Employee leave is a great opportunity to add to a healthy company culture.

When a key employee takes a leave of absence for whatever reason, it’s often tough on a company. Many turn to temp agencies to fill the gap, but as I discussed in a vintage post on my Inc. magazine column, there’s another way to handle an employee’s leave that can actually strengthen your company culture and create a stronger team.

“The easy response is to hire a temporary employee, but there’s a better way to deal with the situation: Use the challenge to strengthen your culture.”

As an example, when we had expectant mothers taking maternity leave at my storage company, CitiStorage, we always went out of our way to accommodate them. But instead of hiring a temporary worker to fill the void, we came together as a team to cover for our valued employees until they were ready to return to work. It was an easy decision to make, and not that hard to implement. Some of the strategies that we employed included:

  • Offering work from home opportunities for the employee on leave, even after she returns to work.
  • Discussing the extra work load as a team and tackle it as a team.
  • Using overtime pay to help with the increased work load, which saved us having to hire and train a temp.
  • Opening up training opportunities for interested employees to broaden their skills.

“In other words, we’d use the problem of being short-handed to generate esprit de corps and to show that we were looking out for everybody–not only the absent employees but also those who’d be covering for them.”

How you handle crises or problems says a lot about your company culture – the sum result of the various aspects that define the work environment. If you think creatively about how you can solve problems as a team, then “problems” transform into opportunities to create something great.

“Thorough preparation for employee absences is important, but remember that they offer a chance to implement a key rule of business: Never miss an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive.”

You can read my article in its original form at Inc. Magazine’s website.