A memorable exchange I once had with a former HR colleague went like this:
Many of us were a bit taken aback when we heard highly regarded Zappos was generously paying new hires to quit if they were dissatisfied, and not just because it was likely deemed more cost-effective in the long run. The practice was in fact instituted mostly because the company’s brand is totally about “best customer experience imaginable” and this is so much more than a tag line. One of countless examples is that their customer service reps never use scripts. Genius, common sense, or both. You decide, but also think about whether this would work for a phone company. Fat chance as they say.
Elsewhere, a number of well-known large companies including LinkedIn, Virgin America, Best Buy and Netflix have started experimenting with unlimited paid time off. The rationale: time away from the job helped with employee productivity; e.g., by avoiding burn-out. Beyond that benefit, trusting employees not to take advantage of the company can make them feel – and therefore act -- like part owners of the business. This practice worked for these employers, particularly when employees and managers discussed adequate coverage for key duties in their absence, but clearly it’s not a universally great fit. Consider the impact on an impending re-start of a nuclear power plant if even one senior-level nuclear or safety engineer was in urgent need of some downtime. “Adequate coverage” is in the eye of the beholder.
Outside the realm of potential life and death consequences, however, innovative crowd-funding company Kickstarter abandoned its unlimited vacation policy when they thought it was sending some type of message (subliminal?) to employees to take less time off. So a creative HR practice designed to minimize burn-out was actually burning people out!