Workplace MVP: Whitney Hoffman-Bennett, CallRail
In this episode of Workplace MVP, host Jamie Gassmann and guest Whitney Hoffman-Bennett, VP of Talent and Culture at CallRail, looked at unlimited PTO as CallRail has implemented it and what their experience has been. How do you structure it and how do you manage misuse? Whitney discussed how CallRail came to establish unlimited PTO, the “guardrails” they implemented with it, how the employees responded and adjusted to it, the need for leaders to model it, variations on the idea such as a sabbatical program, planning for future growth, and much more.
CallRail is a lead intelligence platform that makes it easy for businesses of all sizes to turn more leads into better customers.
Serving more than 200,000 businesses and integrating with leading marketing and sales software, CallRail’s marketing analytics and business communications solutions deliver real-time insights that help customers market with confidence.
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett, PHR, SHRM-CP, Vice President of Talent & Culture, CallRail
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett is the VP of Talent & Culture at CallRail. With a decade of experience in human resources and a specialty in rapidly growing SaaS start-ups, Whitney expertly balances the needs of employees with the needs of the business.
She is passionate about fostering a culture where people are excited about the work they do and the team they’re working with. Prior to CallRail, she gained experience at Ingenious Med, Vocalocity, and LPL Financial.
Whitney earned a Bachelor of Arts in marketing at Kennesaw State University.
About Workplace MVP
Every day, around the world, organizations of all sizes face disruptive events and situations. Within those workplaces are everyday heroes in human resources, risk management, security, business continuity, and the C-suite. They don’t call themselves heroes though. On the contrary, they simply show up every day, laboring for the well-being of employees in their care, readying the workplace for and planning responses to disruption. This show, Workplace MVP, confers on these heroes the designation they deserve, Workplace MVP (Most Valuable Professionals), and gives them the forum to tell their story. As you hear their experiences, you will learn first-hand, real-life approaches to readying the workplace, responses to crisis situations, and overcoming challenges of disruption. Visit our show archive here.
Workplace MVP Host Jamie Gassmann
In addition to serving as the host to the Workplace MVP podcast, Jamie Gassmann is the Director of Marketing at R3 Continuum (R3c). Collectively, she has more than fourteen years of marketing experience. Across her tenure, she has experience working in and with various industries including banking, real estate, retail, crisis management, insurance, business continuity, and more. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mass Communications with special interest in Advertising and Public Relations and a Master of Business Administration from Paseka School of Business, Minnesota State University.
R3 Continuum is a global leader in workplace behavioral health and security solutions. R3c helps ensure the psychological and physical safety of organizations and their people in today’s ever-changing and often unpredictable world. Through their continuum of tailored solutions, including evaluations, crisis response, executive optimization, protective services, and more, they help organizations maintain and cultivate a workplace of wellbeing so that their people can thrive. Learn more about R3c at www.r3c.com.
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting from the Business RadioX studios, it’s time for Workplace MVP. Workplace MVP is brought to you by our R3 Continuum, a global leader in workplace behavioral health and security solutions. Now, here’s your host, Jamie Gassmann.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:00:26] Hi, everyone. Your host, Jamie Gassmann here. And welcome to this episode of Workplace MVP. The option of unlimited paid time off or PTO is a forward-thinking benefit that some industries and employers have begun adopting. According to Metlife’s 2019 US Employee Benefit Trends Study that interviewed 2675 full-time employees, 72% expressed interest in receiving unlimited paid time off. Some organizational leadership feel this approach is more of a marketing ploy for recruitment efforts; while others, including our guest today, see this as a way to ensure employees are taking their much needed mental wellness breaks.
When thinking of the option of incorporating an unlimited PTO program, I think it naturally presents concerns of overuse of time off and under use of time off. So, kind of a mixed variety. So, what are the benefits to incorporating this type of PTO benefit into your organization? And what are the watchouts and key learnings to be aware of? Well, joining us today to share her experience with us and navigating an unlimited PTO benefit, among other forward-thinking benefits, is Workplace MVP and Vice President of Talent and Culture of CallRail, Whitney Hoffman-Bennett. Welcome to the show, Whitney.
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:01:47] Thanks, Jamie. Happy to be here.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:01:49] So, let’s start off with you sharing with me and our audience your career journey to date and becoming the Vice President of Talent and Culture at CallRail.
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:02:00] So, it’s funny. I actually started my career in sales, which is important later. Quickly learned that sales could not do it. Like some people think HR is stressful. I feel like I can handle the people stress all day long, but the stress of restarting quota every month, not for me. So, I left where I was doing sales. It was actually a startup. So, I did learn a lot about startups there and moved to another country — not another country, another company where I actually was in an admin position, saw a need for HR. And the great thing about startups is they said, “Okay, let’s do that and I’m going to support you to do it.”
And I got my PHR and my other certifications, grew to be director there, and stayed there for about eight years. And then, someone at my sales job actually reached out to me and said, “Hey, I’m at this new company. They need HR. Are you interested?” So, full circle moment. And I joined CallRail in 2018 as the Director of Talent and Culture, their first director of talent and culture. And within a year, had been promoted to Vice President and I have been here for four years now.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:03:12] Wonderful. It’s interesting. A lot of the HR professionals that I speak with on this show, and in other conferences, and other locations that I get the opportunity to connect, they have similar stories of falling kind of into the work. So, it’s great. It’s interesting to hear that you kind of have a similar story and, you know, finding that passion, and being able to support the people within your organization. It’s very cool. So, tell me a little bit about what CallRail does, just to kind of give some background to our audience on what the organization serves.
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:03:47] Yeah. So, we are a marketing attribution software that makes it easy for businesses of all sizes to turn more leads into better customers. We serve more than 200,000 businesses, and we integrate with marketing and sales software. And our marketing, analytics and business communication solutions delivers those real-time insights that help our customers market with confidence.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:04:13] Great. And I know, in looking at the unlimited PTO program and us talking before, this was a program that was already in place when you started at CallRail. So, talk to me about some of the concerns that you identified early on with the program when you joined CallRail, you know, about what they were experiencing, that you were like, “Ooh, we need to correct that.” So, tell me a little bit more about that.
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:04:36] It’s funny because the place I was previous to CallRail, our CFO kept saying, “Maybe we should do unlimited PTO.” And I was like, “That doesn’t work. We can’t do that. People will take advantage.” And then, I got to CallRail, and I was like, “Whoa! Unlimited PTO. Let’s see what this is about,” because it was already in place. And what’s funny is our CEO actually posted an internal blog, and it was a tweet that said “Name a scam.” And the response was unlimited PTO. And so, he posted that to say, “Let’s be real. Let’s talk about this. What’s working? What’s not working?” And we gave employees the option to give us feedback, what were they seeing, what did they like, what did they not like? And then from that, he and I got together and kind of made changes from the policy based on the feedback from our employees.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:05:28] Yeah, because you had kind of a mix going on. If I recall from our conversation that some were taking it, some were not taking it, some are abusing it. I mean, you just kind of had kind of a mix all over the place. Is that pretty accurate?
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:05:42] It was definitely a mix. It was difficult for our customer-facing teams to figure out when could they actually go on PTO because they had to hit their numbers. If they were on sales, if they were in support, they had to be able to serve our customers. And then, people really didn’t know what does this mean? Like, how much can I take off? And what if I’m sick? Or What if I have a baby? Like, there was so many things that were muddying the waters that we really need to segment things in order for it to be successful.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:06:09] Yeah. So, when looking at that surveying and kind of pulling the company to hear from your employees, what were some of like — you kinda mentioned guardrails. What did they share with you that they — from that polling, what did you discover?
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:06:24] So, a lot of employees were saying that they worked really hard, and it’s not that they felt like they couldn’t take time off, but they just didn’t. They didn’t think about it. Or they’d make a couple of long weekends, but that’s all they take off. And so, we had said, “Would it be helpful if we required some sort of minimum?” And they were like, “Yes, that would be very helpful. If it was out there as a statement, it would feel like it was something we had to do,” so to speak. We wanted to make very sure to separate mental wellness from taking PTO. If you’re sick physically or mentally, don’t worry about your PTO. Within that, let’s focus on sick time, other time, keep that separate. So, that was something that was really important. And then, I think sharing the average that people were taking. So, you knew. Like just because this is an average doesn’t mean this is how much you have to take, but it gives you a good guide of this is what other people around you are doing, so you could try to be equitable in that.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:07:22] Yeah, because I would imagine there’s probably some employees that feel bad taking PTO. I know, sometimes, I’ve seen that in my management career where the employee’s like, “I’m really sorry, but I need to request some time off,” and it’s like, “Well, that’s your benefit. I want you to take time off, so never feel sorry about it.” So, I think that’s — I’m sure the truth — that’s probably the same within your organization, those employees going, “Oh, well, that’s good. The average is that. So, I won’t be going any more than what other people are doing.”
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:07:49] Yeah. And I think even like when I interviewed for my role at CallRail, I interviewed with the CFO, and I was like, “What’s your paternity/maternity policy? Like, what do you do for family leave?” And he actually he was like, “I don’t know, but we have unlimited PTO.” And in my head I was like, “That’s a nightmare. Like, you can’t — then, I’ll just never come back.” So, you have to clarify what that looks like. And that was another thing we said too. We’re like, “It’s not actually unlimited. If you are gone for six months, you’re probably not going to have a job anymore.” Like you can’t just leave for an indeterminate amount of time.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:08:25] Right. So, looking at, you know, the feedback from the employees, kind of some of the key learnings, you know, what kind of edits did you make to the program that you haven’t already shared that helped it to be improved? But then also, how did you communicate that to the employees? And then, ultimately, how did that enhance their utilization of PTO and kind of changes that they made?
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:08:48] So, we did say call out very plainly, sick time is not vacation. And this was in 2018-2019. So, we’re like, “If you’re sick, stay at home.” Well, everyone stays home. But if you’re sick, stay at home. If you’re really sick, stay at home and don’t work. Like there’s no prize for being hard core and taking the rest of us down with you. Do not do that. And we do call out in our employee handbook now, if you are sick, if you are grieving, if there are things going on, you can be gone for two consecutive weeks before we need to talk about other types of leave. And that’s just for like one instance, two weeks. You can also, if you need a long weekend because you have a cold, that’s separate from those two weeks. So calling that out.
We did call that everyone should take, at least, one continuous week of vacation a year. Do this. You can’t recharge in a long weekend. Take a full week off a year. Another thing we said that I think a lot of people don’t think about when they are developing unlimited PTO is that three-day weekends can be very low impact if you do your part. Don’t disappear and leave your team hanging, but a well-executed three day weekend should never take a project off schedule. Nobody should work 10 to 12-hour days consistently. But if you want a free three-day weekend or personal day, give it a shot for four days, go hard Monday through Thursday, and then go take your long weekend. And you can do that multiple times without it being super disruptive.
Another thing was don’t expect people to check the calendar. We, before I came, did not have HRIS. So, along with this, I implemented an HRIS, and we told people, “You got to start putting it in.” Like it’s approved, but you got to put it in. I don’t know. And honestly, with everything, what we say is just be cool, so we don’t have to make a ton of rules and policy this to death. Like everyone here is an adult. We hire you to be an adult, get your work done, take your vacations, live your life.
And then, I think the final thing is just one of our cultural statements is turn it off. And so, we made it very clear, if you’re on vacation, disconnect, stop checking slack, set an out of office and don’t check your email. If our world is truly on fire, someone will know how to get in touch with you. Beyond that, go have fun.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:11:19] Yeah, that is so important. I see a lot of people, you know, “Oh, I’m going to be on vacation,” and the next thing you know, you’ve got emails rolling in from them. You know, you’re on PTO, be on PTO. It’s kind of one of my rules. I always let my staff know I’m accessible if you need me, but I’m not going to be actively checking, so.
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:11:37] And I think that’s important as a leader to model that, so other people do it. My out-of-office typically says, “I am practicing our culture value of turn it off. I’m spending an uninterrupted time with my family. Reach out to these people. I will get back to you next week.”
Jamie Gassmann: [00:11:54] Yeah, I think that’s so important, especially now. I mean, I think, you know, you kind of mentioned COVID where, you know, people aren’t coming into work sick. That was something I actually mentioned to a coworker. I’m like, “Well, gone are the days of coming in hacking up a storm and thinking that you’re going to get through your week like that.”
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:12:12] Can you imagine?
Jamie Gassmann: [00:12:12] It’s not happening anymore.
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:12:14] We used to do that all the time. And it’s okay
Jamie Gassmann: [00:12:16] Oh my, gosh, yes. You’re at work with a fever. Just, you know, making it work. Yeah. Doesn’t happen anymore. Interesting. So, you know, in looking at this, I mean, I love that, you know, you’ve created kind of this environment where you’re allowing them to be adults, and be respectful with each other, and mindful of each other from a culture perspective, but how do you manage misuse of PTO or the challenge of balancing between the employees? Or do you not have concerns of that where they’re respecting kind of that boundary, if you will? Talk to me about that.
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:12:51] Yeah. I don’t have a ton of concerns about it. I know I said it before, and it sounded like I was joking, but we really do with most of our policies or things. It’s like, “Can you just be cool? Just be cool.” I will say we did call out, you know, plan early and often. If you’re going to be out for a week, please plan it a month or two in advance. If you’re going to be out for two weeks or more, your team and manager should know this several months in advance. So, it’s more like letting people know, so it wasn’t last minute, “Oh, I forgot. I’m going to be gone for two weeks.”
Be respectful. That’s another one of our value statements is respect everyone. So, in that vein, make sure people are prepared. I will say for our customer-facing teams, we did have to do a little bit more for them, so there would be enough people to manage the incoming calls from our customers. But beyond that, if managers come to me and say, “Hey, it feels like this person’s taking too much PTO,” I remind them of what the average is that we’ve said that people take. And if it is beyond that, remind them, say, “Hey, the average is this. You’re sitting a little bit more above this. Do you know what it’s looking like for the rest of the year and your vacation?” And just have a conversation with them about it.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:14:03] Just to make sure there isn’t too much misuse, that somebody isn’t pulling their weight on a project or within an area. So, looking at it from the sick time, I know you kind of mentioned, and I remember, you know, I’ve worked in corporate America long enough where there were the times of, you know, here’s how many sick days you have a year and here’s how many PTO days you have. You know, now, a lot of organizations have gone to combining that. Thinking of sick time, you know, how are you balancing that? Because I know you mentioned it’s not part of PTO. Do you track it or is it just something that leaders have to keep an eye on? You know, what are — how do you manage that different than the PTO part?
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:14:45] So, that’s an interesting one. I think most employees know the two weeks. And if they know it’s going to go beyond that, they reach out to us and say, “Hey, let’s talk about leave.” That’s why I think it’s also important to have other benefits like short-term disability, or long-term disability, or family leaves. So, if people have those bigger life things they need to take care of, they have other options once they’ve exhausted that two continuous weeks. And nine times out of ten, we can work with people, and we’re like, “Okay, like your two weeks is up. But realistically right now, what can you do? Is it part-time? Is it just one day a week? Is it maybe not on calls, but you’re able to get other work done?” And then, we’re able to figure out something.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:15:28] So, for the employees, just curiosity, in terms of this unlimited PTO, have they made commentary around like enjoying the fact that they don’t really have to track it, like, as tight and closely as some other organizations might have to if they had like, you know, you have a bank of hours and this is what you get to use? You know, what kind of feedback do you get on that or what does the overall kind of, you know, I don’t know if it’s structure, like, you know, structure, but how do they feel about it?
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:16:00] I think there’s two camps. It’s people that come from other tech companies and are like, “Well, of course, you have unlimited PTO.” Like, that’s table stakes for them because they come from other tech companies. And then, we have people who have never had unlimited PTO and are used to kind of having to negotiate PTO as part of their offer. And we’re like, “No, no, you don’t have to do that. Like, we’re good.” I think the fact that we have the guidelines help people a lot because it lays out expectations very clearly. Know when they can take it, when they can’t take it. And then I think for the customer-facing teams, we have given them the tools that they need for them to really take time off. And those are the teams that question it the most, like customer support and sales are like, “No, but really how much time off can I take?” And we have levers in place, so they can enjoy the same thing that everyone else can.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:16:52] Yeah, absolutely. Because, you know, having coverage for those customers is so important.
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:16:56] Yes.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:16:56] So, looking at mental wellness overall with employees, and obviously we all see taking time off and PTO as kind of a way for self-care, and you mentioned requiring that full week, which I think is such an interesting — I just love that idea because you’re right when you say a long weekend doesn’t really give you that time to check out fully. So, I love that culture statement that you’ve coined, you know, the turn-it-off time. So, how do you see this helping the overall health of your organization? You know, are you seeing a good impact on that? You know, what does retention levels look like? You know, what are kind of some of the measurements you’re seeing in terms of this being helpful overall?
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:17:39] I will say, as far as like the sick time and the mental wellness, we are a company that is very open and transparent about mental wellness, mental health, how important it is. It’s Mental Health Awareness Month now, May is, and we have four weeks of different things every week reminding people to take care of themselves. And we’re focusing on it holistically. Last week was financial week or financial health. This week is burnout and how to deal with stress. Like there’s different things every-
So, in addition to PTO, we’re giving people the tools that they need internally. And I think a combination of all that really helps with engagement and also retention, because all of that can be done in a hybrid environment. And so, even if you’re not in the office, you’re still getting the benefits of everything that someone in the office is getting with the different programming. And I think it’s a one time — one thing to have unlimited PTO, but then it’s another thing for leaders to model it. And for us as a company to talk about PTO and for us as a company to talk about mental wellness. So, I don’t necessarily know that it’s successful if you just throw it up and say, “Yeah, it’s unlimited. Do what you want.” Those are the places that are going to have to policy something to death.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:18:55] Yeah. So, it’s a component of kind of an overall structured approach.
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:19:01] Yeah.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:19:01] Which is great. And I love when you mentioned the leaders having to model it. I mean, that’s so true in so many different areas of business and kind of self-care, and as vulnerability and, you know, open communication that’s — I mean the leadership has to be such a great demonstrator of that, where employees then can model and follow that behavior. Very cool.
So, we’re going to take a moment and hear from our show sponsors. So, Workplace MVP is sponsored by R3 Continuum. R3 Continuum is a global leader in empowering leaders to effectively support and help their employees thrive during disruptive times through their tailored workplace behavioral health support, disruption response and recovery, and violence mitigation solutions. They can help you create a work environment where your employees can feel psychologically and physically safe. To learn more, visit r3c.com today.
So, shifting gears a little bit. Another area that you as a leader are passionate about and another forward-thinking benefit that you’ve put into motion is family leave benefits for all. Can you tell our listeners about your program, and how you’ve implemented that, and what that all entails.
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:20:15] For sure. So, this is something that, personally, to me, means so much. I have three young children, and people getting time to bond with children, regardless of how they come into your family, is so important. And I remember when I worked at my previous job, I was at a meeting with people internally, people externally, and they were like, Well, it’s fine for women to have time off, but men don’t need that.” Like it’s, “Men don’t need that.” And it was kind of hand-waving. They’re fine. And I was like, “I had a C-section. I couldn’t, like, function well. I couldn’t pick up my baby on my own. Like I needed my husband there and it was important for us.” And so, I am seeing that companies are starting to change. I think society is a little bit starting to realize that it’s just not all on women.
And something that’s really important to CallRail is being an inclusive environment and making sure that our benefits mirror that. So, we give you 12 weeks paid of family leave regardless of how a child comes in. So, if you adopt, if you foster, if you give birth. And this is for people that identify as men and women. So, everyone gets it. And then, we also let you have — you come back, you transition back. So, for those first four weeks, you’re paid full time, but you work part time. So, you only work three days a week. You have two days where you’re not working, so you can figure out what new normal looks like with this child in your life and you going back to work, and you can really ease in, so you don’t feel that pressure to immediately be a fully functioning human again.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:21:51] Yeah, that’s so amazing. I have two children myself, and I still remember home on leave with the second one, you know, and having both of them there, and my husband leaving to go to work, and being like, “Oh my, gosh. So overwhelming.”
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:22:05] It’s impossible. I felt that way leaving the hospital. Like, “Are you-”
Jamie Gassmann: [00:22:05] Yeah.
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:22:05] I came in here with no children, and you’re just giving me a baby, and saying, “Goodbye.” Like, what?
Jamie Gassmann: [00:22:14] Yeah. Actually, this is funny because I’m all about transparency. I actually asked the nurse if I had to now change the diapers in the hospital because I was so exhausted. And she looked at me like I was crazy going, “Yes, you do.” That was like, “Oh! Oh my God, I’m so tired.”
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:22:30] But how do I feed this-
Jamie Gassmann: [00:22:32] Yes.
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:22:32] And when do I sleep? And what do I do? No one tells you.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:22:35] No, no. There isn’t like a handbook, as my mom always tells me, so. But I love that the benefits for the husband or the dad as well, because I think that that allows them to be able to have that presence within that, you know, early time of the infant. And I think that’s a really important shift that you’re starting to see in some work environments.
So, looking at your program, I know you mentioned the easing back into work. You know, looking at back at it when coming back from work, I know I just came back full time, and just that transition, to your point, you’re so tired and still trying to navigate all of that, how does that help your employees as they transition back? What have you seen, you know, by having this type of kind of an easing back in? You know, kind of talk a little bit about some of the experience you’ve seen with that.
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:23:29] Yeah, there was probably a month or two ago, I ran into a colleague who had just come back, and she was on her transition month. And she teared up and was like, “It’s just, I’ve done this before and not have the transition. And it’s so impactful because I don’t necessarily have to send my baby to daycare. I can figure out something else for those three days.” So, she has another full month at home. “And I can feel like I’m doing something for myself,” because she is someone who really likes her job. So, she’s like, “I can feel like I’m doing something for myself, but then I can still go home and spend those two more full days.”
And I think even for me personally, because I have had one baby here at CallRail, and the transition back, it was so overwhelming to come back in and try to catch up. You’re so much more tired than you realize. So, just having those two additional days to not have to use your brain a ton, and be able to just focus on you and your baby and continue to bond is super meaningful. I think, of course we could give more time off and America, as a society, should give more time off, but I would almost rather have that transition because either way, you’re going right back into the fire.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:24:39] Yeah, absolutely. No, I can see that being just, you know, so beneficial, and just looking back in the past on when I transitioned back in years ago. So, looking at other benefits, I mean, you’re really a forward-thinking organization and adopting some of these benefits that other organizations have maybe looked at but haven’t actually moved forward on, there’s another one that you’re looking at implementing or kind of observing you shared that I think was really interesting. You kind of mentioned in our conversation, you know, exploring, you know, doing a sabbatical type program within your organization. What might that look like or, you know, what have you seen other organizations do that present some of the benefits to implementing that within your work environment?
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:25:25] Yeah, this is something that I would love to implement. I feel like I have to preface this if any of our employees are listening, nothing has been approved yet. This is just in my head, but I do see more and more companies doing a sabbatical program. And if you think about unlimited PTO, sure, it’s unlimited, but you can’t necessarily walk away from your job for six weeks in this unlimited PTO without a ton of planning. And then, also, I’m sure a lot of people would be like, “Well, you have, you know, 12 weeks off when you get a baby. Isn’t that a vacation?” No, no, it is not. No, it is not. But when is any other time that you can take a substantial amount of time off? It doesn’t exist.
And so, I think giving people six weeks off, giving them some kind of stipend to do something during that time, and then being able to really just turn it off. I would also love to marry this, and now I’m getting really big here, but if we could do some kind of program where before the person leaves on sabbatical, there’s someone else shadowing them, and then they take over pieces of their job while they’re gone, and then they can learn a new skill. They can see if they like it or don’t like it. So, marrying it with career growth, and then the other person gets to go away, and their stuff is handled, like that is my ideal state.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:26:49] Yeah.
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:26:50] Nothing has been approved. Can I say that?
Jamie Gassmann: [00:26:51] No, it’s kind of just – it’s forward thinking and just kind of looking at possibilities. I mean, there’s other –like educational industry is known for the sabbatical programs, right? And allowing, you know, a teacher to go and learn or study abroad a different trade or different, you know, something around the education that they’re looking, they’re inspired by, you know. And it allows somebody to kind of grow as an individual. And I imagine it could benefit the organization depending on what it is that they do.
And I love that mirroring it with career growth opportunity, where somebody can step into the shoes of somebody else for a moment to kind of, you know, expand their horizons. It’s very interesting. And again, forward thinking, but very kind of visionary, right?
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:27:39] Yes.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:27:39] I just think it was fun to talk about because it just shows that, you know, you’ve got the unlimited PTO, you’ve implemented this great family leave benefit for all, regardless of how the child came into their life. So, it just shows that you’re constantly thinking of ways that you can kind of expand that horizon of benefits for employees, which I think is wonderful. So, looking at like a leader, so let’s just say that there’s a leader looking to incorporate an unlimited PTO program into their organization, what advice would you give to them for where they should start, how do they do that? You know, what are some of your thoughts around where would you guide them to doing that?
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:28:19] It’s funny because I shared at the top, I was at a company before that wanted to do unlimited PTO and I said no. And the reason I said no was because of the culture. I didn’t think it would work. And not that the culture was bad. It just wasn’t a culture that I think could sustain unlimited PTO. I don’t think there was that foundation of trust with a lot of employees. So, that’s the most paramount is what does the culture look like, and do you think your culture can handle this? You can still have a very generous PTO policy without making it unlimited, and everyone can be happy. So, culture, I think, is the most important thing.
And then, thinkin of — thinking future state. Okay, maybe we’re 50 employees now. When we’re 200 employees, what are some of the roadblocks that might come up? And what are the guardrails we need to put in place now? Because it’s much easier to build it as you intend to be instead of piecemealing it until you get there.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:29:17] Yeah, very good. I mean, it brought me to a question of like, you know, is it a right fit for everyone? And you kind of answered that by saying you really have to look at the culture of the organization, and is it going to be a right fit? That’s kind of your first step. And then, looking at, like, implementing the family leave program that you’ve put in place, how would you advise somebody looking to explore that? What should they do first?
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:29:43] Yeah, and this is honestly something I could talk about all day long because I think we should have much more leave than we do. For employers that are concerned, like, “Oh my God, I can’t lose them for 12 weeks. What am I going to do?”, they are going to be more loyal to you and want to stay at your organization if you take care of them during that time in their life. So, I think that’s the first, like, mental thing to get over because people are like, “Oh my God, they can’t leave.” Well, what if they leave forever because you don’t take care of them? So, I think that’s important.
And then, also, making sure it is equitable. Not everybody’s going to take it. And that’s just a function of where we are, but it should be available for everyone. And I think that is really important because a lot of companies talk about equity and diversity, but when you look through their policies, they’re not equitable to the full organization. And so, making sure that again, if it’s within your culture, it fits with what you’re saying. And also, like, really leave people alone when they’re on leave. Don’t bother them.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:30:51] Yeah, don’t call them to ask them a question about a project that they’re going to be doing when they come back?
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:30:56] No.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:30:57] No, no. That’s really interesting because you bring up a good point. You know, I’ve heard that in a couple of my other episodes, you know, and one that we did a talking about second chance hiring. And you know, sometimes, you know, putting some of these initiatives in place. Yeah, there might be that concern of, “Well, gosh, if they use the whole time, then what?” But to your point of that, loyalty is so important. I mean, you know, not every employer offers this type of support. So, you, as an employer, being kind of forward thinking, and offering it, and giving them that flexibility, they’re not going to forget that. And you’re right, they’ll come back a lot more appreciative, especially during that trying time. Sure.
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:31:36] Yeah. And I think it’s important when you look at hiring as well, in general, I don’t think we should be so judgmental of resume gaps. But if you get parents and there’s a resume gap, maybe we don’t be so judgmental about because let’s think about what the policies were or what their options were when they had that baby. So, I think it’s, like, just a big picture thing that people need to be more cognizant of.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:31:58] Yeah, I mean, you might see those resume gaps as people come back into the workplace after the COVID resignations we’ve seen where they had no choice but to stay home-
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:32:09] They had no choice
Jamie Gassmann: [00:32:09] … to take care of the kiddos and help them with their schooling. So, yeah, that’s an interesting point because I’m sure we’ll start to see some of that transition in a few years where there really is a gap on their resume, but it comes back down to that. So interesting. Any other advice you would want to leave our listeners with as it relates to these programs or things that they should be looking forward to, you know, for better up-and-coming kind of new approaches that, you know, why they should explore them if they haven’t already?
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:32:45] I think if you’re hesitant about any of these policies, it’s more like look internally and determine the why, and then maybe solve for that before you put the policies in place. But it is — I mean, it’s 2022. We’re coming out of, hopefully, a pandemic. The way we work is changing, and companies have to meet employees where they are, or they won’t be able to retain people. So, I think that’s just really important. You hired adults; treat them like. adults.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:33:15] Yeah. No, great advice. So great conversation. So, if our listeners wanted to get a hold of you to get more information, or ask questions, or kind of learn from you a little bit more around how you’ve been able to manage these programs, how can they do that?
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:33:33] I am on LinkedIn at Whitney Bennett PHR. And so, people can reach out there. Yeah. And I’m happy to talk about any of these things. Obviously, I have a lot of opinions about them.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:33:44] Lots of passion, which is great. No, that’s — it’s you know — and they’re new for some organizations. So, I think, you know, it’s learning and kind of exploring them. So, I love that you shared that with us. So, thank you so much for being on our show, and for letting us celebrate you, and sharing, you know, your great advice and kind of key learnings with our listeners.
Whitney Hoffman-Bennett: [00:34:04] Thank you so much. It was fun.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:34:06] Yeah. So, we also want to thank our show sponsor, R3 Continuum, for supporting the Workplace MVP podcast. And to our listeners, thank you for tuning in. If you’ve not already done so, make sure to subscribe, so you get our most recent episodes and other resources. You can also follow our show on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter at Workplace MVP. If you are a Workplace MVP or you know someone who is, we want to know. Email us at email@example.com. Thank you so much for joining us and have a great rest of your day.