If ever we were seeking an example of why companies need an automated system to manage holiday entitlements, we need look no further than the current Ryanair debacle.

According to a BBC News report, a backlog of staff leave is behind the airline’s decision to cancel up to 50 flights a day for the next six weeks.  The company has admitted it has “messed up” the planning of its pilots’ holidays – finding itself as a result unable to hit punctuality targets because large numbers of staff are booking holidays before the end of the year.

a plane against a sunset

It’s somewhat ironic that a company that takes people on holiday has found itself having to make this unpopular decision (potentially affecting up to 400,000 passengers) because of poor management of its own holiday processes.  And while of course we don’t know the exact details of how Ryanair manages annual leave, there’s clearly some room for improvement.

Here are three reasons why automating the annual leave process makes sound business sense (and can help you avoid a PR disaster):

1. A helicopter view for the business

If annual leave is managed in one central, easily accessible place, it’s easy for the business to make sure they aren’t left short of cover at the end of the holiday year. Most modern Cloud HR systems will automatically calculate holiday entitlements based on company rules and the individual employee’ working time pattern, and keep a running total of time taken or booked. This can be invaluable when it comes to making sure there is adequate staff cover or when the business is resourcing for special projects or seasonal peaks.  Of course, not every company will have such a business- critical need to make sure there are enough hands on deck as Ryanair, but access to a single, up-to-date view of data – backed if possible by a calendar view of absence can be really helpful, particularly if there is a lot of cross-team working going on and managers need a picture of who is around in other departments too.

2. Better monitoring by managers

The end-of-holiday-year rush for everyone to get their leave booked in is common in many organisations – particularly if the business has a ‘use it or lose it’ policy.  With an absence management software, however, managers can log in at any time and see how much leave their team members are entitled to, what’s been taken and what remains.  This allows them to nudge employees periodically, to encourage them to plan well ahead and not leave booking their holidays until the eleventh hour.    This is particularly important if there are minimum resourcing requirements in the team or certain people who cannot be off at the same time.  It’s also a good way to highlight people who are only taking minimal annual leave – perhaps signalling that they are stressed or overloaded and feel they don’t have the time to go on holiday.

3. A more user-friendly system for employees

From an employees’ perspective, there’s nothing more frustrating than a long drawn out process for requesting annual leave and having to wait for sign-off from a manager before being able to confirm holiday plans.  Automated systems get rid of unnecessary form-filling and make the whole process quicker and easier.  Employees can log in to check how much leave they have left and see if anyone else in the team is away at the same time.  They submit a request, which is automatically directed to their manager, who can look at the overall picture and accept or reject it at the click of a mouse.  It’s the kind of seamless, speedy process that employees, particularly the digital natives of Generation Y, expect and can do much not just to inform efficient planning, but also to avoid any disputes over holidays arising within the team.

Erika Lucas author image

Erika Lucas

Writer and Communications Consultant

Erika Lucas is a writer and communications consultant with a special interest in HR, leadership, management and personal development. Her career has spanned journalism and PR, with previous roles in regional press, BBC Radio, PR consultancy, charities and business schools.