Written by Guest Author | October 27, 2014
When you heard the news earlier this year – as you surely have – that Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson had told his personal staff that there was no longer any limit to the amount of holiday that they could take – you probably responded in one of two ways.
Either you thought that he had completely lost it, opening the door to anarchy and employees taking endless holiday time, or you thought the opposite would occur – that his staff would now be too scared to take any holiday time at all.
Certainly, Branson’s announcement has been interpreted in some quarters as a ruthless “take holidays if you dare” approach. In truth, though, the effect of the change will probably be more ambiguous. In many ways, it simply reflects the transition from the traditional ‘9 to 5’ corporate landscape, to which the old-style holiday entitlements are proving less and less suited.
The thing is, Branson is a savvy man and hasn’t got to where he is now without a real understanding of the psychology behind HR recruitment and retention. Sure, he knows that news like this will grab headlines for Virgin, as he is a dab hand at doing. But both he and his employees are also banking on a little thing called ‘trust’.
You see, research already tells us that neither a certain amount of money, nor holiday time are necessarily the best motivators for employees – instead, it’s all about what Dan Pink has memorably called “autonomy, mastery and purpose”. It’s more than likely that Branson pays his employees well, but it’s just as probable that he’s also put much effort into catering for the above core requirements.
Basically, it’s hard to imagine Branson making such a bold decision like this unless he really is confident that his staff feel genuinely valued and enjoy their work. He can therefore depend on them to make adult decisions about holiday time, while also reducing bureaucracy and truly taking this part of his company’s HR into the 21st century.
Here at Webrecruit, we doubt that Branson will have to contend with empty offices due to his employees abusing the right to infinite holiday time. However, we do wonder whether the opposite problem – that of employee burnout – may occur. After all, Virgin’s staff are powering a successful company – these high-flyers are more than used to the long hours. It’s the name of the game for them.
It’s a potentially very sensitive situation, possibly one that Virgin will need to monitor to ensure that its staff do take holidays. Otherwise, though, it looks to us like another HR recruitment and retention masterstroke from Branson. We can’t wait to see how it works out.
As for whether your company should do the same? Well, it depends on the level of ‘trust’ touched on above. For many organisations, such trust is lacking, but much hinges on your firm’s exact beliefs and values.