Yeah, I said it.
In my darkest moments, I’m a bit of a skeptic. And I think unlimited PTO might just be a scam to not pay out accrued vacation and sick time.
With me? Against me? As with most things, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. Here’s 5 things I know about vacation/sick time and the connection to the concept of unlimited PTO:
- Unlimited PTO is limitless in its attraction as a component to “Best Place To Work.” It’s hard to hear the concept exists at a company and not view said company in the top quartile of places to work. Whatever the reality is, WHO CARES PEOPLE–THEY HAVE UNLIMITED PTO. That’s how it comes across–in all caps, being shouted from the mountaintop.
- I’ve worked for incredible CFOs in my career, and they all would evaluate Unlimited PTO with a form of glee reserved for Mr. Burns from The Simpsons. The exchange is simple–you tell them you want to do unlimited PTO, and after they blast the dead weight in the company they think is going to abuse it, they get that thoughtful look in their eyes as they say, “wait, that means we’ll never pay out banked time again, right? Hmmm…”
- The greatest lie the devil ever told the world was that Unlimited PTO is easy to use. Here’s another benefit that’s hard to use–Tuition Aid. Like unlimited PTO, it looks great on the brochure on your road to “best places to work”, but tuition aid is hard to use because going back to get a degree is hard. Most people are too lazy to do that, and those that aren’t have families, lives and addictions to Netflix that get in the way. Unlimited PTO is hard to use because people are paranoid as hell that they’re going to get fired if they don’t work at least 45 hours per week. So like Tuition Aid, you can put it on the brochure–content that most of your FTEs will never be able to take full advantage of it. Which, BTW, makes the CFO pleased once you explain the behavioral reality to him.
- Your managers have no capability to deal with the limited people who take full advantage of Unlimited PTO. Let’s face it, only 10% of your employees are going to abuse unlimited PTO. Even your best managers are going to struggle with these people–BECAUSE YOU TOLD THEM TO TAKE AS MUCH AS THEY WANTED. Yes, you indicated in the fine print that high performance was expected. When’s the last time you read the agreement when your smartphone software updated? Nobody reads that ####. Especially low performers.
- There’s a big block of companies out there that can’t do anything with Unlimited PTO because items like banked sick time are indirectly linked to the value of benefits like Short Term Disability. You know this drill right? We don’t provide as much value as we’d like with STD or LTD, but we let you bank up the sick time to let you account for that. If you’re a small business, that’s just a fact of life. If you’re a big company and you’ve still got shady STD/LTD benefit levels, you’ve probably got some things to fix before you can cash in on the Unlimited PTO bonanza.
If you’re a fan of Unlimited PTO, shine on you crazy diamond. Just know we see you–and the game behind the game–as you ramp up the PR machine to tell the world.
No question that you’re cool. It’s just that there are subplots to the story.
Kris Dunn is a Partner and CHRO at Kinetix, a national RPO firm for growth companies headquartered in Atlanta. He’s also the founder Fistful of Talent (founded in 2008) and The HR Capitalist (2007) – and has written over 70 feature columns at Workforce Management magazine. Prior to his investment at Kinetix, Kris served in HR leadership roles at DAXKO, Charter and Cingular. In his spare time, KD hits the road as a speaker and gives the world what it needs – pop culture references linked to Human Capital street smarts.