Summer to most Americans generally means vacation time. When employees go on vacation, they usually return to work with more energy and stamina. Without adequate time to rest and recharge, stress, fatigue, and other health-related issues can build-up, which can affect their attitude, productivity, performance, quality of work, and creativity.
Since most employees want to fly the coop in June, July, and August, it poses quite a challenge to a business trying to meet its needs. For this reason, most businesses set a vacation policy, often incorporating it into the employee handbook so that as new employees come aboard they clearly understand what the benefits are. Although employers don’t have any legal obligation to offer vacation benefits to their employees, the majority of business owners understand that aside from the health benefits, it helps attract and retain high-quality workers.
Like many other facets of running a flight school, it’s difficult to fit the mold of other types of businesses, especially when it comes to summertime PTO. While others are busy implementing a standard vacation policy, flight schools located in many areas of the United States are brushing off the snow, ice, and rain, and emerging from their winter’s hibernation—anxious to get the birds up and the cash flowing while the skies are clear.
To further complicate matters, just as our businesses come alive in the summer, so do the countless aviation activities and airshows that our CFIs are all clamoring to attend. EAA AirVenture alone, with around 15,000 aircraft and half a million people attending, can be attributed to many flight schools finding themselves likened to a ghost town; instead of seeing our birds in the pattern during prime instruction weather, our CFIs are either trekking to the show, or twiddling their thumbs because renters have seized control of everything they can get their hands on.
Thinking out of the box is often something we find ourselves doing when conventional methods just don’t fit our mold. With that in mind, here are a couple of ways that may prove to be effective in ensuring that your business doesn’t suffer financially during these times.
Set a Workplace Vacation Policy
- Get employee input—since vacation time is a difficult benefit to change after it’s established, it's best to ask your employees what their needs are for time off before setting it in stone. Don’t set guidelines based on what works for another company when you can be innovative and focus on the needs of your own school and employees. Make sure you provide them with choices and take a vote.
- Limitations—depending on the size of your school and upfront or projected scheduling of aircraft, you can set up vacation schedules by figuring out a percentage and what type of employees can be gone at one time.
- Notice—employees need to give adequate notice to you and their students if they want to be off, giving time for you to prepare and organize.
- Time and type—paid vacation days are voluntarily provided by employers as a benefit and usually accrued by employees based on years of service and the level of their position. Try this Free Vacation Tracker to keep track of accruals. If you can’t afford to let everyone take time off during the season, then allocate times only to those with seniority; however, since employees need time off for rest and relaxation, try to offer the others a day or two as well, making sure they get their accrued vacation time during the off-season.
- Rewards—offer those who do not take vacation days during your busiest season incentives or bonuses to keep them happy while working during the summer, such as concert or sport tickets, or extra vacation days in the off-season. This will often ensure that you have full crew during your most profitable times.
- Alumni—bring back former employees that may be home from college for their summer break to cover vacation schedules.
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em
- Majority rules—if all or most agree that they want to use their vacation time at the same time, such as EAA AirVenture week, it may be most cost-effective to just shut down the school for the week, requiring everyone to be off at the same designated time.
- Co-sponsor—if your crew wants to go to EAA AirVenture, for example, then negotiate to pay some or all of the cost to caravan to the event together (and possibly even housing costs) if they agree to trade some of their vacation days in exchange; if attending Oshkosh, groups can get better rates on housing and campsites.
- Attract and retain—this strategy is usually one of the most effective in building a strong team; once word gets out that you take the entire crew to EAA AirVenture each summer, you’re bound to be the most popular flight school around with CFIs.
- Added bonus—let everyone know about the event. Former students and renters will be lining-up to join the annual event, booking your fleet and ensuring that none of your aircraft are left behind.