July 19, 2022

Un-Scamming Unlimited PTO


Partner at Hirewell. #3 Ranked Sarcastic Commenter on LinkedIn.

Episode Highlights

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#tbt to episode (23) when Jeff Smith and James Hornick ranted on how Unlimited PTO was a scam.

And they weren’t wrong. Companies who tout lots of time off to attract employees but don’t let it happen in reality? Absolute con job.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. And there are lots of benefits, if you set the process to support it.

And Hirewell did just that. We present our real world experience in episode 47 of The 10 Minute Talent Rant, Un-Scamming Unlimited PTO

Partner at Hirewell. #3 Ranked Sarcastic Commenter on LinkedIn.

Episode Transcript

The 10 Minute Talent Rant is live. I’m James Hornick joined by Jeff Smith and we are on the clock. The 10 Minute Talent Rant is our ongoing series where we break down things that are broken in the talent acquisition and hiring space. Maybe even pitch a solution or two, which is pretty much the entirety of today’s show.

Yeah. Before we dig in, all of our content can be found on talentinsights.hirewell.com. This week’s topic, episode 47- we’re getting up there, Jeff. Unscamming unlimited PTO. Yeah. So- we’re going to back- we’re going to backtrack a little bit. Yeah. Ahh, I don’t know if we’re really backtracking, but more elaborating, being more clear.

Those of you who are avid 10 Minute Talent Rant fans, the eight of you out there, you might remember episode 23, which was like a year ago. Titled unlimited PTO is a scam. Unlike Jeff, this is not, I’m not saying this isn’t about face. I refuse to ever admit that I’m wrong about anything because I’m not.

But the quick takeaways from that episode, it was really about how companies use it as a false promotion to get people on board, to tout their policy is, because it sounds great on the surface, but there’s some downsides. You don’t get paid for- there’s no more accrued time offs.

You don’t get paid for accrued time off they don’t use. The big issue is that there’s always lots of peer pressure, lack of clarity that drive people to work just as much, if not more, even though they’re on a PTO policy. And I still don’t like the terminology. There is no such thing as unlimited.

Like you have to work at some point, right? So those are kind of the reasons behind our initial kind of take on it. That being said, if you actually run it well, which is the other side we want to give to this, it’s actually a great policy. Both from like the leaders, the people in the organization, and full transparency

we went this route. So Jeff, if you’d like to kind of describe why. Yeah, yeah. I like the very unbrave for you to not admit you’re ever wrong. I like that. Never. Look, there was obvious reasons for us, right? I mean, most of which is tracking PTO sucks a lot. It it’s awful. It’s hard to manage. You have to have a CRM to manage it all.

It’s just, it sucks. We really only care about results. It’s kind of part of hard and parcel with all of us not being jerks. Like if someone delivers, I don’t care if you take a week off or two or three. It doesn’t matter. You’re delivering to the client. You’re giving success. I’m cool with it.

The end of the year, cram it all in, all your unused time, it’s silly. We already had implemented a week off between those who celebrate Christmas and New Year’s. It’s offer everybody anyways. It’s also kind of counterproductive if it happens across the board. You have a bunch of critical, massive people two weeks before that taking a bunch of time off. It’s-

yeah. You’re not getting all the stuff done at the end of the year. So if you make some of these moves, there’s going to be challenges, right? And we haven’t figured everything out, but we have felt like we felt some of the ways to solve them. So here’s a few things that we’ve learned across the way,

right? Yeah. So number one, it feels like a trap to a lot of employees, especially your new employees. They’ve all heard this stuff before. They’ve all been told they can take unlimited time off and it turns out they really can’t. They can still basically take two weeks off. So there’s a lot of things you need. People are going to feel like they’re being shamed.

You know what I mean? Shamed out of taking time off. So like you have to truly kind of manage things. Articulate your policy from, you know, realize that a lot of people come in the organization might have PTSD from micromanaged environments that did a really poor job of this, and they think that’s what it is everywhere.

So that’s kind of the first thing you’re up against is making sure you’re able to kind of accurately kind of describe what your expectations are, why people should take time off and then throughout like, yes, you are actually allowed to take more time off than you had previously, making sure they realize that. Otherwise they’re going to be too fearful to actually do it.

Yep. Definitely. I laughed at this one every summer, every Friday should be, or is a summer Friday. Like we’re from the North or the Midwest or whatever. It’s cold as hell. Like it’s cold. I’ve always thought and you said this too, that warmer client folks must laugh at this idea of, you know, summer Fridays for all of us up here, like where 12 o’clock happens,

we all run to the bar, right. We don’t mind working longer every other Friday, just because it’s freezing. We’re going to go down on the couch anyway. So like summer Fridays, doesn’t have to be overtly a thing. You just can take unlimited half days if you want, right? Everything else comes with unlimited time off.

So it comes down to whether or not the job’s getting done. That still is the bottom line. Like why shouldn’t it be around? You can schedule a late Friday meeting if you want, if the customer wants it. Most customers don’t. It’s not something that you have to be sitting around and waiting for something to happen.

Like just get the work done. Yeah. I think having an unlimited PTO policy while still like, have micromanaging the clock that everyone’s working till five or whatever, just doesn’t work, you know? So like you have to kind of change your mind around that whole aspect of the thing too. So anyways. I mean, I’ve had a customer yell at me for scheduling a late Friday meeting.

Like, what are you doing, man? Just be pragmatic about it. Yeah. Next point. A job well done kind of quotation finger marks here, based on people’s individual interpretation of it is going to have people penalizing themselves. So what I mean by this, I think everyone- the big fear a lot of companies have with like an unlimited PTO policy is that they’re afraid they’re going to get taken advantage of.

And people are going to take all kinds of time off and no one’s going to work. But that doesn’t actually happen. Like it’s the opposite issue. Especially if you know how to wait for it “hire well”. If you’re bringing the right people onboard. The people taking advantage of your PTO policy

it’s just not really a thing. What is going to happen though, is the opposite. People are a hundred percent going to stress, like have they earned it? Have I proven myself to get this extra day off, this extra week off? And this is admittedly hard to kind of sort out because it takes true management.

It cuts to like the core of like expectations and communication. Some jobs are easier to track than others, performance wise. You know what I mean? Some things are very metrics driven, some things aren’t right. So like it’s not necessarily a cut and dry if you hit this, like, we encourage you to take more time off. And not to mention that on top of that, it’s the people oftentimes that are having a bad quarter and having a rough go of it that actually need an extra week off.

Like that’s exactly what they need to kind of kinda turn themselves around whatnot. Metrics are great, but it really requires a human touch. It requires you kind of conveying to your team on a continual basis, you’re doing a great job, you’re hitting your metrics or you’re getting things or when they’re not, like it’s okay that you’re having kind of a rough go of it.

Like it’s still important that you kind of take time off. Otherwise, if it’s just something you kind of lean at their own devices, you’re going to have all kinds of people just not taking up as much time as they should because they don’t feel like they can or they’re afraid what you’re going to say and that type of thing.

Yeah, exacerbates the issue. That’s a great point. Fourth, unclear holiday schedules they’re confusing as hell. I know companies who have taken the open holiday approach, like not working when no one else is working is one thing. So like in the States, Labor Day is generally speaking a large scale day off. Like not working when everyone else is working creates FOMO.

Cut and dry. Not knowing who is and isn’t around on any given take can also like really stifle collaboration, like bad. But we, it’s why structured holidays, federal or otherwise, they make good business then. It puts them guardrails around what’s acceptable and what’s not.

We’re part of an earth. We are a global business ecosystem at this point with team members in all sorts of different countries, time zones, et cetera. Like why muddy the waters even more? Just keep it easy, have a set regional or country specific holidays on top of your unlimited PTO and be done with it.

Last one, and this is maybe the one I think is I don’t want to say most important, but anytime this conversation comes up, everyone always says, well, the best thing to do is make sure there was like mandatory time off. Right? And I guess my point is that’s an incomplete solution by itself. Mm-hmm. It’s something that everyone always kind of says you should do because it doesn’t solve the “I’m going to keep working on vacation because I don’t wanna be judged.”

So the working vacation problem is an issue. The “I’ve got client deadlines, so I’d like to take more time off, but I can’t because like I’m responsible to get this and such done. So I can’t actually take this stuff off.” So I heard someone kind of articulate this, the foxhole trap, meaning like you don’t want to put more work on your coworkers plates and take time off.

So you still follow into these traps of people taking working vacations and doing more than they should, even when you have mandatory time offs, if you’re not able to kind of articulate things and whatnot. Yep. It all just comes down to what we’ve kind of talked-

these aren’t really PPO issues at all. If there’s communication issues, there’s management issues. People feel like they’re being judged and you haven’t communicated the importance of why PTO is super important that you’re in a lose, lose situation. The other thing too is making sure that there’s distinction between that they deserve it.

It’s not granted to them. These are perks that are deserved perks and that there isn’t some sort of collateral to give back and forth. All that’s being given back is like the solid work that’s already been done. And to your point, like if everybody’s stressing about dumping too much on their teammates, you’re under resourced as it is. Like, if you can’t figure out how to cover each other, like you’re already losing that game.

Yeah. Create healthy team dynamics and all these problems go away. And that really is the only solution there. And again, like you said, if you have to TLDR, if you have to tell people to take time off, you’ve already set the pressure way too high. Yep. Anyways, that’s it. Those are the fixes.

So that’s the show. That’s the whole show. Anyways, we’re short on clock. That’s a wrap for this week. Thanks again for tuning into the 10 Minute Talent Rant, part of the Talent Insights series, which is always available for replay on talentinsights.hirewell.com as well as YouTube, Apple podcast, Google podcast, Spotify and Amazon.

Jeff, thanks again as always. Everyone out there, we will see you soon.

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