Improve the Employee Leave Experience by Training Your Managers
By Anna Steffeney
More employers are using family-friendly benefits such as paid family leave to improve their success with talent retention. But these benefits do not operate in a vacuum; their impact on retention may be nominal without supportive supervisors.
Management is on the frontline when it comes to family leave requests and are an important first step in the process. How the manager responds to this request and the employee’s situation can have significant implications for your organization, legally and otherwise. In this column, we will look at the challenges managers face and the considerations for effective manager training programs.
According to the Job Satisfaction and Engagement research report, the relationship with the supervisor is a very important factor affecting employee job satisfaction.1 Research shows this relationship is dependent on the levels of mutual trust, respect, and affinity between supervisor and employee, and that family-supportive supervision leads to higher-quality relationships.2
For a manager, it can be difficult to find the time and resources needed to appropriately address the employee leave experience. Additionally, family leave laws and company benefits are changing rapidly, making a once-a-year or even a once-a-quarter training session inadequate. Even well-intentioned managers may do or say the wrong thing when an employee requests a leave of absence. It is important to empower the manager with the resources needed to support their employees and accurately represent the values of the company.
As Jeff Nowak advises in his employment law blog, FMLA Insights:3
“Do yourself a huge favor as you prepare your budgets this year: include a line item for manager FMLA/ADA training. If you spend the $2K now to train your managers, you’ll likely save $1.2 million.”
The changing regulatory environment surrounding leave regulation and the increasing complexity of benefit utilization is fueling the need to educate managers more frequently. By providing small bursts of information asynchronously and on-demand, content is easily digested at the manager’s convenience and easily accessible to managers when their employees disclose medical or disability-related information. This type of training can help prevent or mitigate manager violations and ensure compliance with Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) laws, regulations, and policies.
When I established LeaveLogic, I knew that one of the key obstacles to a successful leave of absence program is often the challenge of implementing frequent and mandatory training programs. It’s not enough simply to inform managers about the leave management process. It’s necessary to address the conscious or unconscious bias among managers about family leave and flexible work that can lead to discriminatory behavior.
The obligation to train managers effectively and provide best practices for responding to leaves of absence is not an easy task, but it is critical to ensuring a consistently positive employee leave experience. In our next column, we will look at manager training best practices and what a just-in-time training program looks like.
- Society for Human Resource Management. April 2016. Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Research Report. Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/trends-and-forecasting/research-and-surveys/pages/job-satisfaction-and-engagement-report-revitalizing-changing-workforce.aspx.
- Bagger J, Li A. (2014). How Does Supervisory Family Support Influence Employees’ Attitudes and Behaviors? A Social Exchange Perspective. Journal of Management, 40, 1123-1149.
- Nowak, Jeff. “Why Must Employers Train Their Managers About the FMLA? Here are 1.2 Million Reasons Why.” FMLA Insights. January 31, 2013. Retrieved from http://www.fmlainsights.com/why-must-employers-train-their-managers-about-the-fmla-here-are-12-million-reasons-why/.