Ask the Experts | What Vacation Benefits to Offer

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Question: What vacation benefits should we offer to long-term employees?

Gary Elekes; Founder, EPC Training:

That’s a tough one, because each company has a financial constraint and how the company wants to set up its benefits program has a lot to do with the ability of the company to setup its benefits program.

If you had unlimited resources, obviously, you’d pay 100% of the benefits and you’d setup a benefit program and vacation policy that allowed you to maximize recruiting. But if you’re in a position, like most of us are, where the cost of benefits is pretty much escalating year after year, you have to make some decisions about what you can afford as a business. That goes back to your costing, pricing, your ability to recover cash flow and so forth.

Most companies today are competing with larger companies that are recruiting into our world, meaning that we have to find people and bring them into our trade. So typically that means you have to offer a benefits package that’s at least as competitive, if not more competitive to bring somebody in.

So traditional vacation is starting off at two weeks, once you pass a probationary period of some form; you probably don’t even want to say that in the California world, it’s more of an “employee trial” period now. So you start off with that and then you would escalate that — over the first five years you might consider the idea of adding a day per year, so that by the time they’re at five years they’re at three weeks [vacation].

That would be a competitive platform, based on employment research. In fact I just went through that in one of my companies, where we were evaluating our competitors, we were evaluating all non-industry sectors, and that’s essentially where the average is today. When I started working way back when, it was not that generous.

So that’s the first question. The second question then is how do you package the benefits with that? So 401K, profit-sharing plan, paid time off, those types of benefit need to be a part of that. And then you also have that discussion of, what other benefits do you want to give? Career development, training, cellphones, employee cars. I think one of the things we want to do is be sure to make our employees understand the true nature of the benefits you’re delivering. So a lot of companies won’t necessarily look at all those extra benefits that we provide that’s part of being an AA technician, installer, someone that’s in sales in your company. So I would take the time to put that down on an Excel spreadsheet and really look at what you’re doing to provide all the benefits that includes things like career development training, conferences, stuff like that as well.

It’s a tricky question, I don’t think there’s one right answer, there’s no KPI on this, but it does relate back to the idea that we have to recruit and we have to have a world class type company in our marketplace, or else we’re not going to be able to get the talent we need in order to grow the business. And I think that’s the number one challenge that we face right now is that issue, and benefits are one area where that applies.

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