Giving employees a greater amount of flexibility is the key to employee retention. Here's how you can implement this in your own company.

Utah Business

Giving employees a greater amount of flexibility is the key to employee retention. Here's how you can implement this in your own company.

Work-Life Balance Is Key To Employee Retention

Let’s face it. The job market along the Wasatch Front is great for jobseekers but a challenge for employers who are coping with the region’s historically low unemployment rates. To lure prospective workers, companies in Utah and around the country have started offering better benefits as part of compensation packages. One of those sought-after benefits is flexible, or unlimited, paid time off (PTO). The concept is simple: companies suggest that workers can take as much time as they need, rather than accrue a certain number of days.

Unlimited PTO sounds amazing for most employees. Team members can take as much vacation as they want. If you’re an employer though, it can sound a little scary. How do you prevent your star engineer or sales exec from heading to Australia for a month, if he or she decides to take advantage of the policy?

There are best practices to avoid abuse, confusion, or actions that jeopardize the bottom line. Properly communicating expectations and time-off plans, demonstrating trust of team members, conducting monthly or quarterly performance check-ins, and leading by example are a few of the top strategies that managers must consider when offering the policy.

Interestingly, a 2017 HR Mythbusters study entitled “The Reality of Work at Mid-Market Companies Nationwide” has found that employees with unlimited vacation took an average of 13 days off a year versus workers with capped vacation days who took an average of 15 days off.

Despite that, employers may still have concerns with offering unlimited PTO. Here’s the issue, though. Workers increasingly expect an increased measure of flexibility to take time off. And they will choose to join or stay with a company based on its willingness to offer it.

This expectation is driven by lifestyle choices and ensuring a strong work-life balance. For example, the avid runner in your office wants to take three days to fly to a race on the East Coast. Or, the amateur poker player wants to try his hand at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas and requests an uncertain number of days, depending on how long she lasts in the tournament. Or, your peer wants to observe a religious holiday. The reasons for wanting flexibility are as varied as the employees asking for time off.

The point isn’t to advocate for a new or expanded flexible PTO policy for your business, although you may want to consider one if it doesn’t exist. The bigger message is the need for employers to recognize that a traditional one-size-fits-all approach to managing the employee experience no longer works. Specifically, structured benefits such as time-off policies are moving toward more customized options for everyone.

Flexibility At Work

What does this look like in the workplace? One team member may work from home three days each week to care for her aging mother. Another may work a 32-hour weekly schedule, coming in at 10 a.m. each day. Another always takes a 3-week vacation in the fall to travel overseas to visit family. Another schedules random 3-day weekends to facilitate a personal hobby that requires travel. These examples all have one thing in common: they break from the standard 40-hour in-office work schedule. 

And that’s okay because – as many employers who have already introduced this type of flexibility for their team members can attest – worker productivity and employee engagement remain strong.

For employers still struggling with how to offer time-off and work-schedule flexibility here are three tips:

Tip #1: Research shows employees still work their hours – According to this RescueTime study that analyzed 185 million working hours in 2018, 28 percent of workers start their day before 8:30 a.m., 40 percent of people use their computers after 10 p.m., and 26 percent of work is done outside of normal working hours. Workers also check their email and instant messages an average of every 6 minutes.

Tip #2: Employers must culturally adapt to this new norm – Companies must completely embrace being flexible for team members and demonstrate it in several important ways. First, leaders must communicate that the company is okay with flexibility. Managers must build stronger relationships with their team members to better understand their needs and be able to act accordingly when corrective discussions are required. Lastly, employees must understand their role and responsibilities along with clearly documented performance objectives. Seek out the help of a talent supply chain provider for assistance, if necessary.
Tip #3: Create a framework for flexibility in your employee guidelines – Because flexibility can be customized for each person, employers should have guidelines to ensure that ongoing productivity and business goals are met. Make sure these parameters are documented and communicated to team members. As employers try to enhance the worker experience and foster closer relationships among their workforce, offering flexibility that further reinforces a positive work-life balance is vital. It enables companies to attract and retain workers in this hyper-competitive job market. Plus, it just makes good business sense.

Susan Hornbuckle is vice president of customer and talent engagement for Kelly, a global leader in providing workforce solutions. She oversees the staffing and business solutions operations for Kelly throughout Utah, with a focus on staffing for accounting and finance, administrative, aerospace and defense, education, engineering, information technology, light industrial and manufacturing, and more. Connect with Susan at: