My brother-in-law recently paid us a visit. He recently retired from General Electric, an old customer of ours, and we talked a little shop. He brought to my attention, a new vacation policy of G.E.’s whereby salaried employees can now take as much vacation time as they want, as long as it doesn’t interfere with their project schedules. Like most companies, the scheduling of vacations used to be critical and you were typically rewarded vacation time based on your length of service to the company, e.g., one week after one year, two weeks after two years, etc. Evidently, it is not that way anymore.
Now, employees can take as much time off as they desire whenever they want, which is referred to as the “permissive” approach by the company. Such a policy may be well suited for female employees who have become pregnant and want to spend time with their newborn before returning to work, but this is now applicable to everyone.
In a way, it is similar to the old concept of “flex time” which allows employees to come to work either earlier or later and depart earlier or later, but they have to be at the office for a certain length of time each day (such as eight hours) and work between certain hours, such as 10:00am to 2:00pm. This provides employees a certain amount of freedom in order to honor other commitments, such as making a doctor’s appointment, shopping, tending to school children, etc.
General Electic certainly did not invent the concept. Richard Branson, the founder and chairman of the Virgin Group announced it in the fall of 2014. However, G.E. is the biggest company to date to embrace the concept which now affects over 30,000 salaried employees, not hourly workers. General Electric’s size adds legitimacy to the concept. The big question though is, “Does it work?” As G.E. has only been using it since early 2015, it may be too soon to determine its success.
The biggest concern, of course, is the temptation to abuse the system. To overcome this problem, managers have to be on top of their game in terms of project management and being able to balance the use of human resources. Bottom-line, how well does the manager trust the employee? In yesteryear, managers had to carefully schedule resources in order to meet delivery deadlines. When completed with one assignment, the employee was given another.
The question then becomes, “Is enough work being allocated to the employee?” If the worker takes off for several months at a time, it would suggest that, No, the employee is not performing his/her fair share. Now, I will admit some employees are more productive than others and can complete project assignments faster, but the manager should be cognizant of this and adjust the workload accordingly. However, this is 20th century thinking.
Today, it is a new world in corporate America where millennials are flooding the work force, people who want more personal time for themselves. To earn such freedom as unlimited vacations, they must demonstrate they can assume responsibility and deliver on time. However, if they feel “entitled” to such perks, the program is doomed to failure.
Again, this is a concept still in its infancy. Some companies will embrace it, others will have difficulty swallowing it and abandon it if their output suffers. As for the rest of us, it will be fun to watch.
By the way, in my day, unlimited vacation was typically referred to as “retirement.”
Keep the Faith!