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Bullhorn’s New Unlimited Holiday Policy

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I sat down with Kim Castelda, SVP of Human Resources and Talent at Bullhorn, to find out about Bullhorn’s new unlimited holiday policy for 2016 and beyond. Read on to find out Kim’s thoughts on Bullhorn’s step forward into a new frontier of holiday policy.

What is the philosophy behind Bullhorn’s shift to unlimited holiday?

We want to be a leader in the technology space by offering benefits that our employees really want. We hire smart people who are capable of exercising good judgement. Our employees know when they need to take some time off to recharge. We want them to take time when they need it and as much as they need – within reason!

How is the unlimited policy an improvement over Bullhorn’s previous policy?

Our previous program was a “use it or lose it” policy. Most of our employees took time off in the second half of the year, once they had earned most of their annually accrued time. This practice created a widespread issue across departments, as many of our people had balances that they wanted to use at the end of the year. When December hit, we had two negative scenarios. Many employees went on holiday the last few weeks of the year, which was a strain on our business. We also had employees who felt they were missing out since they weren’t able to use all their holiday effectively by the end of the year. This change is a win-win that alleviates both situations.

What if some employees abuse the policy?

We may have someone that misunderstands the intention of the policy, but I am confident that our leaders will work with our employees to help them plan their work and their time off.

How did the conversation about unlimited holiday come about?

It actually came from our CEO [Art Papas] and our CFO [Paul Deeley]. [Papas] was interested in implementing it from the point of view that it was a best practice and industry trend in the technology space. And the company that [Deeley] came from before he joined Bullhorn had an unlimited program that worked very successfully. So we decided to give it a try.

I know we talked about the concern that employees could potentially take advantage of unlimited holiday – is there any concern in the opposite direction? That the policy could lead to a decrease in holiday time used?

Our intention in creating an unlimited program is not to see people take less holiday. We’ve put some best practices in place reminding our leaders to talk with their employees about their holiday plans on a quarterly basis. Our leaders already talk with their employees regularly, and we’re now adding holiday plans to the conversation each quarter to make sure that our employees are taking time off.

What was the reaction to the initial announcement, and what has the reaction been over the ensuing 3 months?

The company’s reaction to the initial announcement was incredibly enthusiastic – a huge round of applause from the entire company. After that, I started getting concerns from our leaders around how they were going to manage it, how they were going to say no to holiday requests, what it was going to mean, etc. So I asked them, “What are you worried about?” And I addressed those concerns in a Frequently Asked Questions document that became part of our policy communication. We also now make a point of covering these concerns in our leadership orientation. If somebody isn’t doing what he or she should be doing (for example, taking an excessive amount of holiday time), my expectation is that a manager is going to sit down with that employee and have a conversation to rectify the situation. Too often, HR policies are written for the 10% that are going to abuse the policy. We wrote our policy for the other 90% of employees, and we will manage those who need more help understanding the intention of the policy on an individual basis.