More and more organisations are giving their employees the space and time to pursue their projects with a social cause.
Pranjal Dubey, a development manager at Sap Labs, has not gone to work in two years but is still an employee of the company. Dubey, who handles the technology team and projects for Asia Pacific and Japan, applied for a sabbatical in 2010 to launch the Sant Singaji Educational Society in his ancestral village in Madhya Pradesh.
Sap Labs has stood by Dubey in his dream to improve socio-economic conditions of youth in the village. The organisation typically offers sabbaticals from three months to two years, but Dubey plans to extend his sabbatical by another year to make his project self-sustainable. Companies like Sap Labs are re-defining sabbaticals by encouraging employees who use them for the greater good.
Sabbaticals are usually longleave periods granted to employees for personal exigencies or educational pursuits. Some companies, especially in the IT sector, are increasingly using sabbaticals to retain top talent, says Kaustubh Sonalkar, director of the people and change practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers. “The practice, prevalent abroad, is catching up in India,” he says.
Encouraging employees through sabbaticals helps in stemming attrition rates and the career rut that typically sets in after a few years. “Allowing employees to engage in social projects outside of work helps in organisational brand-building and gives employees a sense of purpose and achievement,” adds Sonalkar.
Organisations like Infosys also encourage employees to pursue sabbaticals for societal benefit apart from pursuing higher education and personal reasons. Under the community empathy policy, the company gives employees monetary support and a platform to involve themselves in development projects. Employees have the option of returning to regular work schedules after completing projects of up to a year.
“Those who return from a sabbatical display a broadened perspective of social issues and causes,” says Richard Lobo, AVP and head of employee relations at Infosys. This renewed understanding of macro issues also makes employees more productive and innovative, he adds.
About 50 employees have availed of the policy since its inception in 2008. Mohan Kadapure, a technical lead at Infosys, is one of them. This year, Kadapure applied for a sabbatical to work with Bangalore-based NGO Janaagraha to understand the different aspects of public policy.
“From being focussed on solving business problems of technical clients, the sabbatical enabled me to do my bit to improve government processes,” he says. Kadapure worked on public records of operations and finance at Janaagraha and helped compile a first-of-its-kind study, which will be released this year.
Companies are also looking at ways to keep employees engaged, post-sabbaticals. Maruti Suzuki is revising its sabbatical policy to make it more employee-friendly. Specifically, it is working on redefining the benefits of joining, post-sabbaticals. The idea is to align it to the aspirations of young talent – over 400 engineers and MBAs joining them every year – says SY Siddiqui, COO (administration) at the company.
As for the employees, sabbaticals offer greater motivation to influence change on the ground. Sap Labs’ Dubey, for instance, has additionally launched the Sant Singaji Institute of Science and Management, which provides vocation-oriented graduate degree programmes for making young people employable in and around his village of Sandalpur. Dubey’s dreams have taken on a much larger dimension, and he says it would have not been possible without his company’s support.
“Not only did I get considerable encouragement for my sabbatical, but my institute also benefitted through the CSR division of SAP, which starts computer labs in economically backward places,” he says.
SOURCE: The Times of India