Improving Retention with Paid Sabbaticals

Companies have come up with a whole host of different perks and benefits to entice employees into staying put for as long as possible. Some of those benefits take the form of various kinds of paid and unpaid time off, many of which were mentioned in my recent article, Employee Time Off Tracking. One of the 20 different time off perks listed was the sabbatical. Most people who went to college or university are familiar with the idea of a sabbatical because higher education is one place where it’s common – a tenured professor gets to take a semester or even a year off from their teaching duties in order to pursue their own research interests. But the idea of a sabbatical as a great way to improve retention is gaining a foothold beyond higher education. Is it an option that should be added to your company’s benefits?

Sabbaticals for Retaining Your Most Experienced Staff

Paid sabbaticals aren’t typically offered to just any employee. In the realm of higher education, they tend to be reserved for tenured professors, allowing them to take their research and thinking to new levels without the encumbrances inherent in a heavy teaching load. Why would a university go through the expense involved in granting a professor a paid sabbatical? Smart institutions of higher education understand the value of their star professors. If they want to retain them, they need to give them freedom and flexibility to pursue their research interests. But besides the mere retention factor, there is perhaps even greater benefit to the institution’s reputation, which is very important in higher education. If granting a professor a paid sabbatical results in them producing their next big break-through in their field, it’s not just the professor who gets a better reputation and lots of attention, but the university as well. This two-fold benefit of retaining the best employees with a perk and enhancing the institutional reputation by what is accomplished during the sabbatical explains why they work so well in higher education. But what about elsewhere?

Public Schools May Begin to Adopt Sabbaticals

One natural migration that is on the horizon is the availability of paid sabbaticals for teachers in public schools. This is not a topic of discussion yet in the US, but teachers in England may soon find that it is an option for them. As in higher education, though, it’s not a perk for every teacher. Since part of the point is to improve retention of experienced staff, the sabbaticals would only be made available after 10 years of service,and participating teachers would need to clearly show how the time away from the classroom will benefit their teaching. Spearheading this effort in England is education secretary Damian Hinds as reported in The Guardian (source).

Paid Sabbaticals in Corporate America

It’s not surprising that the examples of paid sabbaticals mentioned so far are both from the field of education. However, you may be surprised to find out that paid sabbaticals are available in a variety of businesses, including the following:

  • Patagonia: This outdoor clothing company will allow eligible employees to take up to two months away from work in order to volunteer at an approved environmental organization while still receiving their regular full pay and benefits.
  • REI: Employees who put in 15 years with this outdoor retailer are eligible for 4-week paid sabbaticals, and again every five years after that.
  • Timberland: The footwear company allows employees to take paid “service sabbaticals” ranging from 12-24 weeks in order to participate in meaningful community service work.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Paid sabbaticals incorporate America are obviously for the crunchy-granola companies with progressive policies around service and environmental causes, right? Wrong! You’ll be even more surprised to find out about other companies who offer paid sabbaticals;

  • McDonald’s: Corporate employees (not franchise location employees) get eight-week paid sabbaticals after each consecutive ten years of service, and they get to do whatever they want with their paid time off.
  • Cheesecake Factory: Corporate employees get three-week paid sabbaticals after five years of service.
  • QuikTrip: This convenience store chain offers employees of all types four-week paid sabbaticals after 25 years of service, and again every five years thereafter.

These companies are making the smart move by recognizing that the long-term benefits of retaining their most loyal and experienced employees far outweigh the short-term costs of providing paid sabbaticals. Is it time for your company to add in paid sabbaticals to the benefits offered to your best employees? While you’re thinking about the answer to that question, sign up for a free 60-day trial of CaptureLeave to find out just how easy it can be to track and monitor all the types of leave offered at your company. Our simple but powerful web-based leave tracking system is the perfect solution for better management and monitoring of employee leave time.

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