In the file named, “Well yeah, no duh,” you might read something that explains that the best, most impactful initiatives you can fathom for your people will go nowhere without support from leadership. This happens across all departments at most organizations, but it’s especially true for HR and People Teams who often need to sell the idea of investing in something with an ambiguous (to them) return.
So let’s talk about how to create clarity from ambiguity as it pertains to one of the most important factors in an employee’s journey, the ever-growing need for a positive leave of absence experience. This can be used as a template for other initiatives you deem important as well.
“Take” is the operative word here. In order for you to have a real shot at advocating for what’s best for your people, you can’t wait for someone in leadership to slide the chair out and tuck you in with the budget barons and decision-makers. Insist with persistence that it’s critical to the successful operation of the organization that there be a direct line of communication between the people keeping the organization running and those running the organization.
Establish a seat at the table first to build relationships and alignment on your vision for a better leave of absence experience for your employees, and once you feel a level of trust has been established between you, your team and leadership, you can then roll out your plan for success with a much higher success rate.
If you aren’t a consistent presence at the table, any proposals you present to leadership will have the equivalent effect of a car driving by; a muted white noise that goes in one ear and zooms out the other.
Now that you’ve taken your place at the table it’s important to have some sort of plan for accomplishing your leave of absence goals. This can look different for everyone as every organization is different, but here are some ideas to get you going:
When proposing a solution to management it’s essential to provide your recommendation, but your recommendation will have a higher chance of succceeding if it shows you’ve put in the work to vet options.
You might think hiring headcount is the best way to mitigate the problems above, or you might find that outsourcing your leave of absence management to the experts is your best bet and most cost-effective.
If it’s the latter, explain that with an external solution your People Team and payroll will be freed up to do more meaningful work, employees will have a positive leave experience and actually return engaged, managers will understand what they can and can’t do, and you can financially take advantage of state benefits you might have otherwise footed the bill for.
Money tends to talk the loudest, so don’t be shy about expressing the cost benefits of employee retention and mitigating compliance risks and legal battles.
Oftentimes the most basic tropes have some of the deepest meanings. We may casually toss around the concept of leading by example, but when it comes to leave of absence it can have a profound effect on employee morale to see leadership actually using the benefits they provide themselves.
So many employees are afraid of the backlash that might come from taking a leave of absence that they’re too afraid to take one. This can act as an invisible barrier to employee satisfaction and not to mention any backlash for taking a protected leave of absence can get your organization into hot water.
A great example of leaving loudly was when Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian (husband of Tennis superstar Serena Willams) did so by taking paternity leave and outwardly sharing his views on why it’s important. Whatever stigmas his employees thought there were around taking paternity leave immediately had no teeth once the organization leader demonstrates with both action and words that it’s okay.
Part of your solution should revolve around education of some sort. As our workforce ages, the antiquated mindset of the generations that preceded us are becoming more glaring. To be crystal clear that is not the fault of any generation in particular, we all are responsible for adapting to the time we’re in.
Sometimes that can feel daunting, but it’s critical to not just provide materials on what are considered unhealthy stigmas surrounding a leave of absence, but also on why it’s so important to get it right. Again, this can be materials you develop on your own if you have the bandwidth, but this also might be a solution that an external leave management solution can provide you and your employees and their managers.
Without an understanding and buy-in from leadership, however, you run the risk of your employees believing that stigmas are being removed around taking a leave of absence, but the actions of leadership aren’t matching. A rising star employee who is about to be a new mother, for example, needs to know that her job can’t be marginalized based on assumptions of her ambition by leadership.
When a Tilt customer shared that they had surveyed their employee population and learned that there was uncertainty and uncomfortably around miscarriage leave, they did something about it.
Already a policy in New Zealand, this growing tech company realized they could take an existing policy that miscarriage leave would fall under anyway, and carve out a specific policy that meant employees could alleviate confusion around taking time off for such a critical life event, and it also meant they wouldn’t have to have uncomfortable conversations with managers who might not understand that a miscarriage leave is something the company supports.
Talk to your employees, find out what leave policies matter to them, and with your established relationship with leadership, you’ll be better positioned to leverage your expertise and make a positive change on your employees’ leave experiences.
Tilt is leading the charge in all things leave of absence management through easy-to-use tech and human touch. Since 2017, our proprietary platform and Empathy Warriors have been helping customers make leave not suck by eliminating administrative burdens, keeping companies compliant, and providing a truly positive and supportive leave of absence experience for their people.
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