So many companies would love to offer a more generous leave of absence (LOA) policy as a way to both recruit top talent and keep their most valuable employees happy, but they simply can’t afford to.
Fortunately, with a few simple tweaks, leave administrators can improve their employees’ LOA experience—and give their company a competitive recruiting and retention advantage—without spending a dime.
#1. Answer employees’ 3 most pressing questions immediately
No matter what type of leave your employees are taking, they’re going to want answers to these three questions ASAP:
• How much time can I take off?
• Will I be paid, and if so, how much?
• Is my job safe…or should I worry?
If your employee communications don’t give simple, clear answers to those questions right away, you’re opening the door for unnecessary frustration, confusion, and overall employer disenchantment. For bonus points, if the answer to the second question is complicated (as it often is), include a helpful graphic. For example:
2. Empathy is key in all your interactions and communications
Remember: a leave of absence can be one of the most intensely emotional periods of an employee’s life. With their lives in flux, they can be more vulnerable (and possibly scattered) than they usually are, so communicate accordingly. Specifically:
• Need to have a sensitive conversation about something leave-related in person? Hold it in a private place…and make sure you listen as much as you talk.
• Make an easy-to-follow checklist, ideally with actual dates included. That way, employees don’t have to wade through all kinds of forms to figure out what they need to do and when.
• Get rid of one-size-fits-all form letters or emails; write to employees like they’re one of your neighbors or work friends. Address them by name, use plain English (rather than jargon), and let them know how they can get answers to their questions
A not-so-empathetic LOA email:
A pretty darn empathetic LOA email:
#3. Train managers to be more helpful to employees on leave
More often than not, employees on leave end up asking their managers questions that they should be asking you. Since those managers aren’t LOA experts, that can often be…a problem.
Nip that in the bud with some strategic, proactive manager LOA education. A few ideas to consider:
• Hold a Managers & LOA focus group: invite a few employees who recently took leave to join you and the managers, so they can share their first-hand experiences.
• Give each manager the same kind of clear, prescriptive LOA checklists you give your employees
• Keep all relevant LOA information and forms together in an easily accessible place (ex. your intranet)
• Send managers email or text reminders in advance of important LOA deadlines
• Make sure the company’s expectations about managers communicating with employees on leave are super clear to prevent managers from overstepping boundaries (bad) or going totally radio-silent (also bad)
#4. Ask for—and share—feedback from everyone involved
When employees return from leave, send them a survey to get their honest feedback about their LOA experience. Since large chunks of that experience are likely fuzzy in their memories, remind them of the various stages they went through, and ask specific questions about each stage. Consider sending out a similar survey to their manager and the team they work most closely with.
If the feedback you get leads to improvements down the road, share this with your company: it will show your employees that their feedback really can make a difference.
Finally, if employees have nice things to say about the process, ask them if they’d be okay with you sharing their testimonials. If they are, include them in the benefits overview content you share with job candidates and with employees during open enrollment.