Leave of Absence and Succession Planning
Beatrice Runyan Good morning and good afternoon. I want to thank everyone for attending this coffee talk titled Leave of Absence and Succession Planning Critical for Business Continuity and Overall Employee Satisfaction. Just as a housekeeping note: any questions that you put in the Q&A we will respond to after the session. We’ll also be sending out a link to access the presentation and the slides. I’d like to now introduce you to Abraham Gonzales-Pollick. He is the VP of Client Development for VensureHR. Abraham has more than 20 years of client service and product management leadership experience, 15 of which have been spent in the PEO [unintelligible]. Welcome, Abraham. We look forward to your presentation.
Abraham Gonzales-Pollick Thank you for that introduction. Hello, everyone. Thank you for spending a little bit of time, a little bit of a break to join us on this webinar today. You know, we have a really interesting topic here for everyone, and it’s talking about leave of absence and succession planning, really understanding, are these two the same or what are the differences in terms of impacts to the business? So, when we got the opportunity to really dig into leave of absence and succession planning methods, we found some really interesting commonalities that we thought would be helpful to share with our audiences today, our business leaders, our HR practitioners, to perhaps look at these two things from a different light. And so, in today’s topic, we’re going to cover some high level but some deep concepts here. So, we’re going to talk a little bit about business continuity and employee satisfaction. We’ll talk about rights and responsibilities, and we’ll end the conversation today with topics and ideas around employee experience.
So, when we think about leave of absence and/or succession planning: what do these two really have in common? Some of the common factors that we found was that the employee experience for those employees that are either needing to be out on a leave of absence or leaving the business, and those employees that are staying behind to continue the work, continue driving the business, all of them experience the company culture. They all experience the company culture in some way, shape or form that impacts their experience, their satisfaction to the business. And in turn, how they perform also impacts customer experiences. And so, when we think about these concepts here of leaves or succession, someone, a critical player, is out of the business. That’s where we have some commonality. How do we prepare for that?
So, let’s dive in and let’s first talk about business continuity. So when we think about business continuity, for anyone that’s experiencing someone having to leave the business to go out on a leave of absence or someone is leaving the business for a new adventure, a new career adventure, there are some things that really should be happening, some decisions that should be happening, practices, planning, and strategy so that the work can continue to be done. So when we look at, you know, this first idea of business continuity is really to always have a plan. Organizations should always be in preparation mode to ensure that jobs can get done and really planning for the unexpected. Because let’s face it, you know, we may know that someone might be leaving the business either because they’ll be retiring at the end of the year, or someone is going out on a leave of absence to care for their own medical needs, or someone is going out to have a baby. And depending on where you are, what state you are in, you know, someone might be out a little bit longer than others. And so organizations should always factor in into their business objectives on a quarterly basis. What are they doing to have a plan B in the event that employees need to be out?
And it leads us into the next idea, right, when we think about ensuring backups are fully trained. Some organizations just have, as part of their strategy, to be in constant cross-training mode. But for some organizations, that’s not always feasible, right? What do we train on? What should we train on? Some critical roles require certain backgrounds. And so this is where it becomes a little hectic sometimes to have strong cross training programs. But the idea of having backups, you know, you think about how much should a backup really know about the job that has to get done? Either way, the customers will experience these transitions in either a seamless or a confusing way.
The other idea about business continuity as it relates to individuals having to take leave, or leave because of the next step in their in their life: it’s to have honest conversations. Right now, we’re not talking about sharing confidential information, but honest conversations for the individuals that have to stay behind. Those individuals that you have to reach out to to say, “Hey, we might need you to lean in a little bit more”. There’s one thing to promote someone with extra job responsibilities, and there’s another thing to say, “Hey, we could use your expertise, but how can we help balance it all for you?” So having honest conversations about how long the stretch opportunity is going to be or how long they will need to lean in, when will the light at the end of the tunnel come? What is the plan for the organization to bring in additional support? And probably most important is, how do we rebalance priorities when we are leaning on those individuals to help for a period of time, how do we help them rebalance their commitments or what really needs to get done right now? That plays a huge factor in creating these seamless customer experiences, but also employee satisfaction.
So now we go into the next phase of this this conversation. Really, let’s talk about employee satisfaction. We think about employee satisfaction, it is felt in all spaces, right? So whether the individual’s going out on leave or the individual is staying behind to continue to drive the business, you can see their satisfaction and productivity. You can see their employee satisfaction, how engaged they are to the initiatives, to the tasks or to the objectives. We see employee satisfaction and, of course, turnover. We also see how satisfied employees are by how much of a promoter they are, how much of a promoter they are in the company that they work for. We start to see employee satisfaction in other meaningful ways when employees are contributing to ideas or business process improvement ideas. You see, and you also feel a sense of energy from your employees. When you have really good and positive energy, you really know that they’re satisfied. So something must be dialed in in the right way. And also customer sentiments, right? When our customers are saying that they would promote our services or refer our services or customers are sending in positive reviews, that’s it. That is a result of really great service provided by the employees. So when we think about someone again going on leave and that will be out of the business or someone, let’s say in retiring or moving on to a new career and those individuals left behind, how you plan into the extra work that they have to do will influence all of these things. So it’s something to be mindful of, right? To again, be in this constant planning mode of “What do we do if we were to have people leave the business or be out of the business?”
So let’s talk a little bit about rights and responsibilities. This is where we’re going to go a little bit deeper into the idea of leave of absence. But, you know, when we have employees that are leaving the business or employees that have to be out for a short period of time, the there will always be some type of grumble or chatter or watercooler talk. You know, “Why is this person out again or why are they leaving or how long are they going to be out?” You might even have some employees that say, “No, no, no, don’t pick me up to fill in and help, I’m too busy”. You know, you might as a leader be looking around the office and saying, “Okay, who can I go and tap on the shoulder?” and, all of a sudden, everyone is hiding under their desk. But these things happen, right? Because I believe that people are feeling like, “Oh, gosh, I’m already busy in the work that I do now. What else can you pull from me?” And again, this goes back to the planning, into the unexpected and having to rebalance the individuals that are staying behind and driving the business. Those things that can matter to those and employee’s satisfaction and their willingness to even raise their hand and say, “Hey, I can lean in and help”. Because they know that their employer or their leader is going to treat them right in the process.
And but aside from all these, you know, all these ideas and concepts, sometimes organizations don’t have a choice in terms of whether they say yes or no to someone being out. Let’s take leave of absence, for example. You know, there are certain rights and responsibilities that are afforded to employees across the U.S. We think about the Family Medical Leave Act, and this entitles employees of covered employers to take unpaid job protected leave. And in many states across the U.S., these are 12 weeks of leave and high level here, either for the birth of a child, care for a child, care for a family member, or someone’s own serious health. And there are a couple of other instances here where one would qualify for leave of absence. And when we think about the responsibility of an employer, there is liability for failing to make a timely eligibility determination or failing to provide timely notification or notices to employees on what their rights are. And in the event that you interfere with or deny an employee to exercise their rights, this is also a liability. And so, it’s the responsibility of the employer not to get in front of those. If an employer were to fail to meet timely designations for FMLA, it could be deemed as causing the employee to suffer. And, as with any responsibility, there could be liabilities in terms of monetary damages, other remedial actions.
So it’s very important to understand what our responsibilities are as employers to ensure that we’re creating really great experiences for our employees. When we think about employees that maybe have to take a leave, there’s already a lot of anxieties because they have to be out of work or because they have to take care of something personal. So putting more pressure on the employee or potentially making them feel bad for having to have a life need, this could also interfere with them being able to exercise their rights. And to take it a little bit further, just very briefly, there are certain states that actually have more stringent leave parameters where there are more time that’s provided, less qualifying factors. And here’s just a list of some of those additional states. So if you have employees that are living and working in these states, those leaves would apply to them.
Now, aside from leaves, there, again, will always be the scenario where it’s time for a new adventure, for a new employee. Some internal factors or external factors will cause that employee to say it’s time to move on. Maybe I’m not out of the business because I need to leave. I’m out of the business because I needed to pursue another career path. Or maybe I’ve outgrown the role. And so, when I think about those concepts of an individual wanting to leave because they’ve outgrown the role or they’re wanting to go and explore another career, you know, as leaders and practitioners: Are there ways to reengage these individuals to say you don’t have to leave your organization or your company to pursue another career path? Is there something here that we could do, perhaps move you into another department to upskill or learn something new? Are there other things that we can do to provide employees with stretch opportunities, more development in other areas to keep them engaged? So there’s a lot of also careful planning earlier on when we’re thinking about employee engagement and employee resources, other planning that can be done throughout the year to get in front of these instances from happening.
And now, as we get ready to close out our Coffee Chat, let’s talk about these last few concepts. Let’s talk about employee engagement a little bit more. So we think about employee engagement. Let’s start with this, number one, over here to the left-hand side. You know, no one should feel guilty for needing to take a leave or solely take on the responsibility to find backup. If an individual is taking a leave, and even if an individual is moving on from the business, no one should be made to feel, “Oh, you know, it’s too bad. You shouldn’t go, or what are we going to do without you here?” All those natural, you know, feelings that we might feel right, but they shouldn’t have to feel that. They shouldn’t have to hear that. It’s already enough that they’re having to do it. They’re already processing their own personal reasons and emotions around having to take a leave. They don’t need to take on the emotions of their leaders or their organizations or managers. They’re already feeling the pressure to get enough work done before they leave. Expecting these individuals to find their backups is a lot. So it would be helpful to help them with the planning thereof.
Let’s look at number two here, on the right-hand side. Customers should feel a seamless service, and at the end of the day, we’re here in business to provide a product or service to our customers. Our customers come to expect a certain brand experience. And so anything that we can do to keep that seamless is helpful to the business, right? Let’s look at number three here on the left. Other employees should feel balanced with extra responsibilities. And so, again, when we’re thinking about employee engagement, it should always be balanced, whatever we’re asking our employees to do. Balance because they are already coming to work with their responsibilities on their desk and they want to feel successful in what they produce by the end of the day. So adding more could interfere with that. And, lastly, if you’re a good, healthy and strong company, culture should be felt throughout all phases in someone’s absence. So all phases throughout the employee life cycle. Your employees should feel your company culture, your employees see the way we treat other people who are exiting the business. Our employees see the way we treat employees who are going out on a leave. And that tells a story about the company culture as well.
And lastly here, let’s talk a little bit about morale and engagement. You know, some tips here for leaders and organizations. Really help your employees feel safe and that they matter. It’s really important. We’re celebrating mental health awareness month and there are a lot of ideas and practices about how we do just that. How do we help employees feel safe and that they matter? Very important for organizations help uplift employees when life happens. You know, sometimes it is unexpected. You never know when someone’s parent might get ill with cancer and they’re the only caregiver or perhaps they’re dealing with their own health issues or they’re having a baby. You know, life happens, and it’s okay to uplift employees, to say, “Hey, you matter. We’re here to help. What can we do to help you because you contribute so much, this organization”. Encourage and give people a reason to bring their best. Keep encouraging your employees to bring their best.
And we do that by creating comfortable environments where people can thrive, where they can feel successful. Again, where you’re balancing workloads, for example. Be supportive, encourage the use, to help keep employees focused. Don’t show employees any concerns or make them feel bad for exercising their rights. Other things that organizations can do is to not ask for extra information other than what is already noted or documented or whatever it is that they want to share. Think it’s okay to ask employees how they feel, okay to ask employees what they need. And it is also okay to set clear parameters on what needs to get done as well.
It’s important for leaders to be resourceful, help employees find what they’re looking for, to help balance their personal needs so that they can be 100% focused at work and also demonstrate a balanced communication. You know, it’s important to be confidential. With things, with certain things. And it’s also important to communicate a plan for support, what’s happening over the next couple of months. So it’s a very tricky place to be, to balance, when you sit as a leader, to balance both sides. The employees that are staying behind to do the work and the employee that has to be out of the business.
And so with that, we hope that you got some really strong information in our Coffee Talk today. This is just part one of our Coffee Talk for this month here, in a couple of weeks, we are going to release our part two of the Coffee Talk and we’re going to continue the dialog on leave of absence or improved programs, and why they matter. Other creative programs that you can adopt into your organization, so please join us. Also, we have past webinars and blogs and you can find them on vensure.com, and you can also click here on our QR code to learn more about some of our other services. But I definitely encourage you to review some of our past webinars. We have some really great content there. We provide our insights for our HR practitioners, we provide business insights for our business leaders, and we have some incredible blogs. We stay we try to stay relevant with what’s trending and what’s being talked about in the workforce today. So please have a look and we look forward to seeing you on the next webinar.
Beatrice Runyan Great, thank you, Abraham, so much for this very informative session. And we want to thank all of you for attending this session of Coffee Talk. Just a reminder that we will respond if there were any questions that were put in the Q&A that weren’t answered during the session, we’ll make sure to respond to those and to check, as Abraham said, about our upcoming blogs on vensure.com, and also within the next few days, we will also be sending out a link where you can access the presentation and the slides. Again, we thank you for joining us and we look forward to you joining us for the upcoming Coffee Talk on May 25th. Hope everyone has a wonderful day. Thank you.