to accommodate everyone and keep the business going at the same time.

The way we see it, you have 5 options. Here they are, in order of preference:

1. Promote & Train Existing Team Members

Holiday cover can be a wonderful opportunity for current team members to shine and take on more responsibility. It’s also a chance for you to assess the leadership talent of the future. Set them up for success though: Brief them properly, define exactly what you need to them do, explain how they will be measured and what success looks like. Make sure you leave enough time for any required training.

2. Take On A Contractor

Contractors tend to be experienced individuals, who are taken on for a specific project. Whilst, this might seem like an expensive option it’s clearly less expensive than hiring another full time employee. It’s also a great opportunity to hire specialist expertise and ‘test drive’ someone you could potentially take on permanently. The great thing about contractors is that they should hit the ground running quickly and start delivering for your business from the word go. Brief them in the same way you would a permanent team member – you get out what you put in here… Recruitment agencies can help you find contractors, but if you’d rather do it yourself, use online job sites, social media and referrals.

3. Hire Temporary Staff

Unlikely to be as qualified as contractors but they can be a good option for few weeks and are easy to get hold of if you go through an agency. If you go down the agency route, ask the agency for references from previous clients who required the same type of workers you need. It’s also important for you to fully understand how the agency recruit their candidates and for the agency to fully get to know the needs of your business. Temp agencies commit to ‘filling the gap’ so if one temp doesn’t work out they should quickly provide you with a replacement.

4. Pass On Menial Tasks To Interns

This will help free up more experienced staff to cover others. Obviously you can’t rely on interns too much, but they can be a godsend when it comes to looking after time consuming, unimportant tasks that just need to get done. They too will want to feel like they are making a real contribution to the business with their time with you – so brief them properly and get the most of them. But remember they are with you to learn. So in return for a bit of donkey work, you should also offer them some really interesting work to do, in line with their studies or career aspirations. Speak to local colleges/schools and/or advertise internally, on social media and in the local press.

5. Say No

Yes, this is always an option. You are not legally bound to give holiday when someone asks for it and sometimes it just isn’t possible. Here are some tips on how to turn down a holiday request without damaging employee relations:

  • Do it quickly: Give them as much notice as you can to make alternative arrangements, as a sign of respect and goodwill. As always, face to face is best.
  • Explain you reasons:  Ensure the individual knows it’s not personal. Talk them through the need to cover off certain business areas over that period. Reiterate the business decision behind the refusal and ensure them that it is nothing to do with their performance (unless it is).
  • Offer an alternative: Such as other dates when a request would be manageable. For accommodating others, some business offer one or two extra holiday days as a way of saying thank you.
  • Tell the how much you value them: When  a holiday request is denied it can make individuals feel undervalued, particularly if they have been performing well. Make sure they leave the conversation feeling positive about themselves and their contribution to the business.

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