This article was updated on July 26, 2018.
One of the key challenges HR leaders face is retaining the right people for the right roles, and leave policies are becoming an edge that can help organizations attract and retain their highest performers. In a war for talent, the way employees are treated — in both good and difficult times — can be a huge draw. Organizations can't afford to lose valuable employees when a simple act of showing compassion could have such a strong influence on employee loyalty.
Begin With Demonstrating Compassion
More than a policy, compassion is the feeling of sympathy toward another person and the desire to alleviate their suffering, according to the University of California, Berkeley. Any organization that wants to offer leave policies should ultimately sympathize with employees during difficult times and help them reduce the suffering caused by hard times.
Harvard Business Review reports that employees are more loyal to managers who show compassion. When an employee requests time off during a difficult time, an HR leader should start by thinking of a difficult time in their own life to be in an empathetic state of mind before engaging with the employee. Forbes notes that "compassion not only improves workplace culture, but it can also help a company's bottom line."
Help Employees With Benefits Complexity
When pregnancies require extra medical attention or there's been an illness or death in the family, employees want the confidence to know that their employer will offer appropriate support throughout the leave process. In fact, close to "60 percent of people would consider leaving their job if they did not receive proper support when someone close to them died," according to The Telegraph.
HR leaders can help employees navigate complex benefits plans by providing easy access to plan descriptions, direct contact information to benefits providers and even a list of suggested questions to ask plan providers based on the type of benefit needed. Simple resources like these can show your employees that you care enough to take an extra step to support them during times of need.
Offer Extended Paid Leave for Special Cases
Organizations with leave policies should consider a paid bereavement leave policy, opting to alleviate or reduce the added stress caused by a death in the family. Another example of a compassionate leave policy is to allow for extended paid leave in special cases like premature birth or neonatal intensive care unit stays. At a minimum, businesses need to comply with state and federal laws. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the federal law that applies to businesses with 50 or more employees, gives employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for specific reasons, including to care for an immediate family member that has a serious health condition, according to the DOL. Many states, and some local jurisdictions, have also enacted their own family leave laws, as well as paid sick laws, that provide employees with time off to care for family members.
Curate Unique Employee Benefits
HR leaders could also show compassion by reminding employees of other benefits the organization may offer, including employee assistance programs and how these may apply to an employee's family members. Remember, employees aren't always aware of all the benefits an organization offers. Assemble a package or collection of links to your benefits and a short summary of instructions if needed. If requests for leave seem unreasonable, or beyond the scope of what the policy permits, employers and HR managers should engage in discussions with the employee and work to find a compromise.
If your organization has a clearly defined policy that is applied consistently, treats each employee as an individual and keeps each case confidential, you'll send a signal to workers that your business is compassionate and puts employees first. An organization that is known to treat people with respect and compassion can encourage others to join the workforce.