When your company faces a crisis, you expect, even demand, employees drop every other commitment - immediately! - and focus on resolving that crisis.
What happens when your employee’s family faces a similar challenge? Do you help, volunteer resources to assist them? Or do you ignore their needs?
Would you be open to an equal understanding when that same employee faces a crisis at home, in their personal life? Would you allow them the time to resolve that crisis?
As I compare the two choices, I see unequal costs. The cost to the employee for not responding to the clarion call of the company is far greater than the company who fails to answer the needs of their employee and family. The employee faces the risk of losing 100% of their income, putting their family at risk in both situations. The company faces a small blip in their operations if one employee fails to respond to its needs.
On the other hand, the costs of employee engagement or its lack from this and similar decisions of benign neglect from a majority of US companies have trickled down throughout our economy to exceed $370 billion per year.
If your company has inspired an average level of employee engagement then approximately 30% of your employees are engaged emotionally and intellectually with their work. 30%. On an individual basis, that means that 100% of your employees are engaged, emotionally and intellectually, for about 30% of their day or roughly 2.4 hours, assuming an 8-hour day.
On that basis, you have built a company.
What if you squeezed an extra 10 percentage points of engagement from your employees, boosting it to 40%. That’s a 10% boost in productivity. How much is that worth? Where would you see its results? Is an extra day off or an extra afternoon off worth seeing a boost in revenues or lower costs or higher cash-flows, lower training costs, lower employee turnover?
Maybe your HR person mentions your vacation ‘policy.’ Fine; that’s their job. But do you want someone at work when at best their attention is divided? You’re already paying full dollar for a resource that on average is motivate to deliver 30% of its potential.
Consider the extra day an investment. The R on that I, the ROI, will spread naturally, via word-of-mouth. That’s the grapevine or the water-cooler conversations of the past. That will translate into lower hiring costs as your employees recruit from their networks and lower turnover costs as employees appreciate being recognized and respected. It will translate into higher productivity when your employees are able to focus at work without these unresolved distractions.
This all sounds pollyanish and unrealistic. But as CEO of a small company, I implemented this approach and generated these results. We had a restrictive vacation policy. By some standards it was generous: 2 weeks. But, life happens. We had an older workforce that was more responsible both at work and in their personal life. Their high degree of responsibility made us want them as employees. With greater responsibility comes more life, some of it outside the office. We had to recognize this and change our vacation policy to three weeks, right from the start. And, on occasion, we stretched that knowing the employee’s engagement with their work and colleagues would inspire them to offer a plan to insure fairness for all.
Disclaimer: there were bumps along this journey. I missed some data, failed to recognize different perspectives, prioritizing it incorrectly as it turned out. But, our open communication and our relationships helped us find a common ground and a better solution.