Taking leave with purpose: an innovation in organisational change
Whilst holding on to personal leave entitlements may be viewed by employees as a great ‘financial saving,’ it’s certainly not good from a health and wellbeing perspective. Not only that, excess accrual of leave is becoming a huge, mounting financial liability for large corporations and government departments across Australia.
To address the issue, some organisations choose the ‘carrot’ or ‘stick’ approach—which results in either the provision of monetary incentives as encouragement or the introduction of enforcement policies in an attempt to reduce leave balances. Neither is an ideal solution.
A major Australian corporation was experiencing, on average, accrued employee leave balances of three months or more. The company was faced with a workforce that had no desire or willingness to take leave and a reluctance to participate in either incentivised or enforced programs. The problem was further exacerbated by a fear of potential job loss and the unwillingness of line managers to release staff on leave.
Previous attempts at reducing leave accrual had created a growing resentment among employees who felt that they had to take leave simply to achieve corporate targets. An innovative organisational change solution was needed to reduce leave balances in a meaningful way for both individuals and the business.
Undertaking internal research to understand the unique context of the organisation, we looked at employee demographics such as attrition, age, employee engagement levels, the corporate business strategy and values, key stakeholder expectations and what had been implemented previously. In addition, we spoke with a cross-section sample of employees to understand the reasons why they were either not willing or not able to take their leave.
One thing that became clear through this process was that these employees were highly skilled and loved their jobs. And that’s what inspired the concept of ‘Leave with Purpose’—an initiative that enabled and incentivised employees to take leave and donate their time and skills to a valuable cause.
Together with some staff volunteers and the senior leadership team, we investigated several partnership opportunities with not-for-profit organisations that would benefit from volunteers with an engineering skill set. After several discussions, we formed a partnership with a community support organisation that focused on supporting drought-affected farmers in outback Australia. The partnership would see employees support remote farmers through the provision of practical help including fixing tractors, generators and appliances, feeding cattle and painting houses.
We rolled out an internal communications campaign to ensure the buy-in and commitment of senior leaders, and set up the mechanism for employees to express their interest in the initiative. Given the previous resistance shown to use accrued leave, we had expected to attract a handful of participants at best. However, the initiative was so well received by employees that it became over-subscribed and a waitlist had to be created for the next program. This was a fantastic result for the organisation; the program fitted both the context of the organisation and met the needs of employees.
After participating in the ‘Leave with Purpose’ program, employees have started to take the initiative and spend their leave constructively. The additional benefits of the initiative have been far reaching, and include:
- Increased staff capability and confidence
- Soft skills development, including team building, communication, resilience and adaptability
- Business connection to the community
- HR strategic priority development, based on the outcome of the data analysis, for management development and workforce planning
The ‘Leave with Purpose’ initiative has now been handed over to the organisation’s HR team and continues to evolve. The ball is rolling and accrued leave is decreasing!
Let us help you ignite a ‘Leave with Purpose’ intervention that suits your unique context and situation. Contact The Change Executive to explore what else we can do to support and improve your employee experience and HR strategy.