As we continue to be immersed in an economic downturn, business leaders are struggling with concerns about talent recruitment and retention, motivating employees with dwindling resources, and bolstering productivity and innovation.  

We suggest that a sabbatical program, if designed properly, can be a low-cost offering that boosts morale, keeps talent engaged and recharged, develops employees not on sabbatical through the work coverage process, and strengthens the company’s brand for the long run.

Sabbaticals = Managerial Insanity?

At first glance, business leaders may think that sabbaticals are managerial insanity, particularly in times like these. However, once one takes a deeper look, they understand that the benefits of sabbaticals far outweigh the perceived unorthodoxy.”

yourSabbatical, a firm dedicated to helping companies get measurable results from sabbaticals, defines a “sabbatical” as a planned, strategic job pause – paid or unpaid – whereby an individual takes time to disconnect from what is “usual” for at least four weeks, to travel, do research, volunteer, learn a new skill, or fulfill a lifelong dream before returning to regular work.

Still sound crazy?

When companies are in “survival mode,” it is even more critical to focus on human resources.

Here are our Top Five Reasons Companies Should Consider a Sabbatical Program in a Down Economy:

1.      Circumvent layoffs – As a short-term strategy, sabbaticals provide a means for companies to keep their talent and save money now.
2.      Preserve and protect human capital – In a knowledge economy, companies that take the focus off of programs that motivate, engage and nourish their work force are not just shooting themselves in the foot, but in the brain.
3.      Nurture innovation – The right talent is needed to generate innovative ideas. A career break equates to rejuvenation – a critical component for the creativity needed to innovate. Typical “flex” programs don’t solve the problem of truly reinvigorating talent.
4.      Become a talent magnet – Even in a weak economy, businesses compete for talent. Keep in mind what economists call “adverse selection,” where the least productive workers are the ones who are most likely to stay when wages are cut while the best workers start looking elsewhere. As pay increases are nearly extinct, time has become the new currency.
5.      Increase loyalty – Sabbaticals give a big boost to loyalty.  How companies treat their human capital in tough times will reflect the amount of “good will” that is returned to them by their employees under the guise of loyalty.

“When you take smart, successful people out of their daily grind – and often their safety zones – and give them the opportunity to expand in real life, they return pumped with new vigor which translates to higher performance,” said Barbara Pagano, also a founding partner of yourSabbatical.

Sabbatical programs allow employers to rejuvenate and reward top performers at a time when budgets are under siege. By putting employee development on the shelf, businesses damage their talent pool and they may suffer bigger losses when they need to replace workers who have left or were laid off – a costly proposition.

Elizabeth Pagano is the co-founder of yourSabbatical, a firm dedicated to helping companies get measurable results from sabbaticals. For more information, visit