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  • Harvard Pilgrim Unveils Non-Traditional Vacation and Performance Programs

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    May 15, 2017
    Harvard Pilgrim Unveils Non-Traditional Vacation and Performance Programs Plans Focus on Attracting Area’s Best Employees
    Wellesley, MA – Harvard Pilgrim Health Care has launched two, new employee programs that break with tradition and aim to attract and retain the area’s best employees. The new “open time” vacation policy and the “coaching session” replacement for the traditional performance management program were implemented to provide employees with flexibility, appropriate time-off to refresh and enhanced communication with their managers without the hassle of repetitive and unnecessary paperwork.
    “Vacation is essential to staying focused and engaged at work,” said Cynthia Ring, Harvard Pilgrim’s Chief Human Resource Officer. “We want our employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance. It makes them happier and more productive in their roles. We believe this policy will also help us attract the best employees to Harvard Pilgrim by offering them flexibility and greater ability to balance the important things in their lives.

    The “open time” vacation policy for exempt employees breaks with the accrued vacation time process that is in place in most companies. Vacation and personal time are no longer accrued or centrally tracked. Instead, exempt employees communicate with their manager and respective teams to plan for, request and take time off as needed and as is appropriate for the needs of the team. There is no set number of days off that an employee cannot exceed or a set number of days that employees are required to take off. Instead, employees are encouraged to take the time off they need to re-energize. Open time off does not mean unlimited, unplanned or unapproved time off. But, it does move from a focus on time worked to a focus on outcomes and from artificial limits to more freedom and responsibility. At the onset of the new policy, Harvard Pilgrim paid out existing vacation balances in early 2017.

    The break from the traditional, annual performance evaluation procedure came after Harvard Pilgrim’s Human Resources Department set out to listen to its own employees on the subject and did some research on performance review programs nationally. What they found was that very few employees across the country like or find value in traditional, annual employee evaluation programs. Harvard Pilgrim employees agreed and said that what they want most is time with and feedback from their manager. Thus was born Harvard Pilgrim’s Coaching Sessions.

    Harvard Pilgrim no longer conducts annual appraisals with ratings like most companies. Instead, managers and employees are expected to have monthly coaching sessions with the goal of fostering real-time alignment and open communications. These regular conversations focus on outcomes, status of performance goals, feedback, barriers, solutions and career development. Annual goal setting remains. Employees must set goals at the beginning of the year to align with business planning and budget cycles, and achievements and opportunities relative to those goals are discussed and captured throughout the year. For some employees, word documents work best for tracking achievements, for others it is written notes, emails or spread sheets. The mechanism is up to the employee and the focus is on the conversation. If these conversations are happening regularly, the employee will always know where he or she stands.

    “We want to get away from rote and redundant processes that require time consuming and unnecessary paper work and instead encourage real communication between our employees,” said Ring. “Harvard Pilgrim already has a team of outstanding employees who drive thoughtful innovation for our members and employers. We want that team to be even more innovative, happier, more satisfied at work and feeling that they are part of an organization that is doing outstanding work and cares about them and the communities that we serve together.”
    Renee Forgues, Senior Marketing Specialist
    renee_forgues@harvardpilgrim.org, 656-9527