When you picture a Silicon Valley start-up, you may think of an open office layout, foosball tables, perhaps a couch and a big screen TV in the lunch room, and an atmosphere comparable to that of a fraternity. The goal, of course, is to attract and retain top young talent by having a fun work environment. While this kind of atmosphere certainly can go a long way, it's also completely unrealistic for some workplaces.
With that in mind, it's not surprising that Netflix's "Culture of Freedom & Responsibility" ruffled the feathers of many HR Managers. One critic responded to Netflix's Chief Talent Officer Patty McCord by asking if she wrote the document to intentionally frustrate HR Managers everywhere.
Our model is to increase employee freedom as we grow, rather than limit it to continue to attract and nourish innovative people, so we have a better chance of sustained success. - Netflix
If you haven't read the manifesto, one of the most controversial points was Netflix's 'Unlimited Vacations Days' policy. That's right: there is no limit to the number of vacation days a Netflix employee can take! The only catch is that they must stay in line with the Golden Rule of Netflix: Act in Netflix’s best interest. This means that common sense reigns, and their accountants certainly wouldn’t take time off during their fiscal year-end.
Before you dismiss the circumstances at Netflix as just another case of Silicon Valley fantasy HR, consider this one key component every manager could adopt:
Know When Your Team Needs a Break
Vacations typically have to be approved by a manager several weeks or even months in advance. Before you get it approved, you need to have the money saved, and the trip planned. To a burnt out employee, that often sounds more exhausting than just showing up to work like every other day. However, if as a manager you are in touch with the performance, happiness, and energy-levels of your people, you will know when an extra day or two off is required to rejuvenate.
If your team is coming off the successful launch of a big project, consider telling them they've earned Monday, and maybe even Tuesday, off. They will return to work refreshed and more motivated to work for the best interests of the company, knowing that the company values not just the work they do, but their individual well-being as well.
How to Get There
Eradicating your company’s vacation policy is not necessary. Consider building upon your existing framework, but working with upper management to give every manager a number of "flex days" or days in lieu to reward their team with. For example, if the IT Department has just finished a large-scale, troublesome migration, and have worked around the clock to get it up and running, you could reward them with a staggered two days each that won't be deducted from their vacation pool and won’t leave you short staffed the next week.
Know your people and their needs. Reward them with days in lieu when you know they need it and you will be rewarded with a refreshed high functioning team. After all, you don't have to knock down office cubicles and install foosball tables to create a culture of value and appreciation.
Need help managing employee vacations and days in lieu? Register for TPD's FREE Staff Planner to manage your employees' schedules.