Calculating National and Religious Holidays for Your Project Schedule

In November, 2014 I began an annual tradition: I collected a list of commonly observed national and religious holidays for the coming calendar year, and suggested that those holidays observed by the project team be accounted for as non-working days in project schedules for the coming year. But it’s time to remove myself from the equation: I’ve prepared an Excel workbook that will calculate my (now expanded) list of national and religious holidays, from 2021 through 2030.

How it Works

Many holidays are observed on a specific date, such as Canada Day. Organizations that observe these holidays usually have their own rules for what day to take off when they occur on a weekend, so excepting US Independence Day and Christmas, I don’t try to predict whether Friday or Monday will be non-working. Other holidays are based on relative dates such as third Monday of January, like Martin Luther King’s Birthday. In a couple of cases, the authorities added a wrinkle, such as last Monday in August. Others are based on a Lunar calendar; rather than try to calculate Lunar New Year or Passover, I created a look-up table and populated it through 2030.

Download the workbook using the link at the bottom of this page. Then enter the year you want to schedule for in the cell at the top of the Holidays tab, highlighted in orange.

Change Working Time in MS Project

Navigation depends on which version of project you are using. In Microsoft Project 2007, under the Tools menu, select Change Working Time.  In Project 2010 and later, on the Project tab, select Change Working Time.  You can then enter the holidays under the Exceptions tab.  Note that Exception days appear in the calendar in blue; however, if you have selected one of the exception dates, as shown in the example below, the date will appear in red.  Scheduled non-working days appear in gray.  Note that you can also make an exception of a scheduled non-working day, so that it appears to be a working day.  Use this feature carefully – having some of the team working over a weekend can easily throw off the scheduled for the entire team.

Creating a Custom Calendar

You can also create custom calendars, if your team is spread across multiple countries with different holidays. Again, the version of Microsoft Project you are using makes a difference in navigation. In Project 2007, under the Tools menu, select Change Working Time. In Project 2010 or later, on the Project tab, select Change Working Time. Click the Create New Calendar button in the upper right. Give the new calendar a meaningful name, then click the Make a copy of radio button. Select the Standard calendar from the pull-down list. Then click OK.

At this point, you can add the dates you want to mark as exceptions to the working calendar.  Enter the Name, Start, and Finish dates. Then click the Details button. Click the Working Times radio button.  The default working hours will appear; change them only if necessary.

Click OK to return to your custom calendar and enter the non-working dates that apply. Then assign each team member to the appropriate calendar using the Resource Sheet, in the column labeled Base.

Scheduling with Multiple Calendars

While it can be helpful to have MS Project automagically re-schedule after you make a change, be cognizant of what can happen when you have a summary task involving team members using different calendars. A change of one day in one detail task can cause the summary task completion date to change by two or more days. Scrutinize the results before you publish them, and investigate anything that seems wrong.

Once your career has progressed beyond managing a few folks co-located in one cube farm, your ability to think globally and manage a geographically distributed team will be key to how far you can go. Develop your multi-cultural knowledge, awareness, and communication skills, and when someone is needed to manage a project that crosses borders, you’ll be ready.

Commonly Observed National and Religious Holidays 2020

As I remind everyone each year: if you haven’t already done so, it’s time to update your project schedules with non-working days for 2020. Below is a list of commonly observed national and religious holidays, and the dates they are commonly observed. If I missed an important holiday, or got the date wrong, please leave a comment below so I can make corrections. Naturally, you’ll need to confirm which holidays apply to your project team.

And here are instructions for updating the working calendar in MS Project.

Holiday Weekday Celebrated
New Year’s Day Wednesday 1/1/2020
Martin Luther King’s Birthday (US) Monday 1/20/2020
Lunar New Year Saturday 1/25/2020
Republic Day (India) Sunday 1/26/2020
President’s Day (US) Monday 2/17/2020
Ash Wednesday Wednesday 2/26/2020
Holi (India) Tuesday 3/10/2020
St. Patrick’s Day (Ireland) Tuesday 3/17/2020
Good Friday Friday 4/10/2020
Easter Monday (UK) Monday 4/13/2020
Beginning of Passover Sunday 4/19/2020
First day of Ramadan Friday 4/24/2020
May Day (Labor Day in most countries) Friday 5/1/2020
Early May Bank Holiday (UK) Friday 5/8/2020
Victoria Day (Canada) Monday 5/18/2020
Ascension Day Thursday 5/21/2020
Eid al-Fitr Monday 5/25/2020
Memorial Day (US) Monday 5/25/2020
Spring Bank Holiday (UK) Monday 5/25/2020
Shauvot Friday 5/29/2020
King Kamehameha Day (Hawaii) Thursday 6/11/2020
Canada Day Wednesday 7/1/2020
Independence Day (US) Friday 7/3/2020
Pioneer Day (Utah, US) Friday 7/24/2020
Eid al-Adha / Festival of Sacrifice Friday 7/31/2020
National Day (Switzerland) Saturday 8/1/2020
Independence Day (India) Saturday 8/15/2020
Summer Bank Holiday (UK) Monday 8/31/2020
Labor Day (US and Canada) Monday 9/7/2020
Rosh Hashanah Saturday 9/19/2020
Yom Kippur Monday 9/28/2020
National Day (China) Thursday 10/1/2020
Mahatma Gandhi’s Birthday (India) Friday 10/2/2020
Sukkot Saturday 10/3/2020
Thanksgiving (Canada) Monday 10/12/2020
Columbus Day / Indigenous People’s Day (US) Monday 10/12/2020
Day after Thanksgiving (US) Tuesday 10/13/2020
Dussehra (India) Sunday 10/25/2020
Veteran’s Day (US) / Remembrance Day (Canada) Wednesday 11/11/2020
Diwali (India) Saturday 11/14/2020
Thanksgiving Day (US) Thursday 11/26/2020
First day of Chanukah Friday 12/11/2020
Christmas Eve Thursday 12/24/2020
Christmas Day Friday 12/25/2020
Boxing Day (UK, Canada) Saturday 12/26/2020
Kwanzaa Saturday 12/26/2020
New Year’s Eve Thursday 12/31/2020

Hiring is Part of What a Manager Does

The unemployment rate is below 4% and technical positions are remaining open for up to a year at a time. Hiring managers need to up their game.

My consulting practice consists of human capital management transformation projects, so I spend a lot of my time around HR people. Many HR professionals will tell you they are fighting a “war for talent.” Employee turnover rates are higher and average tenure shorter than at just about any time in history for most organizations, for a variety of reasons. Employees with advanced technical skills are not staying in jobs as long as they used to, and every open position represents an opportunity cost. When the work has to be spread among other employees, the negative effects accumulate quickly. As a result, both recruiting and retention get a lot of attention—except from the managers they work for.

Suzanne Lucas, who writes as The Evil HR Lady for Inc. and number of other publications, recently touted an article by Chip Cutter on the practice of ghosting—job applicants cutting off communication with corporate recruiters and hiring managers. There has always been a fraction of new hires that don’t show up on their first day in retail and restaurant jobs, but this is now a growing phenomenon for technical and white-collar positions, too. Lucas and many other HR practitioners say this is a behavior that the applicants learned from employers, especially hiring managers, during the era of high unemployment. Now, there are more open positions than unemployed workers and the tables have been turned.

Perfection is Over-rated

“I couldn’t pass an audition to join my own band.” Frank Zappa

Every manager wants to hire someone who has exactly the right skills and personality, experience and education, and can hit the ground running. And just about every HR executive complains about managers who won’t choose among the candidates they’ve been presented for open jobs. They point to managers who admit that “This one is perfect,” but they want to see a few more. They forget that outstanding candidates have other opportunities. Unemployment rates in technology are much lower than the rates in the general population, which is now at the lowest point in this century. Even those managers who have successfully “poached” employees from another company underestimate the competition for talent. The hiring manager must be decisive and communicative to be effective.

Understand the Hiring Process in Your Organization

Job ApplicantsMost large employers these days go through an extensive HR-managed process that includes everything from drug testing, credit, and criminal record checks to nondisclosure and IP agreements. Equity grants and other compensation approvals add steps and approvers. This introduces a certain amount of latency, and the longer it takes to get someone on board, the greater the exposure to cold feet. I know of one Silicon Valley employer that had a 10% no-show rate among candidates who had already accepted offers, and that was several years ago. If your organization allows the hiring manager access to the applicant management system, you should monitor the workflow for each requisition, and if necessary, nudge those who have aging actions in their inbox. After you decide on a candidate, maintain contact with that new team member right up until their start date. Keep them informed and feeling wanted, or you might see them snatched away by some other firm.

Make the Landing as Smooth as Possible

Studies have found that the ‘new employee experience’ largely drives tenure. In exit interviews with people who decided to leave their new job in the first six weeks, most organizations hear reasons that amount to ‘disappointment.’ It’s not just onboarding, but fitting in. Excellent teams make a point of getting their new members to feel comfortable asking questions without fear of being judged.  Excellent managers don’t just delegate the new hire experience to a ‘buddy,’ they work to establish a new relationship.

Retention Starts on Arrival

Say what you want about the job-hopping habits of the Millennials: they’re just applying the rules of the modern marketplace. Can you really blame a twenty-something for wanting to develop her resume? The challenge for the manager is to help her develop that resume without leaving. Special projects, additional responsibility, and training aren’t exactly golden handcuffs, but don’t you really want to retain the ones that are engaged? Understand that new hire’s personal goals and make that part of your management plan for them.

Getting to Team Stability

Most managers will tell you that continually re-forming the team as people come and go is a strain on everyone. It helps to engage the group in onboarding and retention. It’s a drag for the new hire to follow someone who was perceived as a valued colleague and trusted friend—no one can match up on the first day. Sensitize your team to the needs of the new starter and enlist them in helping her be successful.

The pace of business picks up a bit more each year. Don’t expend your valuable time as a manager being indecisive, and don’t let someone surprise you with a resignation. As tough as this year looks, next year will be worse, and you won’t like to face it with only half of a team.