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Handling staff during the Christmas period

As fabulously festive as Christmas time is, the holiday can wreak havoc with many industries that find their workload increasing through the winter months. Grounds maintenance is a prime example. Colder weather strikes up the need for additional services such as gritting and snow ploughing, making staff attendance essential.

Pro Landscaper sits with Eddy Griffiths, head of operations at grounds maintenance and landscaping giant CGM, to discover how he manages staff at this time of year.

When asked how busy the winter period is compared with the rest of the year, Eddy starts by saying: “In theory the winter months should see reduced staff levels. But, yet again this year has proven that our labour level remains constant.”

The workload during this time extends greater than snow and ice, as he continues: “Winter works still include planting landscaping projects, tree works, in channel vegetation management, shrub pruning, as well as gritting and snow clearance.

“If anything, we are creating new positions this winter and currently have several positions available in different areas of the business.”

Many businesses have a winter closure period to allow for holidays such as Christmas and New Year. Eddy enlightens us as to CGM’s approach to people needing time off, and those who want to take on the additional work: “We don’t officially have a close down period in the winter months. We ask employees to take some holiday over the Christmas week.

“However, for staff that would rather work, we provide them with call out work such as gritting, and emergency tree works. CGM Group is available 365 days a year to service all contracts in case of an emergency or winter services.”

Absence of staff due to both holiday and illness that frequently arises in winter also prove problematic. “Every division at CGM has a maximum level of holiday they can authorise at any one time,” Eddy explains. “This is consistent and applies to the management team also.”

CGM have a simple yet effective way to reduce the number of staff taking extended holiday, that can be detrimental to the business. Eddy tells Pro Landscaper: “The holiday allowance is seasonal. This means the number of holidays authorised in summer for grounds staff would be lower than winter.”

“Staff absences are monitored, and our policy provides a consistent approach to all staff,” Eddy says, speaking on illness. “Return to work interviews help us understand issues with staff and gives them an understanding of the business’ needs. If persistent absence continues, a formal approach is taken, and one-to-one meetings usually resolve the absence issues.”

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