8 Ways to Make Your PTO Policy More Attractive to Candidates

In the wake of the Great Resignation, turnover remains high. Employees are still leaving jobs for greener pastures–and it’s not just about better pay

A recent study by Pew Research found that 43% of people who resigned in 2021 left due to poor benefits. In most cases, workers left in search of better healthcare, but many benefit-seeking workers left in search of quality paid time off

This statistic should come as no surprise: COVID-19 brought work-life balance to the forefront as employees were forced to rethink how work fits into their lives. 

Now, hybrid work is standard practice for many organizations across the country, providing employees with the flexibility they need to live healthy lives. Now, burnout is discussed regularly in the workplace, and employers are taking proactive steps to prevent it

Improved PTO is just another output of this balancing act. It’s another way that employees are solving their work-life equation. 

The Makings of a Quality PTO Program

Traditional paid time off policies give employees specific allotments for vacation time, sick days, personal days, plus holidays. Beyond that, a quality PTO policy should give employees flexibility to take time off as needed without worrying about losing money (it’s actually better for overall productivity). A great PTO program also encourages a culture of honesty and openness and helps employers plan for employee absences accordingly–creating a more efficient workplace. 

Most importantly, a quality paid time off policy helps employers attract and retain top talent. 

Boost Your PTO Policy

In the midst of a labor shortage (while the threat of turnover remains high), attracting and retaining top talent is a top priority for employers everywhere. Here are some ideas for how you can leverage PTO to stand out from the crowd and keep your best employees on the job:  

  1. Switch to unlimited. Years of research have shown that employees are more productive when they take more time off. Unlimited PTO encourages employees to take that critical respite–the rest that ultimately fuels your business. What’s more? Studies show that, on average, employees with an unlimited PTO policy take less time off than employees with a set amount of vacation days, meaning the work still gets done.
  2. Offer unlimited sick days. The pandemic, inevitably, increased awareness of health and wellness in the workplace. And, in many ways, it transformed the status of the paid sick day. In fact, there were state and federal laws passed that mandated paid sick leave for certain employers in certain industries. 

    Consider offering an unlimited sick day policy to improve recruiting efforts and retention. It’s been proven to reduce presenteeism (when people feel obligated to show up to work but aren’t productive and reduce the productivity of others). It also creates a culture of respect, understanding, and empathy in a world where employees are more likely to stay at an organization that values their health.

  3. Increase Vacation Time with Tenure. Many successful companies, such as Google and Apple, offer additional PTO based on seniority, with increases at 3, 5, and 10 years (for example). This PTO structure is particularly effective for retaining top talent.
  4. Offer Birthdays or “Floating Holidays”. A floating holiday is a paid day off that each employee can decide when to take. Give your PTO policy a boost by providing employees with a vacation day of their choosing or, better yet, make it their birthday!
  5. Create a Buy-Sell Program. Everyone’s different: some employees want more vacation benefits, while others prefer more cash options. That’s why more and more companies are offering employees the option to buy and sell vacation days in exchange for compensation. If designed correctly, PTO buy-sell programs can have some tax advantages for employers and, ultimately, help employers attract and engage the talent they need. It’s a customizable benefit that promotes work-life balance and provides the kind of flexibility that today’s workforce demands.
  6. Carryover PTO. Similarly, offering your employees PTO carryover demonstrates your interest in their well-being, providing them with the flexibility to access additional time off when needed for personal reasons or when unexpected circumstances arise. If you’re wary about offering unlimited carryover, there are other solutions. You can cap carryover, allow employees to donate unused PT, or offer a payout at the end of the year instead.
  7. Promote Company Holidays. If you don’t have room in the budget or roadmap to offer more vacation time, consider this little marketing trick: mention holiday shutdowns in your PTO policy (including job listings). Listing out the holidays that employees get off in addition to their standard PTO allotment will signal the robustness of your PTO policy to current and future employees.
  8. Volunteer Days. Sometimes referred to as “VTO” (Volunteer Time Off), volunteer days give your employees the flexibility to give back during the workday while still getting paid. Not only is this a great way to boost your PTO plan–at a time when employees are seeking deeper purpose and meaning in the workplace. But, it’s also a great way to encourage team members to spend time together and build camaraderie in a way that represents your organization positively. 

To learn more about how employers can leverage PTO to win the “war for talent” (where compensation is no longer the only–if not second or third–variable on candidates’ minds), tune in for the next episode of America Back to Work: Expert Interview Series. 

We’re sitting down with Rob Whalen, Co-founder + CEO of venture-backed ($8.4M) PTO Exchange, the first platform that allows employees to self-direct the value of their unused paid time off (PTO) for other needs and causes. 

Click here to learn more and listen to the episode.  

America Back to Work features weekly blogs and interviews with industry professionals, and together, we’re dreaming up a future where companies are thriving, employees enjoy their jobs, and America is back to work. Click here to subscribe. 

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