Archive for the ‘Organizational Change’ Category

In recent months I have read several articles on progressive companies who offer unlimited paid vacation time to their knowledge workers. Companies who have initiated this policy require that employees get their work done on time and depending on the role find someone to cover them while they are away.

I am sure this concept may send more traditionally minded individuals into a frenzy of questioning how a company would get anything done? Wouldn’t workers take advantage and take too much time off? But for those companies that have tried it, it seems to be working very well for the following reasons:

  • Increased Retention: employees feel more appreciated when their organization cares enough to allow them this flexibility. Essentially this approach allows employees to find a work-life balance as WeddingWire acknowledge:

‘Vacations are important and we want you to have a life so our vacation policy is simple: take what you need. The concept allows for life to happen and as long as you get your work done, you can take what ever time you need, when you need it.’

  • After introducing unlimited paid vacation, retention at MeetingMatrix International was 100%. Interestingly, a tax services firm called Ryan, introduced unlimited paid vacation after receiving a resignation letter from a rising star. Since their policy change they have seen a significant reduction in voluntary turnover.
  • Productivity: as many of us have observed in the workplace, sitting at a desk from 8-5 does not necessarily equate with optimum productivity. Flexible working practices shift the focus from hours spent at work to what work is actually done. Under the unlimited time off approach employees are evaluated based on meeting job objectives and deadlines.
  • Save Money: this may surprise the cynics but this approach could actually save employers the time and money they currently spend on tracking sick and vacation time.
  • Recruit The Best Candidates: people notice when you combine a good culture with exemplary employee benefits. Being an MBA student word definitely gets around among my classmates on who the best organizations to work for are and benefits definitely factor into these analyses.
  • Treats Employees As Adults: this approach offers employees the flexibility to come and go without explaining every move. By showing that you trust your employees to take responsibility for ensuring they still get their work done; you empower them to perform. Indeed if you don’t trust your employees, you really need to examine if you have hired the right people.
  • It’s Not Just For Big Organizations: while some of the organizations that offer this policy are large, such as Netflix, other smaller organizations such as Red Frog Events, and WeddingWire have had success with this approach.

Overall the concept of unlimited paid vacation is very attractive, particularly from an employee standpoint, however caution is needed. Care needs to be taken by employers to ensure particularly in workaholic cultures that reverse psychology doesn’t kick in and that employees don’t feel manipulated into not taking time off.

So what do you think? Would this work at your organization? And do any businesses in the Reno/Tahoe area already offer this?


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Growing up in England, I remember being 13 years old and using the earnings from my newspaper delivery route to go shopping for the latest top 40 CD at Woolworth’s.  At the time, Woolworth’s was one of the UK’s best-known retailers, having opened its first store in 1909.  The company’s product categories included entertainment, home goods, children’s toys and clothing, and confectionary.  The company had over 800 stores in the UK and a Woolworth’s store could be found in almost every British town.  I am no longer living in the UK and unfortunately, I’m not the only one.  In January 2009, just short of its 100th birthday Woolworth’s closed its doors in one of the biggest company collapses in British business history.

There were many different reasons cited for Woolworth’s UK collapse, which collectively demonstrate a business that had failed to adapt their business model to the changed 21st century environment. Woolworth’s made a classic mistake that many other organizations make. They were complacent and assumed their past successes would continue into the future.

A Harvard Business Review Article (from July – August 2011) ‘Adaptability: The New Competitive Advantage,’ by Martin Reeves and Mike Deimler addresses how today’s complex changing business world requires organizations to adapt in order to survive and thrive. Reeves and Deimler assert that traditional business approaches assume a relatively stable and predictable world, which is clearly no longer the case. The 21st century business needs to be good at scanning the environment, learning new things and trying out these new ideas not just in terms of product and service innovation, but also in regards to their business model, processes and strategies (Reeves and Deimler).

The purpose for my blog is to explore forward thinking and innovative business approaches, to encourage business leaders to reconsider traditional business practices and to consider incorporating new creative approaches to leadership and the work environment. Business is continually changing and as Woolworth’s, Borders, Circuit City and many others have demonstrated, there is no guarantee that approaches that have been successful in the past will continue to be effective in the future.

Photo Credit: Staffordshire Newsletter

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