Managing staff isn't as easy as it looks.
During busy periods when employees are under huge strain, management becomes even more challenging - and critical to the success of your team.
If you'd like your business to excel during the busiest (and most lucrative) time of year, it's important to understand how best to manage staff when they're under significant pressure.
1. Establish 'Team Spirit'
As a hard-working employee, there's nothing more dispiriting than knowing a colleague on the same wage is coasting through their workday and performing a fraction of the work that you are - especially when workloads are heavy.
These 'lazy' employees might feel no obligation to stay beyond their standard working hours to help their coworkers finish a project. They might take a longer lunch or refuse to assist colleagues with certain tasks.
Unfortunately, it only usually takes one selfish employee to destroy team cohesion - "if they aren't putting extra work in, why should I?"
Then, instead of heading a team where members want to help each other, you're faced with a splintered group of individuals who are only in it for themselves.
Creating and maintaining team cohesion
Of course, promoting team cohesion during stressful periods isn't easy. It certainly helps if you're able to head into busy seasons with a strong team pre-assembled.
However, whether it's retail employees at Christmas or hospitality staff in summer, chances are you'll be managing a handful of new hires alongside your more seasoned workers.
That means you're going to have to try to build team spirit quickly - which isn't easy.
Here are some approaches to consider:
- Share and reinforce company objectives - reiterate what your company is aiming for during this period. This will remind your employees of their common goals.
- Talk about your brand - if staff believe in your brand's values and personality, they'll be more engaged with their work - and the rest of their team.
- Encourage communication, sharing and teamwork. Explain that you expect staff to help each other and share the workload. As the manager, lead the way and offer your time to help an employee who is struggling.
- Welcome feedback. Staff should know that you're open to feedback and suggestions. This approach builds trust in your management, adding significantly to team cohesion.
With a team that's all in it together, you'll never hear the phrase 'that's not my job'.
In an ideal team, staff will work for each other as well as their pay cheque!
2. Track and Communicate KPIs
No doubt you have some targets set for the upcoming busy period.
Your KPIs might be sales per square foot, sales per customer, or even your average TripAdvisor score. Whatever they are, make an effort to measure them during your busiest periods.
Most companies will measure KPIs, but a far smaller percentage will communicate their progress with employees.
By announcing impressive sales figures and other stats to your frontline staff, they'll better understand the impact of their toil during busy periods. They'll see how their efforts directly translated to improvements in the company's position.
Sadly, it's probably not in your power to decide to award your employees a hefty bonus for achieving their targets - but if your employees relate to the brand and are driven by company objectives, the figures alone might be enough of a reward!
3. Maintain a Pool of Relief Workers
Employee burnout is commonplace during the busiest times of year.
Instead of commanding employees to toughen up and get on with the work, take the potential impact of burnout seriously.
Not only does high stress cause numerous health problems that could lead to long term sick leave, but failing to listen to employee concerns can also significantly damage the reputation of your business.
If an employee's concerns about burnout aren't heeded, they'll lose motivation and tell their co-workers that you didn't respond well to their concerns.
One unhappy employee leads to an unhappy team.
To avoid this situation, be generous in allowing staff to take time off for stress.
Of course, this means you'll need to have a pool of relief staff to draw from - and preferably some kind of system to help you manage leave requests and availability easily.
Having 'back up' employees means your employees won't feel that they need to be at work even when they're under heavy stress.
4. Reward Staff at the End of the Season
Once your company has made it through the busy season, your staff are probably looking forward to a well-earned break.
Before any seasonal workers disperse for another year, hold a wrap-up meeting.
Cover the following points:
- Sales figures, KPIs, exceptional statistics
- How the period compared with last year's busy season (and potential explanations for this year's relative performance)
- Whether the team met their goals
- Feedback on team performance
- A chance for employees to pass on feedback and ask questions
- Discuss potential bonuses or other perks, such as a pay rise if temporary staff return in the future
- Thank staff for their efforts
A wrap-up meeting gives you the opportunity to bring the team together and celebrate your achievements, ensuring temporary staff leave on a high note.
It's also the perfect time to leave seasonal employees with a positive impression of their time with you - this'll improve the likelihood of their return next year, reducing the time you need to spend hiring.
Staff management is very different during busy periods. You can't afford for even a single staff member to be off their game, and any conflict or arguments between staff could completely disrupt your most lucrative sales day of the year.
By building a strong team, communicating goals and sales figures with employees, and being conscious of workloads and burnout, you stand in good stead to manage staff during your next busy season.
...and throwing in a reward or two won't hurt staff motivation levels, either!