09:47 AM

Authentic leaders support employees’ passions outside the workplace

By Mark Berven, President and Chief Operating Officer, Property & Casualty

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 1.8 jobs for every person unemployed in the month of February. No matter what you choose to call it great resignation, great reprioritization or something else there’s no doubt your employees have options today. One strategy an authentic leader can use to retain associates is to provide flexibility that supports their passions outside the workplace.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, To Retain Employees, Support Their Passions Outside Work, the authors conducted research that suggests being flexible and supportive of associates in this way will make it easier for them to stay. The authors also suggested associates need to know they shouldn’t feel guilty about leaving work or wonder whether doing so would jeopardize their performance reviews.

One example shared in the article was about a father who always wanted to be a soccer coach for his daughter’s team, but practice took place during his scheduled work time. The father asked his supervisor for some flexibility and his leader committed to making sure he could leave early on specific days in exchange for coming in earlier. Importantly, the leader also encouraged other people on his team to request planned time off to pursue non-work interests, as well. I’m willing to bet the father in this example wasn’t actively looking for another job.

The authors’ example reminded me of my own experience earlier in my career at Nationwide. My son played in a travel hockey league that meant he would be playing at different times and sometimes far from home. Nationwide provided me the flexibility to adjust my schedule and attend many of his games and still get my work done and this happened long before our current work-from-home environment had taken hold. I can tell you I appreciated being able to have those experiences with him and there’s no doubt it helped strengthen my commitment to the company.

I’m also proud that, for many years, we’ve given our associates the time and resources needed to support their charitable passions, as well, including providing paid time off for volunteering and matching the financial contributions associates make to the organizations they care about.

The HBR article also addressed concerns leaders may have about a reduction in performance. The authors say there is no support for the idea that competing passions weaken work performance. In fact, they said research suggests that people who have a side hustle perform better at their main job.

The article also reminds leaders to reinforce the fact that flexible schedules aren’t just for the musts of life, like picking up children from school or daycare. This flexibility can and should also be used for the wants of life, including supporting the things your associates are passionate about, whether it’s a child’s sport or a charitable organization.

Authentic leaders can take advantage of this strategy by listening to understand what’s important to their associates. Knowing where their associates’ passions lie is the first step in fully supporting them.