4 Ways Leave Management Impacts Employee Retention

Kia PeKarna
April 28, 2022

If you’ve spent any time thinking about leave management for employee retention, you’re likely familiar with the scenario facing employers right now: More than ever, employees care about getting their needs met in their job if they’re going to stick around. There are so many reasons why workers are quitting in droves at the moment, but among these, we’re strongly inclined to think how companies manage employee absences has a lot to do with this.

When companies invest in leave management solutions that give HR teams more time to show up for employees and offer more personalized support, the entire experience of working for a company, going on leave, and returning to work can be radically different. For company leadership, HR teams, and employees alike, leaves of absence are notoriously headache-inducing ordeals — but that’s definitely not how things have to be. When companies start thinking about leave management as a core part of their work culture and strategically improving their efficiency, everything can get better.

There are countless ways in which a refined and streamlined leave management approach benefits businesses overall, but for now, here’s how that impacts your employee retention.

Upholding an amazing work culture

Simply put: People don’t quit jobs they love. And while there is a lot riding on an employee’s scope of work, a major component in determining whether or not someone loves their job comes down to work culture. At the tail end of a decade where companies installed kombucha taps and built meditation rooms with the hopes of increasing employee satisfaction, here’s what we know: the little perks are great, but they really only move the needle for employees if they come with more substantial things.

So what actually makes for a lovable work culture? Mostly it comes down to a policy-backed, systemic and company-wide effort to have people’s jobs dovetail seamlessly with an overall life well-lived. Basically, employees don’t want their jobs to burn them out, run them down, or make it hard for them to function in other areas of their lives. This is what makes for an amazing work culture — not ping pong tables. You can probably see how exceptional leave management factors into this.

Minimizing the risk of mistakes when it matters most

Since a Leave of Absence typically occurs surrounding a time of heightened anxiety or a life-changing event, the people that support us during those times resonate as heroes, whereas anything or anyone who makes an already stressful time worse can feel disproportionately like villains. Any HR professional can confirm: that’s totally how it feels to do their job. You’re either the hero or the bad guy, with very little nuance in between.

When it comes to leave management, mistakes can be especially damaging, both from an employee experience standpoint and a legal one. And when you execute leave management beautifully, it can feel like a particularly powerful win for everyone involved.

Providing more opportunities for check-ins

A hidden upside to an employee going on leave: the conversations and planning that have to happen before their exit and upon their return. When an employee takes time off work, part of the prep work involves looking at all the tasks and projects they’re currently responsible for, thinking about what’s most essential, and looking at near- and long-term initiatives they’re a part of.

Beyond just accommodating their leave, these exercises can create real moments of clarity about an employee’s current role and future trajectory. This can, in turn, prompt conversations about how well their current path does or doesn’t align with their goals and the company’s needs. When employee leave is managed comprehensively, it basically serves as additional holistic check-ins and chances to recalibrate as needed.

Preventing burnout

A new report from global education tech firm Cengage Group gave insight into the main reasons why so many workers are leaving their jobs in what’s widely being called The Great Resignation — and 89% of respondents cited burnout. It was a top reason, ranking only just behind “higher salary”. It’s a glaring fact that no business can afford to ignore: If employees are feeling run down, burned out, and unsupported to take time off when needed, they are overwhelmingly opting to prioritize their own wellbeing and find a new job. At this point, any employer who isn’t proactively taking ownership of the overall wellbeing of their employees is actively risking losing those employees.

Given that leave management is, overall, the sum of all the various processes and mechanisms of support around employees taking leaves of absence, it’s a central component that either helps or hinders the workplace response to the threat of burnout. Any and all efforts to prevent and address employee burnout are a huge investment in employee retention.