How to deal with continuing absenteeism

About 10 percent of staff account for 50 percent or more of total absenteeism. Employees who continually let the team down by not turning up for work can cause real problems for management. Over time it affects morale, productivity and profits.
Many firms write it off as minor annoyance and don’t measure the real costs. Others recognise the real cost but become resigned to it.
Absenteeism is one of the most pervasive, persistent and challenging problems confronting organisations.
Here’s how you can deal with the problem.

1. Focus on interdependence
Research shows that the greater the reliance employees have on each other, the lower their absenteeism. People are less inclined to take time off if they know that workmates will be affected because of their actions. To foster interdependence, consider the following:
? Use work-teams to get staff involved.
? Involve staff in decisions on issues that affect them.
? Engage them in project-based activities that require group participation.
? Encourage them to tell you in advance when they’ll be absent.

2. Watch for the warning signs
Most staff have legitimate reasons for their absence. Others stay away because they feel their jobs lack challenge, or are just boring. By keeping in regular contact you can nip problems in the bud and take action.

3. Look for patterns
Errant employees are easily identified because their absenteeism often follows pattern. It may be that this coincides with major events or is tacked on to weekends. The person often phones with an excuse, but you find it increasingly difficult to believe the excuse that’s offered.

4. Keep accurate records
Maintain record of patterns of absence because that information will be essential if you choose to tackle the employee about the problem. Indeed, you will need such evidence to prove you didn’t discipline or terminate for discriminatory reasons.

5. Conduct post-absence interviews
Don’t let suspicious absences go by without an interview. Ask for second explanation of the absence and plant suspicion in the employee’s mind that you are sceptical of the excuse offered. More importantly, you want this discussion to convey the message that you are keeping an eye on the situation.

6. Support legitimate personal problems
Before deciding on disciplinary action, determine if the person is having personal problems Ñ family crisis, genuine illness, low self-esteem, or general wish to avoid problems at work, and so on. Show empathy for those who have genuine problem. Offer help which might include counselling, additional training, or even aid leave to deal with personal or domestic problem. Resolve the problem amicably and you’ll generate long-term benefits for everyone.
7. Meet formally with the employee and act decisively
If absenteeism doesn’t improve and you’re not convinced of the legitimacy, meet formally with the person and reveal the evidence. Do you discipline or terminate? Whatever the identified cause is, take firm action to eliminate or reduce the problem. If counselling or skills training is appropriate, schedule time straight away. If warning is called for, make sure you record that warning and notify the employee in writing. If possible, have the employee sign the letter. If stern action is required, don’t baulk at taking those steps either. Finally, feed the grapevine so that all employees become aware of management’s firm stance on unwarranted absenteeism.

8. Alsoe
Consider the following to improve attendance:
? Establish attendance standards and report to staff regularly.
? Reinforce the input poor attendance has on work, peers, the organisation, and the individual.
? Reward good performance.
? Make jobs more interesting.
? Counsel poor attendees Ñ absent-eeism is often the symptom of other problems.
? Consider flexible working hours, childcare centres, fitness programmes, accrued sick days, and incentives for good attendance.

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