Leave request and approval process? Deleted…

Matthias Kramer

We just abolished the leave request and approval process – because bureaucracy is not our thing…

Many companies try to optimize the efficiency in the process for employees to request for annual leave. Typically, all employees are eligible to a certain amount of leave days, plan those over the year, coordinate with colleagues and place their request to a supervisor – sometimes paper-based, sometimes online, sometimes in SAP. The supervisor needs to check on the request and decide whether to approve or decline. As a result, the employee and the HR department are being informed, the absence is being recorded on the system and so forth…

Sounds complicated? In fact, it is even worse, because here I’ve been outlining an ideal process. In real life, teams or departments run their own additional calenders or Excel spreadsheets. Digitalization of the process cuts the “cycle time” from approx. > 30 min to less than 15 mins. However, let’s admit it, this process continues to be beaurocratic and annoying.

Change of perspective on annual leave

The problem is not the optimization of the process but the process as such. Let’s take one step back: The true requirement is to coordinate needed manpower with available manpower to allow my business to be running despite disired (and well deserved) vacation. That’s to be checked by the supervisor. But let’s be honest – supervisors rely on their employees to have coordinated themselves already. This is even more true for employees working in multiple, cross-departual and cross-firm teams and projects, where the actual coordination capacity of the supervisor is limited.

In addition, supervisors can hardly judge the importance of a specific request for the employee. Thus, they refrain from declining requests due to expected disappointments. Rather, they delegate the decision back to the team: all those with planned absences shall arrange themselves about presence or absence, only someone needs to be there. Then, the process starts all over again.

Now, we have stopped the process. Once and for all. We use absence.io, a startup, which was founded here.

Empowerment leads to responsibility

Everyone administrates his or her own absences, including homeoffice and business trips, on the platform absence.io. All other absences for the same period are shown automatically, which eases the coordination within the team and with colleagues and renders internal calenders unnecessary and facilitates otherwise long and exhaustive discussions with colleagues. It becomes the responsibility of each employee to judge and check within the project team the workload and whether a planned absence is possible. Does this end in chaos and do we lose coordination? Nope, coordination is still there but different – direct and peer to peer, not centrally through a supervisor. Submitting an absence allows to name a subsitute and there is simply no approval process anymore, because every employee is his or her own approval authority. In addition to planning, coordination is facilitated due to a dashboard informing about planned and upcoming absences with regular updates from a slackBOT.

I personally feel that this living without this process works due to the relationships and cohesion, trust and flexibilty among colleagues. The relationships between colleagues prevent from abuses and all employees honor the trust layed within them. Additionally, employees are able to stand in for each other since capabilites are distributed over different colleagues. And yes – due to our average age and life environment the minority at mantro is limited to school vacation times: this flexibility makes coordination easier.

We want to live an open culture – approval of annual leave doesn’t go with that idea. We live own and personal responsibility instead of control and supervision and appreciation instead of bureaucracy. We live agile and our processes need to be the same:

Unnecessary will be abolished.