How Much Vacation Should Companies Offer When Hiring for Supply Chain Jobs?

June 8, 2021

Exploring paid vacation in Supply Chain: How much should companies offer? How much should candidates expect? Here’s our advice for how to be more strategic about using vacation incentives in hiring. 

With summer just around the corner, thoughts tend to turn to vacations. That might be extra true this year, after many supply chain professionals have spent the past 15 months navigating a whole host of disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the possibility of restrictions (hopefully) beginning to ease in Canada, and the possibilities of travel glimmering on the horizon, you’d forgive anyone for having vacation on the mind.

Today on the Argentus blog, we think it’s the perfect time to talk about paid vacation from the perspective of hiring. It’s a topic we haven’t covered on the blog before, and one that’s very relevant to candidates searching for supply chain jobs in this market, and companies looking to hire.

It’s also something that came up recently in our own recruitment practice. It’s an example that we think might be pretty instructive for companies looking to hire the best talent.

So here’s the story.

In May, an Automotive service provider tapped us to find a Supply Chain Manager for their Lower Mainland, B.C. operation. (And by the way, if you’re in B.C. And you haven’t connected with Rob Thomson, who’s building our office out there, you should. He’s fantastic). This individual would be tasked with purchasing raw materials and finished goods, as well as managing and strengthening the company’s inventory position, and assisting with new product introductions from a Supply Chain standpoint. In other words, a classic, bread-and-butter Supply Chain Manager.

After several interviews, the client decided to move forward with a great candidate. Manufacturing background, 8 years experience as a Supply Chain Manager. But when it came to the offer stage, the recruit hit a snag – this candidate was seeking four weeks of vacation time, but the company was offering three.

This is the kind of stick-handling situation that comes up all the time. The candidate had expressed wanting four weeks before being submitted, so it didn’t come as a surprise. But when it came time to negotiate the job offer, the client just couldn’t get there at first.

After some discussions with the client, recruiter and candidate, as well as some statistics, the client moved forward with four weeks. No harm, no foul. But they did risk losing out on a good candidate – as well as the weeks they had sank into the recruitment process.

Which brings us to our broader discussion: how much vacation should clients be offering candidates? How much is reasonable, and how much is unreasonable?

It’s part of a larger conversation around work / life balance. First of all, our feeling is that companies need to be responsive to the needs of individuals looking for jobs. Especially in a candidate’s market, like the one we’re in now.

To attract the right individuals, companies need to meet candidates where they are – offering benefits from day one, accommodating remote work, and playing ball with vacation time. They need to avoid seeing these issues as a lack of commitment on the candidate’s part, and see them for what they are: to perform at their best, the best candidates need to be sure they’re taken care of in a holistic fashion, not just in terms of salary. In fact, in this market, they’re demanding it. So if you want the best, you need to offer more – not just in salary, but in benefits and vacation.

Vacation can be an internal equity issue, similar to pay equity: if most of your employees have three weeks vacation, and you bring on an individual with four or five at a similar level, that can cause internal strife. But if you’re insisting on three weeks just because it’s the “standard,” you’re closing yourself off to some of the best candidates.

Historically, the U.S. has been known for offering three weeks as the standard vacation, and Canada three, rising with seniority. But this standard is changing, and some of the statistics might surprise you.

For example: according to the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM)’s 2020 Salary Report, 44% of supply chain professionals received more than 3 weeks vacation. 34% received 3 weeks vacation, andonly 22% received less than 3 weeks vacation. In other words, it’s most common for supply chain workers to get over 3 weeks. The kicker is that this survey was conducted in the U.S., which is notorious for having fewer vacation days than other countries. If over 3 weeks is becoming the norm in the U.S., you better believe it’s the case in Canada.

The more senior the employee, the more vacation you should expect to offer. From our perspective as recruiters who work on supply chain roles every day, here’s our basic bench mark for vacation (in Canada):

  • If the candidate has 0-5 years of experience, 3 weeks.
  • If the candidate has 5-10 years of experience, offer 3 weeks, but be open to 4 weeks.
  • If the candidate has 10+ years of experience, offer 4 weeks, but be open to 5 weeks.

Of course, the amount of vacation you offer – or accept – has to make sense. There are other factors at play, and – as always with recruiting – every situation is different.

  • Say you’re looking at two great, highly motivated candidates. They have similar backgrounds, the same salary expectations. One is asking for three weeks, and the other’s asking for four. In that case, use the vacation to help make your decision.
  • Say a candidate with two years of experience is asking for five weeks of vacation, and everyone in your organization at that level has three. In that case, it might make sense to pass on that candidate.

Hiring isn’t about accommodating every candidate request. But hiring strategically is all about recognizing that when you have the right candidate, you do what it takes to cross the finish line.


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