Fall and Holidays Pose HR Challenges

The fall and upcoming holiday season pose challenges and opportunities related to managing people.  It can be a time of inclusiveness and encouragement of diversity if we manage people with increased awareness of our differences and commonalities.  Here are some thoughts based on my HR experience managing a diverse workforce during the holiday season.

  • Voting—Many jurisdictions have regulations about giving people time off to vote, but if not, doing so is a gesture that is appreciated by employees. While It might seem that employees should be able to get to the polls before or after work, that timing is more difficult for employees with children.  Schools are likely closed, making childcare arrangements more challenging.  Voting outside of work hours is also more challenging for those with longer commutes.  Realizing that the time-off makes it more difficult for managers to schedule coverage for their departments, it’s also important to ensure that managers don’t discourage the use of time off for voting through their responses to requests.
  • Holiday schedules—It’s time to plan your 2019 holiday schedule. Employers can use holiday benefits to their advantage by creating a holiday schedule that allows employees ample time off to be with family, as well as to care for children when schools are closed.  Having additional holidays, such as closing between Christmas and New Years’ Day or giving a four-day weekend when July 4th is on a Tuesday or Thursday, is a benefit very much appreciated by employees and something that will increase their loyalty and reduce turnover.  Time off around the winter holidays is also a great way to increase a sense of equity among employees of all levels of tenure.  Otherwise, the situation can be that only those with the most tenure get approved for time off, while newer employees are required to be at work.
  • Holiday parties—the holiday party plans should consider what employees want, and that isn’t always a Saturday evening formal event with spouses and partners. Employers can leverage this benefit by letting employees have a hand in planning something that is enjoyable and ultimately serves as an event that builds relationships among employees.  Providing time for the holiday party within the work day makes sense if the goal is relationship and team-building, and it also helps to avoid the risks of serving alcohol.  The holiday party can also be a time to encourage and respect diversity by not making it about Christmas.  In addition, employers should consider that there are employees whose religious beliefs discourage participation in Halloween.  Further, religious beliefs also may not include celebrating birthdays.  Even without Halloween, there are great ways to celebrate cooler weather, falling leaves, and harvest time—things that cut across all cultures.  Employees’ tenure or other achievements can be celebrated in lieu of birthdays.  Employers might even save money by not having a big evening event and be able to give a much-appreciated small bonus or gift to employees at year-end.