Sabbaticals were once confined to a few professions such as academia and the clergy, but are increasingly working their way into the HR policies of businesses across every sector.
You’ve just lost one of the most valuable members of your team because your organisation’s inflexible HR policies meant she couldn’t take six months off to travel with her family. Offering a sabbatical would have saved you the time and expense needed to recruit and train a replacement.
Does this sound familiar? How many of your best workers have quit for this reason? Where once sabbaticals were only offered to a select group of people, more and more organisations are offering them as part of their employment strategy.
Here are five reasons you need to offer sabbaticals to your team.
Let’s face it. Businesses across the board are struggling with retention, with millennial staff generally jumping ship every 2.5 years.
A sabbatical policy might just be the magic bullet you’ve been looking for to increase retention and longevity of employment. For example, you could offer a short sabbatical (paid or unpaid) after 5 years’ employment, a longer sabbatical after 10 years, and so on.
Remember, the alternative is having the employee quit to pursue their dreams, while you’re left with the expense and trouble of finding a replacement.
There are so many reasons employees may want to take a sabbatical: study, travel, volunteering, health, family and so on.
But one of the underlying motives for people to take a career break is that we’re not machines – after a few years in the same role it’s natural to start feeling burnt out or stuck in a rut.
That’s why sabbaticals are essential for revitalisation, giving employees an opportunity to rediscover their mojo, rebuild their enthusiasm for their career and come up with new ideas.
As mentioned above, sabbaticals are traditionally associated with academia, wherein researchers take a paid break to spend time on activities related to their career or research, usually in a different geographic location.
The reasoning behind this is that people can’t be expected to come up with new ideas or creative thinking by simply sitting in their office – they need to find inspiration in other parts of the world and meet colleagues who are approaching shared challenges differently.
There’s no reason why this same concept shouldn’t apply outside of academia. A sabbatical will give your employees the opportunity to bring new thinking and creative ideas back to your organisation, even if they didn’t engage in any strictly career-related activities on their break.
Expect career breaks to become increasingly popular
According to Elizabeth Pagano, cofounder of YourSabbatical.com, “the concept of working for 40 years and then retiring is outdated. People should be able to inject bursts of time off into their career paths.”
Putting off the pursuit of dreams such as travel or studying until you’ve retired (and over 60 years of age) can mean that you run the risk of no longer having the health or energy necessary to do those dreams justice.
Another reason sabbaticals will become increasingly popular is the security they offer for people taking a career break. Knowing that your job is being held for you is immensely reassuring.
The alternative is to quit your role, which could mean you’ll worry about your financial future during your precious time off and spend the last three months of your break on the phone to recruiters.
Win the war for talent with attractive sabbatical offering
As sabbaticals become more widely accepted, expect job-seekers to ask about your sabbatical policy as they consider if your company is right for them. I
f a star candidate is choosing between your company and a competitor, a generous sabbatical policy might just be the factor that gets them over the line.
Remember, sabbaticals will not only help you attract talent, but retain people for years longer than the rapidly shrinking average term of employment.
Five tips for HR when building an offering for sabbaticals
1. Create a policy
A sabbatical policy will help you attract and retain talent, give employees a goal to work towards, and lay out a clear framework about how sabbaticals work.
It’s important to be absolutely clear on what activities would constitute a paid sabbatical, but keep in mind that for unpaid sabbaticals, the reason for the employee requesting the career break isn’t relevant.
2. Be flexible
A sabbatical could be your best way to retain a valued team member who was otherwise likely to quit.
Flexibility is key – even if that person hasn’t met the criteria such as the minimum period of employment, offering a sabbatical may still be a better alternative than letting them go.
3. Plan ahead to fill gaps
Ask the employee for a detailed handover plan well ahead of their career break, and consider involving them in the hiring process if a replacement is needed to fill the gap while they are away.
4. Discuss contact during the sabbatical
Many sabbatical-takers would choose to have zero contact with their workplace while away, and that’s fine.
Others, however, may want to retain a level of contact through regular emailed updates, or simply through social media.
5. Organise a return-to-work interview
Bring the employee up to date on organisational developments, projects, and new goals and targets that have occurred while they were away. A return-to-work interview will also enable you to capture any new ideas they will bring back to the team.
Does your organisation offer sabbaticals? If not, how would you convince your boss to offer one? Leave a comment below!