Avoiding Ryanair's Holiday Planning Headaches

Holidays are supposed to be relaxing...but for those involved in workforce planning and management they are often an administrative nightmare that can significantly impact service quality or production levels.

Take the case of Ryanair. A problem managing pilot holidays led to them having to cancel 40-50 flights every day over a six-week period, a move which could impact around 285,000 passengers.

"We have messed up in the planning of pilot holidays and we're working hard to fix that."

Ryanair Marketing officer Kenny Jacobs

The operational, reputational and financial impact of this problem will no doubt be significant. So how was it allowed to happen?

It appears the issue centres on the business changing its holiday year period from April-March to January-December. This created a significant backlog of annual leave which needs to be taken over September and October 2017.

It is not uncommon for organisations to find themselves in a similar position, even when they haven’t changed their holiday year.

We work with many customers that regularly face a peak in holiday requests as employees approach the end of the holiday year and need to ‘use it or lose it’.

Often the surge of holiday requests from staff conflicts with the service demand being experienced at the time.

This requires organisations to find cover either through overtime or temporary labour, amplifying the impact of holidays on efficiency, productivity and quality.

Avoiding Ryanair's Holiday Planning Headaches

So, what can be done?

  • Invest in technology: When an organisation has complete clarity and control over the recording, storing and management of Working Time information it can plan and manage holiday requests more accurately and effectively. This significantly reduces the burden of rota supervision and the time expended in the search for overtime or alternative cover for holidays within the annual roster. Software can also be used to track the progress of holidays against a plan and ensure any accumulation of leave is flagged and dealt with early.
  • Consider Demand-Led Rostering: Effective resourcing requires organisations to consider labour supply as well as demand and holiday is the single largest impact on taking supply away. Understanding historic holiday profiles when designing rosters is key to ensuring that enough staff are available to provide service when holiday seasons are in peak.
  • Consider alternative holiday management mechanisms: Adopting Demand-Led Rostering can enable holiday provision to be made within patterns of work as part of a rostered or part rostered system. For the employee, this ensures they know exactly when they are going to be off and can plan accordingly. The organisation can account for peaks and troughs in demand by organising the annual leave around these periods and reduce the amount of holiday’s taken at peak or busy times. The system can also ensure that holiday approval considers specifics such as shifts, time of day and demand levels to ensure adequate cover is maintained at all times. 
  • Self-service: Any perceived lack of choice around holidays in a rostered system can quickly be overcome by adopting self-service software. This provides employees with liberal shift swapping arrangements within pre-scheduled holiday periods. Powerful and accurate shift swap systems have the potential to give employees greater control over their time off than a ‘holiday on request’ system, where rules typically dictate how many staff can be off at any one time and requests may be denied.

You’ll find more insight and best practice tips in our white paper on the topic of holiday management.

It was also interesting to see in the BBC’s analysis of Ryanair’s issue that the business is facing stiff competition for talent from other carriers who are offering pilots the opportunity to move to full-time positions with competitive salaries and other benefits.

We are seeing Working Time play an increasingly important role in recruitment and retention.

Demand-Led Rostering is being used to reduce reliance on precarious forms of employment such as agency and contracting. This is to ensure more flexibility and fairness in the allocation of shifts and holidays and create working patterns that are suited to a broad range of demographics and lifestyles.

If you are interested in learning more about how your organisation could benefit from modernising it’s resourcing models then join us at our Workforce Planning Masterclass

This event will give you detailed insight into the fundamentals of Working Time and how to design, implement and manage optimised and compliant shift patterns.

Alternatively, you can contact us directly and arrange a free one-to-one consultation with one of our experts.

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