What Can My Company Gain From a Sabbatical Program?
Retain Valued Employees
Your top performers are likely also your most restless souls. Sabbaticals allow these most valuable players to stretch themselves without leaving your organization to do so. Not surprisingly, companies report that it’s almost impossible for competitors to poach these employees within a few years of sabbatical. So your company saves on recruiting and re-training costs, which can be 150 – 200% of a person’s salary. Sabbaticals are particularly valuable in high burnout industries. Some companies are even using voluntary unpaid sabbaticals as an alternative to layoffs.
Attract Top Talent
Sabbatical programs are also an attractive benefit for today’s potential employees. The largest pool of talent now entering the workforce consistently rates “time off” as a top priority (money comes in third). During the recent economic recession top new law school grads were paid by innovative firms not to report to work. Heather Eisenlord, who graduated from George Washington University near the top of her class, is just one of many students who will be traveling and volunteering on a reduced salary before joining their new employers when the economy returns.
Employees who take vacation come back with better focus and mental clarity. Sabbaticals provide that same benefit—exponentially. As such, sabbatical programs demonstrate a firm’s commitment to work-life balance and give senior managers the opportunity to demonstrate healthy habits. Sabbaticals provide the kind of experience education that broadens employee perspectives and fosters innovation. But it isn’t just new experiences that make a difference, sabbaticals give employees time to step back and clear their heads—something beneficial to any problem-solving situation.
Develop High Potentials
When they step away temporarily, senior staff members give developing employees a chance to learn and prove themselves in more challenging assignments. Often, companies with sabbatical programs move to a team approach for their client service. This allows companies to maintain consistent coverage no matter who is away or for what reason. A team approach also limits the impact of client turnover, establishing that clients belong to the company not individuals.
Revitalize Your Workforce
Happier employees work harder. Leaders who have a chance to reconnect with their dreams usually return to work with redoubled energy and commitment. They’ll also likely return with new skills, such as better communication or a heightened awareness of the big picture. The absence of those on sabbatical give managers a chance to see how well others perform while filling in for their on-leave colleagues.
Get Great Public Relations
Companies that invest in their employees by offering sabbaticals are perceived as nurturing, differentiated workplaces. Sabbatical programs give you bragging rights. What’s more, stories about what your company’s people do on sabbatical are compelling human interest pieces for media. Spread the word about your program. People want to work for and buy from companies that offer their people such a deep level of work/life balance.
What They’re Saying
In an era where young professionals will change jobs every one-and-a-half years before age 35 (and every three years after), sabbaticals programs present a logical way to hang on to talent.
It’s the biggest training platform we have. – Tamara Markham, Director of Operations of Hotel Equities
Diversifying employees’ exposure to the whole enterprise (while they cover the work of someone on sabbatical) is the reward. We identify high potentials and invest in them … sabbaticals have to be a key element of that. – David Meek, CFO, AstenJohnson
One of the outputs of our sabbatical program is that it allows other people to take on roles and learning opportunities through covering someone else’s work while that person is away. – Susie Rawlings, Senior Benefits Consultant, American Century Investments
[We believe] sabbaticals will help them retain women, who tend to have more family responsibilities than men, and lure Generation Y men and women recruits who want to work hard, but don’t want work to be their life. – Sharon Klun, Director of Work/Life Initiatives, Accenture
Intel is about technological breakthroughs. To be successful, we need people who are continually recharged, people whose minds can soar. Time off helps us achieve that. – Dawn Jones, company spokeswoman, Intel Corporation
It costs us basically four weeks salary per person, which is far less than paying a recruiter and retraining someone.
It’s one of the greatest retention tools we have. – Cathy Dunkin, President & CEO of Standing Partnership
We perceive taking a break as a contribution to this organization, because we believe that people who are energized, recharged and feeling great about the company will be better performers. – Sandra Ohlsson, VP of HR, General Mills