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Posted by Stephen, Sheryl at Wednesday, 06/13/2012 11:16 am
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These are not exactly the words to a song but should have a familiar ring to all of us as schools are nearing break, summer has arrived and most of us are planning vacations or at least time off to escape to get-away places. Employees have been saving their days off and dreaming of some time away from their day-to-day jobs. Employers may not be dreaming, but instead having nightmares about how to keep their businesses running smoothly when employees are gone.

For many, our recent economic and business trends have created flatter organizations. What that mean is that each job or position may have only one or two key people who have been trained to perform specific jobs or tasks. How can businesses be ready for this challenge? The following questions should be asked?

1. What are the business demands over the next few months?
2. Who are the employees who manage projects or provide our products or services?
3. Do I have vacation policies and schedules in place?
4. When an employee is gone, are others trained to perform their job?
5. If not, how do I prepare for the employees’ absences?
6. When do I get time off and who will run the show while I’m gone?
7. Do I have key people who can take care of customers and can I trust them to make appropriate decisions?

If you had trouble answering any of these questions, the following step will help you get ready:

1. Document and review upcoming vacation schedules.
2. Identify key projects, orders or service that will have to be completed during vacation times.
3. Identify WHO will cover the job duties and responsibilities while another person is absent. NOTE: You may need to spend some time looking at your employees in terms of their skills and/or skills they need to develop in order to cover another job or a part of that job.
4. If you find that you need to train someone, start now. We’ll cover that later.
5. Discuss with each employee (or group) the upcoming needs and how you plan to cover the jobs while employees are absent.
6. Ask for their input on how to cover the jobs or ask for volunteers to cover jobs.
7. This may cause a ripple effect. If one employee is away from their regular job, then who will cover THAT job?
8. Finalize the vacation schedule and post the results of who will do what, when.

The most critical responsibility facing you will be to ready employees to take over another person’s job. You will need to start your training process NOW so you will be ready.

Everyone is so busy with his/her day-to-day jobs, that they have little time to train others or to cross-train on other jobs. So with that in mind, let’s start defining some important terms:

ON-THE-JOB TRAINING is the process of learning while doing. It’s hands on experience with supervision and is usually targeted toward the technical aspects of a job.

CROSS-TRAINING suggests that two (or more) employees learn each other’s jobs. This is done to assist when one employee has a heavy workload and needs help, to cover the job when the regularly assigned employee is absent or to prepare for an employee’s retirement or knowledge that they are leaving the company.

MENTORING is the where a person of more experience coaches, guides, counsels and challenges a person of less experience. Simply put, a mentor helps someone else learn something the learner would otherwise have learned less well, more slowly, or not at all. A mentor provides that safe environment where a person can ask questions and make mistakes while learning without fear of being perceives as incompetent. A mentor serves as:

 A COUNSELOR to provide career strategy advice.
 A TEACHER to transfer knowledge and skills.
 A GUIDE for understanding the organizational culture.
 A CHALLENGER for enhancing the learner’s performance.
 A ROLE MODEL for the employee to follow.

Regardless of what you call it or how you approach it, the bottom line is that employees are trained and your business keeps running.

These are a few suggestions on how to keep from coming up short during those long-awaited vacations. With jobs covered, business will go on and we can all have fun, fun, fun ‘til………..

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