Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Progressive Companies Are Moving Towards Unlimited Vacations

The announcement recently by LinkedIn of moving to an unlimited vacation policy (DTO – Discretionary Time Off) was music to my ears.  All business ought to take notice. It will improve productivity, increase employee loyalty and retention and save money.

LinkedIn joins a growing list of companies to adopt this policy.  Among the other companies doing this are Virgin Atlantic, GE, Groupon, Netflix, Survey Monkey. The Some of the statistics surrounding this policy are surprising.  Start with this:  61% of American workers report working while on vacation.  It makes sense – these days we are all always connected.  For many, many years I have been recruiting and working with companies and candidates while I am out of town.  It doesn’t bother me and it doesn’t disturb my R&R. Senior executives have to be available to make decisions and continue their work.

The other surprising statistic was that Americans only take 52% of their entitled vacations.  What companies such as LinkedIn have discovered is that this DTO policy increases productivity and profits. Their people at every level are paid to be productive and are measured by their output.  Much has been written about productivity going up when workers take vacations and come back to work refreshed and relaxed.  And one reason DTO is more profitable is that when employees leave they do not have to be paid for unused vacation time.  Ad agencies, which are always looking for ways of cutting costs can learn something from this; because of the high turnover in advertising, I am sure that unused vacation time costs agencies a fortune.  It is one of those hidden expenses which actually can be reduced with a DTO policy.  

The first ad agency to adopt this policy will achieve a public relations coup - and a lot of loyal and happy employees.

In 2011, I wrote about vacations increasing productivity.  I have always believed this.  Unfortunately, I received many private emails from advertising executives who told me that in their environment, vacations were frowned upon and impossible to take. Last year I wrote that I thought that executives should not have to abide by a strict vacation policy.  The essence of that post was that executives can often work extraordinary hours – eighty and 90 hour weeks are common - sometimes going weeks without a day off. Counting vacation days for these executives is an insult.  Clearly, there are a number of progressive companies that agree with a DTO policy.

Executives in advertising are paid by the year, not by the hour, day or week. They are paid to produce.  Their output is judged by how well they do their jobs.  No productive employee should be evaluated by whether they take needed time off.  Vacation time does not and should not detract from productivity.

The irony of vacations is something I observed when I worked for companies. When I took two consecutive weeks off and returned, most projects were still pretty much where I left them.  Oh, sure, some projects moved along, but they were pretty much finished before I left for vacation.

Many executives are actually afraid of taking time off. I have seen reports that people are fearful that it will be discovered that they are not necessary if they take time away from the office.  That is absurd.  And executives with this attitude need a good shrink.

I am a big believer in time off and time away from the office.  After the economic crunch a few years ago, most of the network agencies cancelled summer Fridays. It was a stupid move since senior executives still take them anyway. Taking a summer Friday does nothing to interfere with output and productivity.

Ad agencies should take a cue from the companies which practice DTO.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Never Tell Your Company You Are Looking For A Job

In the course of talking to job candidates – at all levels from junior to very senior – I often hear that they have told their boss that they are looking.  Every time I hear this, I cringe.  It is often their downfall, despite the fact that they think they have a great relationship and/or a friendship and their “search” will be kept secret. 

I recently had a very good account director tell me a story:  She worked for someone earlier in her career.  They liked each other and stayed in touch.  Several years and two jobs later when she decided to change jobs, she called him and he offered  to hire her and she accepted.  He had started a small agency which was now twenty people and he needed someone at her level.  After only a few months she realized that it was the wrong place for her.  And she told her boss that she wanted to look, but would give him ample notice once she found a job.


A month later she was gone.

I completely understand where she was coming from.  She and her boss were friends, so she thought she was doing the decent thing. Truth is, all she was doing was assuaging her conscience.  She didn’t take into consideration several things.  First, inadvertently, she was proving herself disloyal and made him feel as if hiring her was a wrong decision (and no one likes to be made wrong).  She also didn’t think through that once she got a new job, ample notice is rarely enough. Few employees can be replaced in two, three or even four weeks.  And the new employer will inevitably want her to start within two weeks. What happened in this case was that her boss had coincidentally met someone he liked and, despite his relationship with the account director, he did not want to get caught on the short end of the stick. You can’t blame him.  

She was shocked and surprised by being fired because her intentions were totally honorable.

The first rule of job hunting is total secrecy.  Even from friends.  I once had a person tell me that he told his roommate about a job he was interviewing for.  The roommate called, got an interview and took the job. (They are no longer friends, obviously.)

Furthermore, from the employer’s point of view, no matter how well you and your supervisor(s) get along, everyone is overworked.  So the first thing they think about when they hear that someone who is reporting to them is going to leave is a selfish thought – who is going to do the work that this person was/is doing.  As a recruiter, I have many clients who call me absolutely panicked, telling me that they are too busy and need someone immediately (that is why counteroffers are often made). 

So as nice and moral as you want to be, keep your job changing plans to yourself. Your supervisor may be your friend, but he or she has a greater responsibility to their company.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

View From Madison Avenue: I’m Back. Putting Things In Perspective

I am back.  After seven long months of hospitals, rehabilitation and physical therapy, I want to thank my readers for the kind notes and well wishes I received both on my posts and through emails. I especially want to thank those who took the time to come to visit.  This unfortunate time off (I don’t wish anyone the trials and tribulations of spinal damage) puts life into perspective.

I realized that over the years I have been too wrapped up in my own world. Too many friends have been ill, been hospitalized or had problems that I had not handled well, mostly by ignoring the issue.  I was wrong. I understand that many people are awkward about death. illness, hospitals and the like.  I was one of them.  But after seeing people “like” my Facebook posts, calling, texting or emailing me, I realize how positive and good that made me feel.

I will never again allow business to keep me from making a quick call or email. (So many friends felt the need to apologize for not contacting me sooner saying they were too busy at work.  I completely understand because I used to do the same thing.    Even the likes on my Facebook posts made me feel good,)

Life is short and very random.  But stuff happens to people we know, and our jobs should not prevent us from taking time away from ourselves, our family and our friends. The short phone calls, emails, texts and visits I received meant so much to me. We all get caught up in the exigencies of our jobs at the expense of our health, families and loved ones, even our friends.  I have previously written about the importance of time off and vacation time. I am now more committed than ever to reminding people that quality personal time is essential to our well-being.  I cannot think of a single CEO or president who does not take time off even if just long weekends. I feel sorry for those who responded to the aforementioned post that they could not possibly follow my advice. They could not be more wrong. Go through what I just went through and it all comes into perspective.

I love working.  I love advertising and for seven months I missed all of it and all of you.

If you have friends who have been out of touch.  Call them, email or text them.  It will mean so much to them and it will make you feel better about yourself.

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