Have you heard about this one?
GoDaddy has a program called unlimited paid time off (PTO). In other words,
you can take off as much time as you want.
Wow! Show of hands. How many auditors can immediately think
of everything that could possibly go wrong with this program? Me, too. How do
you keep track of where people are? How do you hold them accountable? How do
you ensure you have the resources to get things done? How do you …? How do you …?
How do you …?
But, after saying “How do you” and “No way” a few times, I took
a step back and …
Hang on. Quick sidetrack. I’ve probably shared this before,
but it fits well here.
It is human nature that, when we hear a new idea, we immediately
come up with all the reasons it will not work. There is probably research out
there to support this contention, but I think we can all agree to its truth based
solely on the anecdotal evidence of our own eyes — the immediate rejection and
defenestration of any new idea when presented to even the most creative and
accepting of us. (I’m pointing to myself here.)
I learned the following approach to offset the immediate
renunciation of new ideas, one I tried to inflict on — I mean instill in — everyone
who worked for me.
Before you can say why a new idea will not work, you have to
give three reasons why it will work. This approach is very effective and
I’ve got examples (no time to tell them right now) of successful applications of
this approach that positively impacted how we got our work done in internal
audit. Of course, I also had a supervisor who, the first time I pulled this on
her, replied, “Okay, I’ll give you three reasons why it will work. But I’m going
to tell you right now, it’s not gonna work.” Oh well, you can only do what you
can do. So, with that in mind, back to the main story.
As I thought a little longer about the concept of unlimited PTO
— after I said no a few times — I began to see why it would work and how, for
all intents and purposes, I had been doing kind of the same thing throughout my
You see, this is really all about accountability. And how
much you actually trust the people who work for you.
What is our expectation of any internal auditor? Quick
answer: To get quality work done in the allotted amount of time. Does that
require the auditor to be in the office every day? No. Does that require the
auditor to be allotted only a certain number of days to take vacation? No. Does
that mean the auditor should be restricted from taking days off when they are
Again, there is only one thing required of an auditor, to
get good work done on time. Nothing about days off, nothing about PTO, nothing
about expected hours of operation — just get good work done on time.
Ultimately, unlimited PTO is about treating people with
respect and professionalism, confident that they will do the job for which they
have been hired.
Here’s what I told the people who worked for me. You know
what you have to get done. And you know when it needs to be completed. You are
going to have days where you may only work one or two hours. You may have days
where you work fourteen hours or more. It will all even out. All I ask is that
you get the work done, you do the work well, and that you always let me know
how to reach you if I need to find you. And one more promise, if you are on
vacation, I will do everything within my power to not contact you.
It didn’t always work out. You can’t always trust the right
people. But, in the end, the work got done and we had a pretty darn good
Now, when we more broadly apply this concept to everyone
within the organization, a litany of similar potential issues raise their ugly
heads. Will anyone show up for work between Christmas and New Years’? What
about the day after Thanksgiving? What if nobody is around on a Friday? What
about maternity/paternity leaves? What about the person who never took all
their PTO and now takes even less? What about …? What about …? What about …? (Sound
Ultimately, what guarantee do we have that the approach of
unlimited PTO will not inhibit the organization from achieving its objectives.
In other words, a whole new risk for internal audit (and for
the executives, board, et al) to consider. Does this mean that internal audit,
in every single audit, will now need to include a new risk, something to the
effect of “Work doesn’t get done because of abuse of the PTO policies”? Could
be. (And stop and think about it a minute. Is this a risk we should have included
all along?) The world is changing, as are the associated risks.
So, I don’t know about you, but this one kind of snuck up on
me. Unlimited PTO: What’s the world coming to? And I’ll bet its news to more
than 99% of you reading this.
Here’s the sad part. This isn’t really all
that new. Digging around a little I found this has been rattling around for a
while. The Society for Human Resources Management wrote about the
subject in December 2014, Fast Company had an article in November 2015, and The Wall Street Journal covered the subject (calling it
unlimited vacation) clear back in July 2011
An approach to employee benefits that shatters the concepts
and assumptions many of us have held dear, resulting in new and/or modified
risks to the achievement of the organization’s objectives. An approach that has
been around for at least eight years — and more than a lot of us are only now
hearing about it.
So, yeah, you should start looking at unlimited PTO and what
it might mean for your organization when it comes to attracting and retaining talent,
and, in general, achieving organizational objectives. But there’s a bigger
Internal auditors constantly hear and say that things are
changing. And we further hear and say that internal auditors need to keep up with
those changes to help advise their clients. But how many auditors and their clients
look beyond the obvious (OMG!! Cybersecurity!!!) to the things that are fundamentally
changing the way we work and how the organization will survive.
If we had been watching, we would have been ready for this
one. Unlimited PTO would have been yesterday’s news to us. And you can bet
there’s a lot of similar evolutions — ones that would be surprising to us but are
yesterday’s news to others — sitting out there in places that, for no good
reason, we have ignored, forgotten, or shied away from.
We better start looking, because the new risks are going to
come from completely unexpected sources. Yeah, some will be technology, but many
more will be the result of changing mindsets, mores, and expectations.
Here's the final lines of the classic sci-fi movie The Thing: “I
bring you a warning: Every one of you listening to my voice, tell the world,
tell this to everybody wherever they are. Watch the skies. Everywhere. Keep
looking. Keep watching the skies!”
Rather than focusing on emerging risks of which we are already
aware, we need to be closely watching the metaphorical sky.
And, while we’re at it, we better keep an eye on Human Resources.