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Eliminating Outdated PTO Policies
 

Eliminating Outdated PTO Policies

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The purpose of this research is to help investigate why there is a growing trend with small startups and other organizations today to move away from a formal paid time off policy (PTO) to an unlimited ...

The purpose of this research is to help investigate why there is a growing trend with small startups and other organizations today to move away from a formal paid time off policy (PTO) to an unlimited policy. This perk has been mentioned as a great benefit to culture, retention and even in recruiting new employees. The focus of the research is in regards to understanding why this change is occurring, who has implemented this policy, what they have learned from the experience, and if this is a good policy for all organizations. Additional research has also been added to help organizations understand the pros, cons, and legal risks associated with implementing an unlimited PTO policy. This study also highlights a growing movement to change the perceptions of how people work, where they work, and why companies are driving cultural change to meet employee needs.

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    Eliminating Outdated PTO Policies Eliminating Outdated PTO Policies Document Transcript

    • ELIMINATING OUTDATED PTO POLICIES Eliminating Outdated PTO Policies Cyle Moore St. Edward’s University 10/08/2013 MSLE6314 FA2013 Building Ethical Organizations 1
    • ELIMINATING OUTDATED PTO POLICIES 2 Abstract The purpose of this research is to help investigate why there is a growing trend with small startups and other organizations today to move away from a formal paid time off policy (PTO) to an unlimited policy. This perk has been mentioned as a great benefit to culture, retention and even in recruiting new employees. The focus of the research is in regards to understanding why this change is occurring, who has implemented this policy, what they have learned from the experience, and if this is a good policy for all organizations. Additional research has also been added to help organizations understand the pros, cons, and legal risks associated with implementing an unlimited PTO policy. This study also highlights a growing movement to change the perceptions of how people work, where they work, and why companies are driving cultural change to meet employee needs.
    • ELIMINATING OUTDATED PTO POLICIES 3 Do unlimited PTO Policies attract and retain staff? There is a growing trend with small startups and organizations today to move away from a formal paid time off policies (PTO) to unlimited policies. This perk has been mentioned as a great benefit to culture, retention and even in recruiting new employees. The belief is that once we understand how work is done in our highly mobile and connected world, a new approach is needed. This approach is to let go of our current static PTO plans. Allowing employees to become empowered creates increasing happiness, engagement, and productivity. In short, the prevailing argument is that current PTO policies are controlling, the policy of tracking and allowing employee’s time off is broken! Why is this important? Americans treat vacation as a luxury. In 2010 the median number of vacation days US workers took was 14; in 2011 that number decreased to 12 says a survey done of 9,000 US workers by Expedia.com (Expedia, 2011). A study done in 2011 by Harris Interactive on behalf of CareerBuilder of 5,671 workers, states that 30% of employees work while on vacation (CareerBuilder, 2011). Another poll in 2012 by Gallup (Gallup, 2013) of over 25M employees states that 44% of employees who take all their vacation are more engaged and more productive compared to their counterparts. These studies would suggest that a move away from current standard vacation policies would be highly beneficial to improving employee happiness. As employees take more time through progressive flex time and PTO policies their engagement and productivity would also increase, creating positive bottom line results for their employers.
    • ELIMINATING OUTDATED PTO POLICIES 4 Who has implemented this strategy and why? There are multiple companies in the United States, such as Best Buy, Evernote, GoHealthInsurance.com, Hotel Tonight, HubSpot, Netflix, SigFig, Xobni, Zotto, Zynga and many more that are using this unlimited vacation perk to recruit young, bright, talented staff. Michael Mahoney, vice president of Consumer Marketing and seven-year veteran of GoHealthInsurance.com, says “Unlimited vacation fosters productivity and loyalty because it favors results over input. If we trust employees to make the right decisions with the time they spend at work in pursuit of our aggressive goals, we can trust them to make responsible decisions about when they choose to take time off of work” (Dishman, 2013). The CTO and co-founder of HubSpot says “over the past few years, the way in which people live and work has changed fundamentally. Employees check e-mail on their smartphones, collaborate on documents from home and complete many of their daily tasks in the cloud. But the vast majority of vacation policies are more like The Flintstones than The Jetsons: they simply don’t reflect the needs and demands of a modern global workforce” (Shah, 2013). So what challenges have these companies learned that we should consider? The feedback from companies that have changed to unlimited policies outline some areas to pay attention to when considering implementing an unlimited policy. “Simply telling people they can take as much vacation as they want doesn’t mean anyone takes more, in fact, quite the opposite has been proven – they take less. Though, the “perfect attendance” award is not given
    • ELIMINATING OUTDATED PTO POLICIES 5 officially, people who work long hours or never take a vacation are still revered as being hardworkers and they wear self-sacrifice like a badge of honor” (Needham, 2012). Here are some of the stated additional challenges they faced: • Employees are protective of their current PTO policies and are used to banking time. • Employees are suspicious that this is a tricky way to make them work harder. • Employees are reluctant to take vacation because of a perception they will be considered a slacker. • There is a fear that employees will abuse and take advantage of the new policy. • Increased engagement by employees is a direct result of empowering employees. • To be successful a change in culture may be needed, with perceptions, values, and expectations realigned. These challenges sound tough, is my organization a good fit for a policy like this? Understanding the challenges then begs the question, is this a good strategy for all organizations and what is the best way to implement an unlimited policy? Unlimited policies are not a one-size-fits all solution, each organization has to consider the challenges in front of them and decide on how best to approach each problem. Below I have outlined some approaches taken, though these will not fit every situation they can provide a starting point for dialogue and consideration. • Employee fear of losing saved vacation time: Instead of changing the policy all at once through a “Big Bang approach,” try an incremental solution. Some examples such as stop tracking the hour trip to the dentist or trying to manage sick days. As employees get use to this and trust builds, removing time tracking all together become much easier.
    • ELIMINATING OUTDATED PTO POLICIES • 6 Employee’s suspicions: Employees that work overtime consistently tend to become task oriented, this limits their ability to look for and find ways to make a larger impact. Setting specific goals, clear expectations, and a more results-only work environment will allow them the freedom to look for solutions to avoid becoming singularly task oriented. Sometimes the only way to accomplish this is to take a step back and disconnect from the daily demands of work. • Fear of being considered a slacker: Many employees fear that if they take time off they will be considered a slacker, even worse some will be confused by the choices created through a new no limit policy. Too much choice is restrictive and confusing. Sheena Iyengar, a professor at Columbia Business School, calls this phenomenon “choice overload.” By creating mandatory minimums, such as two weeks, these issues can be alleviated and provide staff the needed time off from work to rejuvenate (Bailyn, 2013). • Abuse of policy: Though there is always risk of abuse, the policy if implemented correctly, can actually become self-managed by coworkers. Additionally if using a performance based model, abusers of the policy will find it increasingly difficult to meet expectations. • Engagement: Real change only occurs when employee’s performance expectations are part of evaluations. When managers can integrate performance with benefit initiatives they feel empowered and so do their staff. This collaboration gives them input and allows them to feel that they can have significant impacts on the work they do every day.
    • ELIMINATING OUTDATED PTO POLICIES • 7 Realigning your culture may be the toughest consideration: If you have a segmented workforce this might be a great opportunity to build in more cross functional team collaboration. When staff members rely on each other to get work done, they have to collaborate when planning a vacation, to insure work demands are met while they are away. There are also ways to use performance evaluations to help integrate or scale a no limit strategy. One suggestion is called, Result-only work environment (ROWE). ROWE is a performance based model with an understanding that today’s workforce is constantly connected, and evaluating employees should be based on performance instead of presence (Ressler & Thompson, 2013). Is this just a fad or is the workforce changing? As the workforce changes and more Gen Y employees (Gen Y also known as the Millennial Generation, is the demographic cohort born after the early 1980’s through 2004) enter the job market there is an increasing demand for flexible vacation policies. A popular website called Lifehacker.com did a poll surveying over 11,900 employed workers (Glenn, 2012). Of those 11,900, 3.55% of responders have flexible vacation policies and another 7.23% have over 30 days. Though this is not the most used policy, these numbers reflect a growing trend towards more flexible or unlimited policies. Poll: How Many Vacation days do you get each year? 0-5 days 4.88% (584 votes) 6-10 days 11.42% (1,366 votes) 11-15 days 24.01% (2,873 votes) 16-20 days 19.92% (2,383 votes) 21-25 days 17.83% (2,133 votes) 26-30 days 11.16% (1,335 votes) 31+ days 7.23% (865 votes) Flexible 3.55% (425 votes) Total Votes: 11,964
    • ELIMINATING OUTDATED PTO POLICIES 8 Additionally Ressler & Thompson cite the following statistics around Gen Y employees: • ⅗ of students think they have a right to work remotely with a flexible schedule. • Students want access to corporate information and Networks from home computers and mobile devices. • 7/10 of students believe being in an office regularly is unnecessary. • In 2010, 60% of workers of ALL ages believed it was unnecessary to be in an office, and in 2011 that number grew to 69% (Ressler & Thompson, 2013). How has this approach helped these companies go from good to great? “GoHealthInsurance.com reported a 200% improvement in productivity when allowing unlimited vacation time for employees; HubSpot has been ranked the #2 fastest growing software company on the Inc. 500 since allowing an unlimited vacation time policy” (The Daniel Group, 2013). In the first quarter of 2013, Netflix emerged as the best-performing stock in the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 index (Wharton University of Pennsylvania, 2013). “In the past decade, Netflix has gone from being a tiny US DVD-by-mail company to an international phenomenon that is disrupting the traditional TV industry. One reason for Netflix's ongoing success is the company's culture, which emphasizes performance, freedom, and responsibility” (Blodget, 2011). These examples reveal that these
    • ELIMINATING OUTDATED PTO POLICIES 9 companies understand how people want to work, they are considered forward thinking organizations by current and potential employees. What are the legal risks of changing a PTO policy? As with any policy change there are risks to implementing. Being cautious and understanding these risks ahead of time will help avoid legal issues. Colorado Employment Law letter cites some of the issues to be aware of as: As unlimited vacation becomes a growing trend, the following legal issues may arise. • Claims of differential/discriminatory treatment. This issue can develop when there are differences among those who are eligible for unlimited vacation and those who aren’t. For example, if some hourly nonexempt employees for whom it’s just not going to work, it probably makes sense to carefully look at statistics and the background of the workforce. Look for differences between race, sex, and any other kind of issue that might be perceived as discrimination. This would also be the case if moving to such a policy only in certain departments or in certain job categories. • FLSA wage-claim issues if employees are later found to be misclassified. In the last several years, there has been a lot of collective action on Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) issues, and a lot of the big cases have been related to employee misclassification. If a group of 50 employees who say they should have been classified as nonexempt and paid overtime and a court rules for them, this is 50 employees with no time records anymore because of the unlimited vacation policy.
    • ELIMINATING OUTDATED PTO POLICIES • 10 FLSA wage-claim issues if the transition isn’t handled properly. This issue mainly arises regarding what to do with the bank of vacation days and PTO days already on the books. • Intersection with other leave laws and policies. With an unlimited vacation policy, there may be an issue with other leave laws and/or policies because of not knowing the reasons somebody is out (Colorado Employment Law Letter, 2011). Summary Unlimited PTO policies are a growing trend because statistically when people take vacation, the results are increased productivity. When organizations impliment and market an unlimited PTO strategy, they send strong signals to current or potential employees that they understand: • Today’s workforce is more technically connected to work than ever • Today’s workforce demands more flexibility in how/where/when they work • Productivity is both positively impacted by using vacation days • Highly flexible PTO policies require setting expectations up front • Highly flexible PTO policies help retain talented staff in a highly competitive market • Highly flexible PTO policies are helpful in recruiting talented Gen Y graduates • Highly flexible PTO policies build a culture of trust and loyalty Organizations moving to plans like this have learned that if you want extraordinary effort, you have to treat people extraodinary! Empowering employees creates trust which in turn builds loyalty, lowers operations costs, and increases productivity. Organizational leaders who
    • ELIMINATING OUTDATED PTO POLICIES 11 approach and implement unlimited PTO policies, 100% understand that people are the key to helping a company go from good to great (Collins, 2001). Bibliography Bailyn, L. (2013, August 27). Unlimited vacation time is better in theory than in practice. Retrieved from Quartz: http://qz.com/118732/unlimited-vacation-time-is-better-intheory-than-in-practice/ Blodget, H. (2011, April 4). How Netflix conquered the World: Management secrets that propelled A DVD-by-mail company to greatness. Retrieved from Business Insider: http://www.businessinsider.com/netflix-management-presentation-2011 CareerBuilder, H. I. (2011, March 10). One-in-Four Workers Can’t Afford to Take a Vacation, CareerBuilder Survey Finds. Retrieved from Careerbuilder.com: http://www.careerbuilder.com/share/aboutus/pressreleasesdetail.aspx? id=pr640&sd=5/25/2011&ed=05/25/2011 Collins, J. (2001). Good To Great. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc. Colorado Employment Law Letter. (2011, June 16). Unlimited vacation policies: pros, cons, and pitfalls. Retrieved from HRhero Your Employment Law Resource: http://www.hrhero.com/hl/articles/2011/06/16/unlimited-vacation-policies-pros-consand-pitfalls/ Dishman, L. (2013, July 19). How unlimited vacation can increase productivity at work. Retrieved from Rise Networks: http://risenetworks.org/2013/07/19/how-unlimitedvacation-can-increase-productivity-at-work/
    • ELIMINATING OUTDATED PTO POLICIES 12 Executive Leadership. (2012). Unlimited time off can spur productivity. Executive Leadership, 2. doi:74757896 Expedia. (2011, September 30). Exedia 2011 Vacation deprivation study reveals wide work-life disparity across five continents. Retrieved from Expedia: http://mediaroom.expedia.com/travel-news/expedia-2011-vacation-deprivation-studyreveals-wide-work-life-disparity-across-five-con Gallup. (2013, September 29). 2013 State of the American Workplace Report. Retrieved from Gallup: http://www.gallup.com/strategicconsulting/163007/state-americanworkplace.aspx Glenn, W. (2012, September 18). How many vacation days do you get each year? Retrieved from Lifehacker: http://lifehacker.com/5944027/how-many-vacation-days-do-you-geteach-year MacMillan, D. (2012, July 20). Employers offer unlimited paid vacation. Retrieved from SFGate: http://www.sfgate.com/technology/article/Employers-offer-unlimited-paidvacation-3726748.php MacMillan, D. (2012). To Recruit Techies, Companies Offer Unlimited Vacation. BusinessWeek.com, 7. doi:78075717 McCoy, D. J., & Obuhanych, D. K. (2011, September 14). Bloomberg Law Reports. Retrieved from Fenwick: http://www.fenwick.com/fenwickdocuments/unlimited_vacation_policies.pdf Moxley, R. S. (2000). Leadership and Spirit: Breathing New Vitality and Energy into Individuals and Organizations. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, Inc.
    • ELIMINATING OUTDATED PTO POLICIES 13 Needham, D. (2012, April 26). Why a ROWE is better than Unlimited Vacation. Retrieved from Peak Alignment: http://peakalignment.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/why-a-rowe-is-betterthan-unlimited-vacation/ Ressler, C., & Thompson, J. (2013, September 29). Shrink your office: How changing workplace culture will save your business money. Retrieved from gorowe.com: http://www.gorowe.com/clientuploads/Shrink-Your-Office.pdf Shah, D. (2013, July 16). TIME Idea. Retrieved from Viewpoint: Employees Should Get Unlimited Vacation: http://ideas.time.com/2013/07/16/viewpoint-employees-should-getunlimited-vacation/ The Daniel Group. (2013, September 29). The statistics on employee vacations and productivity. Retrieved from The Daniel Group: http://www.danielgroupus.com/business-services/foremployers/the-statistics-on-employee-vacations-and-productivity/ Thompson, J. (2013, May 30). Challenges (and Solutions) to Unlimited Vacation Policy. Retrieved from Blogging4jobs: http://www.blogging4jobs.com/hr/challenges-andsolutions-to-unlimited-vacation-policy/ Wharton University of Pennsylvania. (2013, June 05). On Wall Street, Netflix Is a Comeback Kid — But Can It Stay on Top? Retrieved from Wharton University of Pennsylvania: http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/on-wall-street-netflix-is-a-comeback-kid-butcan-it-stay-on-top/