April 2015
Sabbaticals May Be Your Employee Retention Secret
By Jessica Miller-Merrell

Generally when you hear the word "sabbatical," most people think of a college professor taking time off to do something intellectual that would then contribute to their ability to shape the minds of young people. If you search the word "sabbatical" it is actually defined by Google as "a period of paid leave granted to a college teacher for study or travel, traditionally every seventh year."

As it turns out, educational institutions are not the only employers that offer sabbaticals. These periods of paid leave are becoming more and more common across the board. Countless companies in industries such as banking, technology, legal services, accounting, construction, insurance, media, and so on, offer paid sabbaticals ranging in length from anywhere around a couple of weeks up to the traditional year and for an array of reasons.

A Solution for Burnout

In our current economy where employee burnout is becoming prevalent, sabbaticals are becoming a more common solution for employees to combat it. A study released of 500 IT administrators by Opinion Matters showed 72% of the individuals polled were stressed as a result of their job while 67% had considered a career change. An overwhelming 85% said their work intruded on their personal life and 42% had actually lost sleep over the stresses of their work. Statistics such as these are never going to serve an employer well, no matter what the industry.

In many industries, employees are giving it all they've got, working extremely hard to manage and balance their professional and personal stresses. Yet in many instances, they are not doing it very well. When their employers offer sabbaticals, it allows them the needed separation to do what they love. In many instances, sabbaticals may relate directly to an individual's profession; though even if they don't, when the employee returns to work, they are refreshed and revitalized.

Benefits to the Employer

In a job market that is consistently becoming more and more competitive for employers, it is always good for companies to find ways to show just how much they genuinely value their employees. For many, offering sabbaticals is one of these ways.

Sabbaticals are not the same as vacation time in that, in most cases, they should not be offered to all employees. Rather, sabbaticals are more commonly used to reward top performing employees for their continuous hard work. These are the employees companies can't afford to have disengaged from their work or disengaged from their employer. When it comes to a high quality employee, the investment of a sabbatical can prove far more cost effective and productive for the company in the long run.

Returning from a sabbatical should result in the employee being ready to hit the ground running with whatever new or refreshed outlook they gained while away. They are likely to be better engaged, having higher rates of productivity right out of the gate. The impact of a sabbatical should be similar to a vacation, but to a much greater magnitude.

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR is an author, speaker, HR professional, and workplace social media expert who has a passion for recruiting, training, and all things social media. She is the President/CEO of Xceptional HR and a leader in the HR community with more than 12 years of industry experience. Follow her on Twitter, @jmillermerrell.



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