I am currently experiencing high levels of sick leave in my team with some approaching their limit. This is having negative impact on our results. How can I resolve this?

In New Zealand, employees are entitled to five days sick leave per annum after six months continuous employment. This can be accumulated annually up to maximum of 20 days. If an employee uses more than their balance of sick leave an employer cannot insist they take annual leave instead. Employees are entitled to three weeks annual leave (four weeks after 1 April 2007) and this is their statutory entitlement and cannot be used for other purposes.
So, when you experience high levels of sick leave, what started as problem around lost performance can develop into concern about how you pay for the downtime. The key thing is to identify what is actually happening. People generally take more sick leave than casual observer would think: colds, toothaches and the occasional injury.
So, first of all make sure that you are not overreacting. Assuming you are not, look at the timing of the sick leave being taken. Is it mainly on Fridays or Mondays? If it is, then it is more likely that the sick leave is connected to the person’s lifestyle rather than work and you need to discuss this pattern with them. This is perhaps performance management rather than sickness issue.
If this isn’t the case, consider whether it is health or work environment concern. People are often very reticent to let their employer know they are ill, particularly if it is serious illness. They fear, often quite rightly, that this will have an impact on the way their employer treats them and their opportunity for growth in the organisation. However, you need to talk with the employee and gain their trust so that you can both support them and manage the situation effectively for your business.
If it is not direct health issue, you need to assess if it is due to work pressure, problem with colleagues, or whether the problem is in fact you as the manager. One of the most common reasons why people leave is an inability to work with their manager. Again, you should be able to identify these issues by talking directly with the individual.
Handling excessive sick leave can be challenging for both the person taking the leave and the manager. However, if you don’t address this head on, you may be ignoring critical warning signal in your organisation.

I manage fairly small business employing 20 people. It has been in existence for five years and is going well. I don’t have any real management training but feel confident that I have not been making too many mistakes. good friend has recently advised me that I need to put more effort into strategic planning. However, I don’t want to overlay bureaucratic management systems as I feel this would stifle our current innovation and flexibility. What should I do?

AAround 90 percent of New Zealand companies have 20 people or less and they often think certain management practices are solely for large organisations and only add bureaucracy. Strategic planning falls into this area. However, if you are going to survive and grow in the long term you need long-term forward plan that everyone in the organisation can share. This plan creates vision and direction for everyone and enables people to align what they do with the desired strategic outcomes. It also enables them to better understand how they can contribute and gives them the ability to be innovative and to engage effectively.
So strategic plan is very important part of your management toolbox. It sets the long-term direction while your annual business plan and budget act as the tactical plan for achieving the overall strategy year-on-year.
It’s not hard to build strategic plan. You need to identify number of things. First, your “vision” – which is purely word picture of the anticipated future for your organisation. Second your “mission” – which describes what the organisation will do to achieve the vision. The mission is then broken down into “goals” – the specific things you need to achieve to complete the mission. Finally, goals are broken down into “tasks” – the individual pieces of work that each person will do to contribute to the overall plan.
You don’t need to go overboard. Just hold meeting of the people you consider key to the future of the organisation and discuss which things are working – or not working – well for your organisation. Then consider what your long-term opportunities may be and identify any threats in your environment. Your plan doesn’t need to be perfect. It just needs to capture the experience and thinking of the group. People will be able to identify potential future situations that the organisation may experience and you will be able to plan ahead for your continued success.

• Kevin Gaunt, FNZIM, FAIM, is CEO of NZIM Auckland and has been senior executive with, and consultant to, some of New Zealand’s largest companies.

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