The holidays are a stressful time, even for experienced members of management. So much can go wrong in such a relatively short period, with managers often shouldering heavy burdens for the team. Keeping the business appropriately staffed is probably one of the biggest challenges a manager can have during the holidays, especially this year, but it’s not the only one. For this post, I asked the TimeForge team for their advice to new managers going into the holiday season. We hope you find the tips below useful and that they help reduce the stress of the holidays this year.
Holiday Advice for New Managers
If you’ve been keeping up with our employee spotlights, you know that everyone here at TimeForge has experience in restaurants or retail. The team also regularly works with customers to help them through their staffing challenges. Here are 7 tips, straight from the TimeForge team, to guide new managers through the holidays:
1. Make scheduling the holidays a team discussion
To keep morale high, Mike recommends making scheduling the holidays a team discussion. “Rather than force employees to work without taking into account their needs, if you have a close enough knit team, talk through it with them,” says Mike. Look at your coverage needs and take their feedback into consideration when building staff schedules this holiday season. If your business is flexible enough, have employees work one of the major upcoming holidays, like Christmas, but let them have Thanksgiving off. Just by having a voice in the decision and being aware of everyone else’s situation, employees will be more understanding. This can really help boost morale through the holiday season.”
2. OVERcommunicate with your team
Audrey’s holiday advice for new managers is to OVERcommunicate with the team: “The holidays get crazy, and even though you feel like you’ve said something a million times, keep saying it.” To do this, she suggests that you decide one or two things you really need the team to focus on, then preach it from the rooftops until everyone is on the same page. This will help make sure that your message gets through all the holiday chaos.
“Half of the time, the people who need to hear it aren’t even working that day, or are busy chasing down merchandise, grabbing from the back, or speaking with a customer,” explains Audrey. “And if they were around to hear it, they probably didn’t get a chance to ask questions if they didn’t understand – again, because things can get so crazy! So if you think you need to tell someone something, tell them. Then tell them again. Then ask them to play it back to you, so you know they got it. Remind them one more time after they had an opportunity to practice.”
3. Have a little holiday compassion
For Isla, having a little compassion is a necessary part of getting through the holidays. “It’s important as a new manager to remember that your team is human and the holidays can be a very stressful time,” she says. “Take time to check in with your staff and make sure they are getting everything that they need. Simple tokens of appreciation like donuts in the breakroom or just listening to their shopping woes can help alleviate burnout stressors that cause further work disruption.”
And don’t forget to treat yourself, too, Isla says. “You, the manager, should also do what you can to enjoy the holidays, which has been shown to actually increase workload productivity. Be kind to yourself and compassionate to your team, and you’ll reap the benefits of long-term success in your business.”
4. Hire and schedule as best you can
Don’s holiday advice for new managers actually starts before the holidays: with hiring. “Staffing will clearly be an issue this year,” he says. “Hire and schedule well, and show appreciation for hard work.”
Of course, he’s not wrong; hiring is a huge challenge in retail and restaurants right now due to the worker shortage. Hiring early is essential for making sure you have the staff you need to get through the holiday rush. But how do you hire when no one wants to apply? That’s a tough question with few easy answers. One way we do know grocery businesses are dealing with the difficult labor market is with employee referrals. It’s worth a shot. Once you have the staff, you can focus on scheduling them appropriately and showing them the appreciation they deserve.
5. Go into the holidays with a list of tasks to delegate
With so much pressure riding on the holidays, it can be easy for new managers to become swamped and overwhelmed. They will often make the mistake of trying to do too much themselves. To combat that tendency, Jean recommends making sure you have a clear list of tasks to get done. Then, delegate delegate delegate. “My best advice to new managers is to review their list of short term tasks, and if any are very important and incomplete, to assign them to the closest employee by position,” he says. “This will help keep things on track.”
If you’re using post-it notes and clipboards as your task management system, consider moving to an online tool after the holidays. Online task management systems offer numerous benefits for both grocery stores and restaurants.
6. Let your employees know what to expect
Diego advises letting your employees know what to expect early when the holiday season arrives. “Depending on your business, the holidays may be your busiest time of the year,” he says. “When I worked as a server, I liked knowing what the flow of the day would look like. This helped me give priority to certain tasks and to prep certain dishes in advance. As a result, we weren’t caught off guard by a large party arriving during a rush, for example.”
Diego also recommends giving employees advance notice about how time off requests will work around the holidays and why. “If you give your employees guidelines on how they can or can’t submit requests around the holidays, it’ll help smooth things over. While an employee may not like having a request denied, they will at least know the reasoning behind it.”
7. Look at past schedules
Daniel’s holiday advice for new managers is to take a look at the business’s past holiday schedules, if possible. Like Don, he anticipates that staffing will be an issue for many new managers this year. “One way to determine a rough estimate of how many employees you will need is to look at historical data,” says Daniel. “Check any schedules from the last 3-5 years to get a better idea how many people will be needed.” If you don’t have access to past schedules, but you do have access to sales data, you can use the sales per labor hour formula to estimate your staffing needs.
If you don’t have any historical data at all to look at, you may find our new RoboSchedules feature useful. It will automatically suggest schedules for you. The more you schedule, the better its recommendations become.
Happy Holidays from the TimeForge Team!
We hope you found the holiday advice in this post helpful. To all the new (and experienced) managers out there: we wish you the best of luck this holiday season. We know it’s not going to be easy with the challenges of the labor shortage, but we’re rooting for you! Thoughts or questions? Let us know how we can help.