A surprising and genius vacation policy

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Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to speak to my local American Society of Training and Development chapter on building a change-ready culture. During the presentation, I had participants team up to discuss how they could tackle some of their urgent change problems. The teams shared some of their results afterward and a couple gems emerged around corporate vacation policies that I had to share:

The typical company vacation policy: 

Each employee has the opportunity to take up to X vacation days during the organization's fiscal year and must submit their vacation request ahead of time with manager approval contingent on coverage, seniority, yada, yada, yada.

Invisible fine print: We pretty much expect you to still manage everything while you are out on said vacation. While we can't force you to respond to emails and calls, we will reward and promote the type of employees who aren't ever really on vacation.

The genius company vacation policy: 

You MUST take at least X vacation days and management will actively monitor whether you are taking said vacation days and how your team functions while you are gone.

If YOU are required to deal with the situations that arise, then you are FAILING. If you are micro-managing from Tahiti, you will find yourself across from your supervisor when you return. In fact, we are going to monitor the number of emails you send while you are off duty and if it surpasses X, IT will shut off your access on your next vacation.

Why? 

As Wes Stockman of Nicholas & Company and Jay Naumann of RC Willey pointed out (two fantastic minds on organizational development):

Vacations provide natural opportunities to grow your teams and develop new leaders. Micromanagers hold their teams back and communicate to their direct reports that they are not competent or responsible enough to rise to the occasion, which sabotages a culture of ownership and excellence.  Leadership should empower synergy, not bottleneck growth.

Of course, there is also the more obvious benefit: your employees actually return to work recharged and rested and should they fail to return (or need to be escorted out at some future date), you will have plenty of competent replacements ready to jump in without interruption.

So, next time one of your employees requests time off, consider who will be empowered to practice their role while they are out and communicating strict email boundaries - for everyone's sake.