This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab
Any good business leader will tell you that his or her company's greatest asset is its people. We've heard that claim so much, it's become a cliché – and one that isn't always backed up by company policy. At Miovision, I certainly believe that our team is our strongest asset, and we try to reflect that by empowering and rewarding our staff.
Beginning this year, Miovision is giving employees unlimited vacation time. That's right. Take as much time off as you want. Go hike the Himalayas. Take that backpacking trip across Europe that you wanted to do during university. Spend more time with your family. Recreation is important.
Unlimited vacation is a growing trend south of the border, and it's been driven by companies like Netflix, LinkedIn, Hubspot and General Electric trying to reward workers and incentivize more talented people to join them. Still, less than 2 per cent of U.S. companies have unlimited vacation policies, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, and it's less common in Canada.
Miovision is even taking it a step further. Not only are we providing unlimited vacation time, we are instituting a minimum vacation policy. Beginning in 2016, all employees will be required to take at least three weeks off.
As awesome as unlimited vacation sounds, the reality is that workers don't use it. They fear that their colleagues or bosses will view them as slackers if they take too much time off. They worry about the pile of work that will be waiting for them when they get back. By mandating a minimum, we're telling our employees that we want them to feel comfortable taking time off.
It's my belief, and one that is supported by research from SHRM, that employees who take vacations are happier, more productive, more creative and more likely to stay at the company. So yes, there is a benefit to me as the CEO because the policy will make the company stronger, but what it really comes down to is respecting people as individuals. Miovision can take this step because we've already done the hard work of building a culture of empowerment that treats the people who work here like responsible adults. If you have to babysit and watch over an employee about their time off, either you've failed as a boss or they have as an employee.
Flexibility and agility are also core values in Miovision's culture. We let teams and individuals operate like amoeba. People can move between teams and work spaces in a way that lets them respond to the unique challenges of each piece of work, and empowers them to make decisions about where to best spend their time.
The two-week vacation may have been a good fit in the era of nine-to-five jobs, but the most innovative companies are anything but nine-to-five. Mobile devices and the Internet have made it possible to get work done outside of regular business hours. While there can be downsides to greater connectivity, it also enables people to work when and where they are most comfortable. That may be at their desks during the day, or it could be on the couch at midnight. It only makes sense to extend that freedom to vacation time as well. We are treating our employees with the trust and respect they deserve.
As companies get more comfortable with flexible work schedules – and the competition for talented employees grows – it's a safe bet that more companies will expand their vacation programs with minimum time off, unlimited vacation and other progressive ideas. My suggestion for employers who might have a hard time getting comfortable with the idea of loosening policies is simple: Have the courage to trust your staff. They will surprise you. And anyone who abuses the policy was probably not the best fit for your team anyway.
As I've joked while talking about our new policy with some colleagues, if someone can take 50 weeks of vacation a year and still get all their work done, that's great. I hope they'll teach me how they do it.
And yes. We are hiring.
Kurtis McBride is CEO and co-founder of Kitchener-based Miovision.