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The Sabbatical Solution

With companies struggling to recruit and retain quality employees in the wake of a hostile economy, many would do well to contemplate a relatively obscure course of action: instituting a sabbatical program.

According to strategists at yourSABBATICAL, a firm specializing in helping companies and employees plan sabbaticals, the term is best defined as a "planned, strategic job pause." Whether paid or unpaid, the intent is for an employee to take a break from his usual routine for a month or longer. The time can be spent doing research, volunteering, learning a new skill, or in other pursuits.

yourSABBATICAL offers the following five reasons why, in light of the present economic turmoil, companies might consider giving sabbatical programs a second glance:

1. Perhaps the most obvious benefit—in the case of unpaid sabbaticals, companies can achieve immediate cost savings while circumventing layoffs. A win-win situation, if ever there was one.

2. A recession should never be a pretext for companies to ignore programs that motivate and engage employees. Doing so can only damage their talent pool, and will come back to haunt them when the economy improves.

3. Unlike flex time programs, a sabbatical is lengthy enough for employees to truly "rejuvenate" themselves. Suitably recharged, they'll hit the ground running upon their return, putting forth their most innovative ideas when you’ll need them most.

4. Even in a weak economy, businesses are still competing for talent. You may not be able to offer pay raises, but what you certainly can offer is time.

5. Remember, employees have long memories. Treat them well in tough times, and you’ll be repaid handsomely in long-term loyalty.

Note: For more on incentive strategies, read "Fast-track Motivation: Makana Motivator Case Study."