Hardy, VA; 27, August 2015: In last few days Microsoft, Adobe, and Netflix have announced important changes to their maternity leave plan. Netflix, for example, offers the so called "unlimited" maternity leave until the child is one year old for both mothers and fathers. While this might sound like something unique and unusual, actually this practice is becoming a standard in Silicon Valley where companies fight for talent.
The Netflix plan covers about 2,000 full-time employees. The main goal of this decision is to promote “freedom and responsibility” among its employees. “[It] gives our employees context about our business and the freedom to make their own decisions along with the accompanying responsibility,” explains Netflix's chief talent officer, Tawni Cranz, in an official blog post. During the period of leave, employees will receive full pay, including all other benefits, which should help families substantially to focus more on their families and recovery after the pregnancy and birth.
And while this sounds like a great way to attract top, family oriented talent to the company, Netflix also offers unlimited holiday time for every full time employee, which caused a lot of negative comments on the web, even from Netflix employees. But why would something rather unique and positive be a source of negative outbursts, even from company employees? The answer - uncertainty. Multiple questions are being shared every day on social media.
"It’s normal that people are confused by this. Obviously, no one will walk up to their manager and say that they will be taking the summer off," says one Netflix employee asked for comment. "One thing that strikes me is that if someone takes long holidays, the company will not hire anyone in his place. So such a strategy puts a huge stress on the whole team, and makes the employee look like a bad guy."
Is this the way for large corporations to not only lower the amount of holidays people take, but also weed out people who will take too many of them? Should employees feel uncertainty when taking time off? Even more uncertainty was provided by Microsoft, with their explanation that should clear things up: "As we ask our employees to bring their A-game to work every day to achieve our mission, we believe it's our responsibility to create an environment where people can do their best work". So what’s the A-game? Is this working constant overtime, being top employee on the floor, or just meeting targets? Those are the questions that unfortunately were left without answers.
Tech Companies are slowly pushing the agenda that "time off is for lazy people" while advertising it the other way around. And while large companies can count on initial losses on this strategy, the startups trying to attract talents are backed into a corner. "We did it a year ago. Since our team was hovering around 10 at the time, every day taken off by an employee was a huge loss for us", says Jacek Kowalski from SkyFinance, a failed startup. "Our most important employee went on a holiday that lasted much longer than expected. We lost key talent, but we couldn't employ anyone else, as we had to pay him" he says, explaining how losing a key developer was bad for his startup. With a lack of talent and limited resources, the company failed to raise enough funding and failed to meet its own goals.
While this is disastrous for some startups, there is a handful of medium sized companies that are comfortable with this vacation model. "It is all about tracking and communication", says Cricket Maiden , from http://www.softtimeonline.com/employee-vacation-tracker - "we have multiple customers, even small ones that offer these kind of vacation packages. The key is in communication and transparency." For an unlimited holiday model to work, it is important to have a very clear communication line between management and employees. Tracking of holidays is one of those important pieces in this model. By smart data analysis, management can track which employees take more holidays, despite projects and goals not being met, and then communicate with them before this becomes an issue.
But then there is still an issue with employees that are stressed about taking too many holiday days per year. There is a light in all of this confusion. As Mathias Meyer, CEO of https://travis-ci.com, explained in his blog post: "Starting in 2015, we’ve implemented a minimum vacation policy. Rather than giving no guidelines on what’s a good number of days to take off, everyone now has a required minimum of 25 (paid) vacation days per year, no matter what country they live in. When people want to take time off beyond that, that’s good, and the minimum policy still allows for that. But it sets a standard amount of days that we expect our employees to take off in order to focus on their own well-being rather than work."
Despite a lot of confusion, the unlimited vacation idea is slowly gaining acceptance, and some companies are going the extra mile to improve communication and clarity to reduce misunderstandings regarding their offerings. While still in its infancy, the system will surely offer an interesting trump card for employers looking for the best talent, and not only in Silicon Valley.