What does a company do when its employees are leaving too many paid vacation days on the table? Or when it wants to keep millennial employees around? Or how about just boosting spirits and productivity?
And how did a small accounting firm in Paramus come up with an answer to all three?
Well, it probably shouldn’t be a surprise to see workplace innovation from Kreinces Rollins & Shanker LLC, a full-service accounting firm that has ranked highly in NJBIZ’s Best Places to Work survey multiple years in a row.
But its most recent step toward creating a firm that accountants want to both come to and stay at is quite a break from the norm — an “unlimited time off” policy that allows employees to choose for themselves how many vacation days they need.
One of the firm’s founding partners, Maria Rollins, said the policy is being unveiled and implemented at the beginning of this month. She had first encountered the idea while at an accounting conference with Gerald Shanker, another of the firm’s executives.
“It was something we hadn’t heard before, but we liked it from the minute we learned about it and we thought employees would react to it positively,” Rollins said.
The appeal of it was, in part, that it could potentially correct a situation that had developed at the firm: Employees just weren’t using enough of their allocated paid time off.
They’re not alone. Around 50 percent of all American workers said they wouldn’t use all their vacation time in 2016, according to a survey from Princeton Survey Research Associates.
Contrary to oft-heard smears on their work ethic, younger millennials (those between the ages of 18 and 25) said at even a slightly higher margin that they wouldn’t use all of their time off. A quarter of them didn’t expect to use vacation days at all in 2016.
In short, it’s a problem.
“You have people who just don’t take it, because they feel like they can’t, or others who use it all at once when they feel like they’re going to lose it,” Rollins said. “We actually want to start making sure that everyone gets at least more than a week during our (slow periods). And a day here or there isn’t enough; we want people to take vacations. ”
But why make a few frozen cocktails on the beach a veritable company directive?
“(Accounting) can be a lot of work, and our employees need it to recharge and recuperate to come back fresh to it,” she said. “I actually think it will make them more productive.”
It’s a logic that’s persuasive to the firm’s millennials, Rollins said. Other generations of employees at the firm could better be described as cautiously optimistic — with an emphasis on cautious.
“The ones have been in profession a long time have a bit of trouble getting their heads around it and wonder, ‘Are we going to get our work done if everyone’s taking time off when they want?’” Rollins said. “Our feeling is that our employees work really hard and their own goals are aligned with the firm’s goals — they understand what needs to get done to service our clients. We can trust them to get their work done.”
It’s one of a number of policies encouraging a work-life balance that the firm has introduced. In December, a committee comprised of employees was formed to institute a policy that limited working on Saturdays during the tax season.
The committee uses information about the amount of work on everyone’s desk relative to whether the firm is ahead of or behind where it was the year before. Anticipating the remaining slate of work in this way helps the group set parameters that limit weekend shifts.
On top of that, the firm has been utilizing a work schedule that emphasizes flexibility, wherein employees can structure their schedule to work from home certain days or modify their working hours.
Rollins said it’s a hit for working parents along with millennials, a demographic that is quickly falling into that former category as well.
Just as millennials are overtaking a majority of the overall workforce, the group now makes up about half of Kreinces Rollins & Shanker’s employee base. So there’s no surprise it’s keen on tuning into the generation and crafting policies with the aim of appealing to them.
The firm hopes to set an example in this regard.
“It seems like some firms are having a hard time figuring out how to motivate a millennial group,” Rollins said. “For us, it’s about getting them involved in shaping the way the firm grows, so they’ll be part of making any new policy happen. That’s crucial.”
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