Saturday, September 1, 2007

IBM - They Don't Track Your Vacation Balance?!

It’s every worker’s dream: take as much vacation time as you want, on short notice, and don’t worry about your boss calling you on it. Cut out early, make it a long weekend, string two weeks together — as you like. No need to call in sick on a Friday so you can disappear for a fishing trip. Just go; nobody’s keeping track.

Anybody out there want to take a guess which company has adopted the above guidelines and policy regarding vacation time?

I was browsing through The New York Times last night and I ran across the quote above in an article titled, "At I.B.M., a Vacation Anytime, or Maybe None"

Honestly, my first gut reaction from an HR policy perspective, would be to run from this type of practice - especially at a company like IBM that has 355,000 workers - yes, 355,000 workers - no typo. In companies where I have worked in the past, keepinig track of employee vacation balances by management and HR was something that was tracked with pride - especially from an approval and progressive discipline perspective. Because, after all, the business has got to run and without employees at work we can't serve and support our valuable clients...right?

So, how does this work so well at a company like IBM?

After reading the article I see how they do it... First, unlike most companies, they don't mandate how many hours you work in a day or work week. And second, they don't mandate which days of the week you decide to work. Third, they don't mandate where you get the work done - at home, Starbucks, or in one of the "e-mobility centers" around the world. Check this out...Aided by broadband connections, cellphones and video conferencing software, 40 percent of I.B.M.’s employees have no dedicated offices, working instead at home, at a client’s site, or at one of the company’s hundreds of “e-mobility centers” around the world, where workers drop in to use phones, Internet connections and other resources.

As you can see, it's all about getting your work and/or project done and completed on time. Sounds simple doesn't it... Because, aren't we all "professionals" with the ability to just get our work done?

Here's how they say it works - Instead, for the past few years, employees at all levels have made informal arrangements with their direct supervisors, guided mainly by their ability to get their work done on time. Many people post their vacation plans on electronic calendars that colleagues can view online, and they leave word about how they can be reached in a pinch.

If it works so well, why aren't companies all around the world doing this? There are actually three other companies that are doing this and most of us have heard of at least two of them. They are BestBuy, Netflix, and Motley Fool.

So, what do employees at IBM have to say about this practice?

Luis H. Rodriguez, the director of market management in I.B.M.’s software group, said he visits his office here in Somers about once a week, working the rest of the time on the road or at his home in Ridgefield, Conn., where he sat one recent afternoon at the kitchen table with his laptop open.

He said that in six years at I.B.M. he can recall only one time when he asked a co-worker not to take a long weekend off — when their group was about to buy another company — and that calling colleagues or checking e-mail while visiting relatives in Texas or Illinois is a fair trade for being able to work from home so he can spend more time with his children, Alec, 5, and Evia, 2.

“I get an incredible amount of flexibility from the company, but it cuts both ways,” he said. “Because people’s schedules and needs are so structured, you need flexibility at work.”

Frances Schneider, who retired from an I.B.M. sales division last year, after 34 years, said one thing never changed; there was not one year in which she took all her allotted time off. “It wasn’t seven days a week, but people ended up putting in longer hours because of all the flexibility, without really thinking about it,” Ms. Schneider said.

“Although you had this wonderful freedom to take days when you want, you really couldn’t. I.B.M. tends to be a group of workaholics.”

Now what?

For all of you HR Pros out there - especially those with decision making authority around policies, procedures, benefits, and yes...vacation and personal time accrual, what do you do with this new information?

Is your company ready for this type of drastic shift? Would your culture, business, and executives even support it?

You decide...


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Anonymous said...

Perhaps my priorities are wrong. I take all my alloted IBM vacation every year. I wouldn't dream of giving any of it up to finish or complete a project. Don't let this IBM vacation hype fool you. Americans are loosing out on what they once had. In the 1960's my grandfather received 2 months vacation every year. Most years he took what seemed to be the entire summer off to relax and go fishing. When I started out in IBM in the 1970's the new hires were given one week of vacation. The gray hairs with 20 - 25 years got 5 weeks. Today the new hires get 2 weeks off, but if they ever survive to be a gray hair at IBM (not much of a chance) the max vacation time is 4 weeks. IBM has a way of spinning their hype in a way that makes their USA employees feel good and totally misunderstand what is being taken away from them, like when they replaced fully paid retirement health insurance with the FHA or Future Health Account which allows a retiree to purchase insurance at inflated rates thru the IBM plans until the money in your "account" is used up, and most report at IBMs insurance rates it will dry up in 3 to 5 years. Watch the twist.