Effective Strategies for Streamlining Employee Time Off: A Guide to Process Improvements

As employees use the summer to take time off, managers are charged with juggling coverage. Meanwhile colleagues struggle to assume new roles and responsibilities if only on a temporary basis. Even the most adept can find this challenging. What if, as opposed to business as usual, we took a step back and approached coverage as an opportunity for process improvements and internal controls instead of a hurdle to the everyday?

This year, ask yourself: Are we communicating, cross-training, and collaborating in a way that makes a temporary shift as seamless as possible? Moreover, are we truly functioning as one unified and synergistic team?

Six main areas of focus.

AAFCPAs suggests the following six main areas of focus to help clients improve coverage processes over time.

  1. Begin with documentation. Do you have sufficient process documentation in place as a guide to help staff who may need to cover for one of their colleagues? Does that documentation help team members conduct someone else’s role effectively? If your answer is no, now is the time to develop process documentation that can make PTO coverage less stressful for all.
  2. Is there at least one designated substitute for each role? Cross-training is critical when running an organization that values time off. Lack of confidence in coverage can cause undue stress on valued employees and can also lead to burnout. AAFCPAs advises that clients establish one or more substitutes who are cross trained in each role.
  3. Have internal controls been tested and refined recently? While it is a major benefit to have the flexibility to trust staff who are covering multiple roles when a colleague is on PTO, it also tests the strength of internal controls. Even in the most trustworthy work environments, AAFCPAs recommends giving extra consideration to how integrity is maintained and monitored.
  4. Are current processes inefficient or ineffective? Many of us don’t take the time to imagine a better way of performing routine tasks, especially when we’re trying to keep our heads above water. But there may be improvements that have not been considered, such as new technologies. When you cross-train, you invite a fresh perspective on existing processes. At AAFCPAs, we reward employees for continuous improvement and for thinking outside the box on current processes.
  5. Is training on the use of systems consistent across the board? An organization can acquire the most state-of-the-art software solutions. But unless all employees are properly trained in processes and policies, that investment can fall short of optimal efficiency. Staff vacations can reveal gaps in a team’s knowledge about how those systems work. If this is the case, there are numerous options available to give staff members a timely refresh on most software systems.
  6. Are select staff members volunteering to assume the roles of their vacationing colleagues? Vacation season is a good window into which employees are ambitious and seek to assume more responsibility—and those who may seek advancement in the future.

Time off is crucial to retaining a motivated team of professionals. This summer, be mindful about the ways in which your team functions during vacation coverage. Encourage open dialogue to better understand what might be improved and, more importantly, be willing to take action based on shared observations. The market is constantly in flux, and turnover remains one of the most expensive and stressful challenges we face. There are ways to balance the needs of the organization, the covering employee, and team members who need time off. Use the season as a tool to reassess and consistently improve.

How may we help?

AAFCPAs’ Business Process & IT Consulting practice helps clients optimize process efficiency, mitigate risk, and get the most out of their technology investments. If you have questions, please contact Stuart Karas, Associate, Business Process & IT Consulting at skaras@nullaafcpa.com or 774.512.9095 or Robyn Leet, Partner, Business Process Assessments & Attestations at 774.512.4010 or rleet@nullaafcpa.com—or contact your AAFCPAs partner.

About the Authors

Stuart is a member of AAFCPAs’ Business Process & IT Consulting Practice, responsible for providing business intelligence & productivity, and special IT attestation solutions. Stuart is responsible for planning and executing special attestations on standards and statutes, including System and Organization Controls (SOC) report attestations and evaluations, and attestations which comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and Section 404 compliance. He also assists AAFCPAs’ IT Security Specialists and Certified Ethical Hacker in the performance of IT General Controls (ITGCs) assessments, which result in suggestions for system security, data privacy, or system integrations that enhance efficiency.
Robyn Leet
Robyn brings over 20 years of continuous business process improvement and internal controls experience to AAFCPAs’ diverse clients. From her beginnings as an auditor in public accounting, she learned the fundamentals of business requirements and frameworks. This knowledge was applied to further her impact in her roles as Controller in private, closely-held businesses. These opportunities have bolstered her broad exposure to businesses in multiple stages of growth and with varying levels of needs to validate her insight into the inner workings and requirements of business operations and functions, always looking at the big picture and keeping the client in scope.