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It is Time for Organizations to Change their Vacation Policies.

Last I checked we are half way through 2016. We’re far removed from the 1950s, but we’re still using the same old, standard vacation policies today. Businesses utilize these policies without fully considering what works best for their overall growth, costs, and employees. Overhauling vacation plans could be the best thing your company ever does.

Under traditional paid time off (PTO) plans, the longer people work for a company, the more vacation time they earn. That might have been good enough for the days of Elvis and Lucille Ball, but it may no longer be the best way to operate.

Here’s the rationale: Only employees at the end of their careers can get the maximum amount of vacation time. Since research shows employees only stay with a company for an average 3.5 years, the majority of workers won’t ever reap the full benefits of this type of plan.

Plus, workers nearing retirement age that have accumulated a lot of PTO time are the ones least likely to appreciate having so much vacation available to them.

On the other hand, younger employees—who studies have shown greatly value a strong work/life balance—are more likely to appreciate extra time off.

We are in a tight labor market. Finding employees means finding passive candidates. These passive candidates might be intrigued by your organization, the position, the salary, etc. Then they discover that starting at your organization means reverting back to one week of vacation. You do not want your PTO policy to be the reason a great candidate rejects your offer.

Burnout is real. In order to cultivate a smart, creative, engaged, and excited workforce, people need time to recharge their batteries. Savvy employers know that tired and stressed employees are, well, far less productive than refreshed employees. Waiting 3 to 5+ years to gain a single week of vacation can be as discouraging as receiving a signing bonus but having to wait a year to receive it.

Chris O’Neill, the CEO of Evernote, says, “We hire people who want to work and be productive, so our job is to eliminate obstacles that may limit that work.” We at JellTech think he has the right idea. Eliminate obstacles that bring people who best fit your organization. After all, it’s all about the fit.

So what can companies do to make PTO policies more appealing to different age groups?

Incorporate More Give and Take
Allow greater flexibility when it comes to PTO benefits. Some strategies companies have had success with:

  • Allow older workers to cash in vacation time. If your older employees have more vacation time saved up than they ever plan on using, let them transfer the cash equivalent of some of that time into their retirement plan accounts.
  • Let younger workers buy extra time off. If employees use all their vacation time, provide the option of purchasing extra time off. This perk is a proven way to boost job satisfaction and retention among younger workers—who, by the way, are the hardest to hold onto these days.
  • Consider a time off bank. Say you give people 18 days a year for sick leave and vacation (fairly standard), but instead of scheduling specific days to take the PTO, let the employee decide. If someone wants two days off for Yom Kippur, great. If they are having family troubles and need some time, so be it.

There are several different ways to craft a unique vacation policy that is far superior to the ‘Christmas, New Years, one week off’ standard that most companies use. However you decide to go about it, individual employees will appreciate having the power to decide what works best. They appreciate being treated like adults. Everyone is fully refreshed at work and your business is better for it.

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