How Encouraging Employees to Take Vacation Time Can Help You Attract Top Talent

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Mar 30, 2016

According to a recent survey by travel news site Skift, four in 10 Americans say they didn’t take any vacation days in 2015. That’s 41 percent of employees who worked without any type of substantial break over the course of the past year.

The Problem: Vacation Is Supposed to Be Fun, Not Worrisome

If that number sounds startling, the reasons behind it make perfect sense. About one in four workers don’t get any paid vacation time because they are part-time, seasonal, or per diem employees or independent contractors who are not eligible for such benefits.

According to the survey, four in 10 workers don’t take vacation because they’re afraid of returning to the office and facing a backlog of work to do. This fear becomes even stronger when a company downsizes or restructures and an employee is expected to take on the workload of several people.

And finally, respondents say they can’t help but feel guilty when taking vacation. In today’s culture of work martyrdom, they worry that their bosses will view them as being less committed to their jobs. Or, worse yet, many fear taking vacation time makes them more vulnerable to being laid off or losing their job.

The Opportunity: Use This Insight to Woo Top Talent

Employers are facing a serious talent shortage. Increasingly, they’re turning to search firms to find the elusive skill sets that their companies need to stay competitive and keep growing.

This is the perfect opportunity to think how you can be proactive in removing job barriers to candidates. Companies like GE, Netfix, LinkedIn, Stayful, and Evernote offer unlimited vacation days and empower their employees to plan, use good judgment, and be accountable for their own time off.

At my company Scout Exchange, for example, we have unlimited vacation days based on performance. Our philosophy is, “hey, if you’re doing your job well, go ahead and take time off when you want to. You’re an adult; we trust you.”

While technology-based companies lead the trend in unlimited vacation time, still less than one percent of employers currently offer this benefit.

The Solution: Think Outside the Vacation Box

Offering more time off is a great start. But to attract top talent, retain them, and keep them from getting burnt out, you have to be innovative in how you communicate your, “we-get-the-work-life-balance” message.

MasterCard actually helps their workers facilitate taking time off. Employees and their bosses get reminder emails of what vacation time they have left and are even offered incentive contests with destination getaways as prizes.

Millennials, who account for one in every three American employees, demand a work-life balance. According to an Ernst & Young Global Generations Research survey, lack of flexibility was one of the top reasons millennials quite their jobs.

At Scout, we employ a lot of millennials and we’ve begun blurring the line between strict allocation of vacation days and creating a work-life balance. For example, some of our younger employees leave the office at 2 p.m. to take a Pilates class, and then return after 3 p.m. to continue working. Other take a
 mid-day break to walk their dogs, meditate, or jog in the park. We also off more flexible hours and the ability to work from home.

To Attract Top Talent, Offer More of What They Want

Shorter, more frequent vacations. Using an employee ‘floater’ to cover coworkers’ vacations, so work doesn’t pile up. Use-it-or-lose-it time-off policies. If you don’t find ways to show that you support a work-life balance, you’re taking a vacation from attracting top talent.

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