For many HR professionals, annual leave management is a frustratingly big part of their job. In an already hectic workload, the need to track employees’ time off, respond to leave requests, manage minimum staffing levels, set and enforce annual leave policies, and work out pro-rata entitlements for new starters can develop into a real-time sink. There are a few approaches to handling this workload:

Keep really good paper records

This is the old-school method, and many people are really good at it, the problem is that it is time and labor-intensive. Especially for a large, multi-site organization, the sheer volume of paperwork required to properly manage annual leave is mind-boggling.

On top of this, there is no way to easily call up reports to see how much leave an employee has taken, or to check on the impact of staff absence, these things must be done by hand.

Create a leave management spreadsheet

A well-created spreadsheet resolves many of the problems of a paper-based annual leave solution. If you know what you’re doing it’s possible to write formulas that will effectively automate tasks such as tracking remaining entitlement or calculating pro-rata allowances. An advanced Excel user will even know how to generate reports showing absence patterns or flag up leave periods that go against company policy.

The drawback of a spreadsheet-based system is that it stands alone. Leave requests to come in on paper or by email and must then be coordinated between team managers, HR, and the employee. It also takes time, skill, and effort to create and update the spreadsheet itself.

Use annual leave management software

By far the most effective method HR professionals use for managing annual leave is to use of annual leave management software. This software can perform calculations of allowances for you, and most packages will also allow for the easy generation of reports. Using specialist software also allows you to move towards a paperless annual leave management system, saving on storage space and reducing administration overheads.

Unfortunately, most annual leave management software is of the “off-the-shelf” variety. Designed on a one-size-fits-all principle, typical packages will be based around a single set of employment laws, usually either American or British, with little to no ability to customise. Often these software packages are originally developed to meet the needs of a single large multinational client, before being made available to other businesses. This can leave you trying to fit a square peg into a round hole with software that makes your life easier but doesn’t really meet your needs.

Using one of these three methods will give you a solution that is good enough, taking some of the pressure off your annual leave management. In fact, though, there is a fourth option:

Move past ‘good enough’ with LeaveWizard’s annual leave management software

At LeaveWizard we believe that the ability to customise your annual leave management software should be available to all of our customers. Our fully customisable, intuitive interface can handle multiple rule sets, as well as allow customisable teams, easy-to-use automatic reporting, and seamless integration with employee and management-facing apps to provide paperless applications, approvals, and tracking for annual leave.

Our online platform also includes tools to assist you with absence management, including external indicators such as the Bradford Factor, helping you stay on top of sickness patterns and boost productivity. And with our automation, you don’t need to worry about reminding employees how much entitlement they have left, or nagging managers to approve requests, automatic email reminders make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

We believe that LeaveWizard is the most effective annual leave management tool for HR professionals, but you don’t have to take our word for it. You can take a free no-obligation 30 day trial to experience it for yourself, or contact us to talk about your company’s needs.

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Many companies have a seasonal business model where they get extremely busy during specific periods throughout the year but are generally quiet at other periods. It is sometimes necessary for those companies to restrict the number of employees that can be off at any one time during those periods and thankfully LeaveWizard can support this with its Leave Restriction Periods.

By using the Leave Restriction Period functionality it is possible for an administrator to configure a period of time where a maximum number of employees can be off – this might be during a busy Christmas period or the summer might be especially busy for other companies.

When an employee tries to book a date within a restricted period, in which someone has already booked time off, they will be informed that the maximum staff on leave for that period has been reached and they will be unable to request the leave.

Instead, they would need to ask a line manager or an administrator to record the leave for them and in this case, as seen in the image below, the admin or line manager would be able to override the business rule if this was an exceptional circumstance.

Is your business seasonal? Do you have times when only a specific number of people can be off at the same time? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

We have some exciting news! We have been working with an expert user experience designer over the last couple of months to help us improve the look and feel of our application. While the work continues, we are now ready to release our fist “new look” version.

​The majority of changes in this first release are on the administrator and line manager dashboards. You will notice the colours and styling of elements has changed throughout the application but there aren’t many functional or layout changes outside the dashboards so don’t worry about having to search for known functions elsewhere.

In the admin and line manager dashboards, the search employee section has moved to the top right and all the action buttons associated, including the request leave and absence buttons, have now been consolidated at the top of the page under the main menu.

The Notifications section to the right, which displays recent requests or messages, is now highlighted with clear action buttons under each item.

Throughout the application the styling of sections and links has changed to make them more obvious and usable.

We think this is a great step towards improving the user experience of LeaveWizard and we’re looking forward to your thoughts and comments.

​Rich & Plamen

We recently moved our service to a new architecture which allows us to deploy changes several times per day with zero downtime as well as improving our service availability, scalability and performance. In two words – No brainer.

As part of the move however we did encounter an incident which presented us with a huge challenge as well as a huge opportunity to test our communication and willingness to be transparent. And we think we passed the test. As well as having no complaints, one of our customers commented – “No problem – these things happen. Good communication from you and the team on it”

Here is the timeline of what happened (and what worked for us)

1am GMT on 27th September – Live deployment was completed 8:30 am GMT – we understand that there is a problem with some users logging in 8:45 am GMT – we place a message on the login page advising users how to proceed Rest of the day – we continue investigation while patiently responding to all support tickets 8:30 am GMT on 28th September – We discover the root cause of the issue 8:35 am GMT – the problem is corrected in production 8:45 am GMT – we amend the sign in page message the reflect the recent information ​9:00 am GMT – we make a decision to be completely transparent with our customers about the events 11:00 am GMT – we have a draft of the formal communication we are about to send to all administrative users 12:00 pm GMT – the send to list is finalised and the campaign is all set up 12:15 pm GMT – we send the message below to all our customers 12:20 pm GMT – we change the sign-in page message once more to reflect the latest understanding 3:00 pm GMT – this blog post is born

And here is the main communication we sent to all out customers

Subject: A day to forget yet a day to remember

Dear <First Name>,

In the 7 years that LeaveWizard has been running we have not had an incident like the one that happened yesterday, so I wanted to reach out to you and explain what happened.

On 27th September 2016 from 01:00 GMT until and 08:30 GMT on 28th September 2016 a recent deployment of LeaveWizard resulted in users having to change their passwords and some lost data.

What happened? – in Summary

As part of migrating to our new infrastructure a configuration setting was incorrectly configured which resulted in our production environment pointing at the wrong database.

Unfortunately, the cause of the problem was not immediately apparent, the symptoms were that users needed to reset their passwords but the initial conclusion was that this was due to the hardware change. It took a while for our development team to identify the root cause of the issue but as soon as the problem was found it was addressed.

We are looking to put steps in place to ensure this kind of thing does not happen again. If you like to more details about what happened you can read more below.

What we are asking you to do?

We are asking for your support today. Because our backup process looks only after the live database, we have no access to the events or approvals you may have added to the system between 1am GMT on 27th September and 8:30am GMT on 28th September.

Please could you double check any events, approvals or other changes you may have made in this time window and if you find something is missing to add it once more.

I would like to thank you for your patience and understanding over the last couple of days. Kind regards Rich Allen Co-Founder LeaveWizard Ltd

What happened? – in Detail

In order to cope with the increasing popularity of the LeaveWizard platform it became necessary for us to migrate our infrastructure to make it possible for the service to cope with the increased demand without degrading performance.

As part of this move, in order to streamline our software delivery process and make it easier to ship new features, a new deployment process was introduced that required various configuration settings in order to correctly setup the environment for deployment.

Part of this deployment process takes the application through a staging environment which enables us to test the functionality prior to deploying it live. Once the application has passed testing on the staging environment it is promoted to our production environment and made live.

One of the settings, that controls the database that the production environment points to, was incorrectly set. This resulted in data being stored in a temporary database rather than the production database that is regularly backed up. Overnight, the temporary database was restored to its previous state which resulted in the days transactions being lost. Why is it not going to happen again?We take looking after your data very seriously and are disappointed in ourselves for letting this happen, but we must learn from our mistakes to ensure this kind of problem does not happen again.

Therefore, we shall be working on a solution that helps to verify that the configuration is valid for the environment it is being deployed to prior to making any future deployment live. This solution will perform some automated checks prior to pushing the button to go live.

In any business context, regardless of the products or services you offer, one rule applies across the board: people matter. When it comes to business success, your employees are your single most important resource – and one of the costliest, as well. Sometimes HR experts forget that they should not only find the most talented people for each position, but also stoke their passion to do their best and keep improving. Here are 5 great TED talks every HR expert should consider watching.

1. Mary Schaefer – Putting the human back into human resources.

In about 10 minutes or less Mary Schaefer, an HR consultant will explain what human resources mean. She explains how to infuse more humanity back into the workplace for those human beings who happen to be employees.

What can we learn from this talk?

We learn more about the difference between treating employees humanly and humanely. Think of it this way, can you deny your car what it needs? Why then should you mistreat your employees? Human beings are feeling beings and they need to be treated humanely. It is important for employers to address the very human needs required by employees such as; being appreciated, feeling of belonging, and ensuring employees’ meaningful contributions are taken into consideration. Employers should always work towards helping their employees achieve more i.e. helping employees get promotions at the job places. In a study conducted in the U.S.A, 70% of the employees are disengaged, and 20% are actively disengaged with their employers. Meeting the employees’ requirements will improve engagement and therefore higher productivity is expected. You can’t undermine employee engagement, as it is always expensive for the business in the long run. Mary Schaefer advocates for employers to honor someone’s worth at work.

2. Patrick Vermeren – The uncomfortable truth of HR and leadership development. 

A fanciful TED talk by Patrick Vermeren explaining the uncomfortable truth of HR. It is a story built on his personal experience as an HR manager for years until he quit his job in 1996. He explains the wrong practices used by HR experts in businesses. It turns out that there are many models which give the wrong information. He gives an enticing story of Pete, a man who had been a successful manager for many years until time he had to take a test based on an entirely crazy theory “Spiral Dynamics”, which offers an alternative explanation for human evolution. After the test, he lost his position as a manager and got fired a few months later. 5 years later he hasn’t found a new job, because he felt so depressed, he and her wife had to sell their house, and they live in a small apartment.

What can we learn from this talk?

Patrick Vermeren gives an explanation of why the use of employee performance per year isn’t an effective way to measure employee capabilities. Companies use this metric to determine the pay gaps and bonuses given to employees. An employee who performs poorly in each year’s performance score is subjected to training. The training models used to train the staff are sometimes wrong. In some cases, companies fire the bottom 10% of employees based on yearly performance scores. This is idea was brought on board by Jack Welch former CEO, of General Electric. He argues that this is the worst idea ever. The real truth according to Patrick Vermeren is that giving people a score has zero effect on performance.

3. Regina Hartley – Why the best hire might not have a perfect resume. 

In about 10 minutes Regina Hartley will be giving a sense of who a perfect hire should be. As a hiring manager, you are poised with a dilemma when choosing from applications made by 2 University graduates who applied for a job at your company, both qualified for the position. According to Regina Hartley, there are 2 kinds of people. The silver spoon and the scrappers. The silver spoon character is people who had all the advantages in life and were destined for success. Scrappers are people who had to go through tremendous drawbacks to get to the same position.

If your whole life is engineered toward success, how will you handle the tough time? For example in her company an employee who had graduated from an elite university couldn’t do manual work, to better understand an operation, and eventually, he quit the job. At this point, she describes this person as a silver spoon. Think of a scrapper in the same position, someone who had experienced early hardships anywhere from poverty, abandonment, death of their parents, learning disabilities to alcoholism and violence.

What can we learn from this talk?

The story of Steve Jobs, a person who never completed college, and ended up becoming one the world’s most renowned entrepreneurs. He was brought up in the scrapper’s kind of life, he could do anything to ensure that he succeeded in his business. Among those entrepreneurs in the U.S.A who experienced post-traumatic growth in their life. They now view their learning disability as a desire for difficulty which provides them an advantage because they became better listeners and paid great attention to detail. Without these experiences, they couldn’t have developed the muscle required to become successful. That is why you need to hire a scrapper.

4. Joe DeLoss – How a new lens on “HR” can reduce turnover and the cycle of poverty. 

Why does Joe DeLoss a founder of the fried chicken empire doesn’t love fried chicken but loves HR? It could sound weird, but he explains it as you would never think before. He has really discovered that not too many people love HR. He combines entrepreneurship and creating a social impact as significant pillars in building his empire. When hiring employees he really considers the real disadvantage in a bid to reduce turnover and the cycle of poverty. By this, he has achieved the most reliable workforce.

What can we learn from this talk?

HR is disruptive – If human resources is conducted properly there are massive advantages that come with it i.e. profits to the business as you will spend less money re-hiring, training, and on wages.

5. Rahim Sajan – Resourceful Human vs Human Resources. 

Where are we now? What are we doing? Where are we going? These are questions Rahim is trying to get answers. He articulately uses the word VUCA world. This means that the world has become volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous due to many factors.

There is a great difference between resourceful humans and human resources. The education system today has worked on creating a higher number of human resources. The lack of purpose in education is going to continuously produce the same. Human resources struggle to adapt to change while resourceful human adapts to change effectively.  Human resources are sometimes not innovative, and they fail to adapt to the ever-changing market.

What can we learn from this talk?

We need to ensure that we are producing more resourceful humans as opposed to the current system where people are trained for the job market which is human resources. The purpose of our life should shift from creating more human resources, and embrace the production of more resourceful humans through our education system.

Conclusion. Certainly, these are some of the best TED talks every HR professional should have watched. The amazing guidance given by experienced HR experts will without a doubt take your business to the next level. Understanding how to effectively manage your human resource is significant to any business today. Don’t watch it once! Watch twice, and think twice.