Businesses can Enhance Employee Loyalty and Performance with Sabbaticals

by: Nichole Gunn June 17, 2011

Sabbaticals have long been a replenishing strategy incentive in the academic world. Teachers would be afforded time off every seven years and the practice became a win-win situation for all involved. It now seems the business world is catching up and taking advantage of this effective incentive. Several businesses are taking the academia queue and providing partially paid or fully paid sabbaticals after four or five consecutive years of employment. Noting the rise in the use of this strategy, 20 percent of the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For afford sabbaticals with full pay.

Corporate director and Tampa Bay Online writer Rita Foley explains that the idea behind businesses utilizing this strategy is to enhance employee loyalty. Loyalty programs that offer employee sabbaticals have found that those employees return to work with increased loyalty, engagement, appreciation, and motivation for both their jobs and their employers.

According to BusinessWeek, the Journal of Education for Business conducted a study that supports Foley’s claims. The research found employees taking advantage of sabbaticals return to work “committed and more energized.” In addition, the employee’s absence allows management to take note of the performance of other workers, as well as allows workers to sample the missing employee’s job. This can help management foster a more cohesive workplace.

Foley went on to note, “Most of us have worked since we were in our late teens or early 20s, so of course, it's natural to crave some time off. We tune up our PCs, cars and home heaters. Why not encourage our people to give their minds and spirits a tuneup? She added that the results are repetitive: the workers who take sabbaticals “return more interested and engaged employees, more loyal and more creative."

While the current economic climate may make a sabbatical incentive seem prohibitive, managers in human resource argue it may actually be cost-effective. Employees who are overly stressed or “burned out” may be encouraged to remain with the company if they are afforded time off. This strategy alleviates the necessity of employers replacing employees who quit, this in turn means reduced spending “on recruitment and training of new employees.” Having to hire and train new employees “can cost as much as one-and-a-half times a departing worker's salary.”

As reported by Tampa Bay Online, chairwoman of Deloitte (an accounting and consulting firm) Sharon Allen notes business strategies that incorporate flexibility and sabbaticals reduced employee turnover at her firm. The boost in employee loyalty saves the firm more than $45 million yearly.

McDonald’s is an example of the sabbatical strategy in practice. The fast food chain has known the benefits of sabbaticals and has employed them for less than fifty years. Salaried workers receive “eight weeks of paid leave for every 10 years of employment.”


About Nichole Gunn