Absence Management: 4 Critical Success Factors

Absence Management: 4 Critical Success Factors

Not long ago I was meeting with a potential client – the administrators of a hospital – when I learned that they get their data on employee absences only six months after the fact.

Think about a hospital – one of the most important institutions in society – not having up-to-date reports on the attendance patterns of doctors, nurses, specialists and other staff. Wouldn’t this data be essential in evaluating patient care levels and whether any problems are taking shape?

From an employer’s perspective, if you don’t know in a timely and accurate manner who’s at work and who isn’t, and when or why they’re away, you’re taking risks that could compromise the mission of your organization. It is well-established HR logic that line-of-sight concerning your people is a critical success factor.

Problem is that even today 60+% of Canadian organizations don’t track absences. Or admit to doing so poorly, in a fragmented, manual (and therefore error-prone) way - where access to data is far from instant. This owes much to the old-fashioned idea that there’s nothing to be done about absences, that they can’t be controlled and are simply the cost of doing business.

Slowly, that perception is changing. What’s helping is the emergence of modern digital capabilities that now make the reporting, tracking and analysis of absence data much easier, faster and more accurate than ever. And with that data, organizations are now beginning to appreciate that there are strategies available to reduce both the incidence and duration of absences in ways to positively affect employee health and engagement as well as the bottom line, like lowering your cost structure or improving customer service levels.

When it comes to attendance or absence management, achieving best practices does involve a journey of organizational growth that begins with a change in attitude that in turn can lead to changes in strategies, process and systems. Here are four success factors in that journey.

  1. Adopt one consistent process across your organization for reporting, tracking and analyzing absence patterns. In essence, you need to attack the challenge strategically.
  2. Deploy one centralized digital platform, linking all program stakeholders wherever they are, to enable the accurate, rapid, accessible, up-to-the minute data about absence, trends, and opportunities Come into the digital age if you haven’t already!
  3. Be committed to governance – absence is a strategic organizational input requiring diligent management towards continuous improvement. It’s not enough to launch a new process or approach and assume it will sail to success on its own. It needs careful direction, especially when organizations go through hard times (like a downsizing).
  4. Where possible, integrate all your employee health and wellness programs so that data and resources can be cost-effectively shared between them.  In doing this, you have an opportunity to develop a more holistic view of the support needs of your people while cost-optimizing all administrative functions to meet those needs.

These success factors can change things for the good in your organization if you haven’t already adopted a similar approach.

A real-world example

As an example, one large client of ours had a policy of allowing employees to make a single phone call to report an absence that could extend for several days, without checking in again. Through program governance, including consultation with the business areas and unions, it became apparent that some employees were taking advantage of the policy, booking multiple days off to the program maximum with a single call.

So a change in policy was recommended and endorsed by all stakeholders, requiring employees to call in daily for the full duration of their absence. The outcome, based on access to real-time data, did materially contribute to a lower incidence of absence because of the higher threshold involved and enhanced employee accountability.

We’ve all heard the expression, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” The issue is, what does your organization know? And does it need to know more?

For a complete view of absence and disability management strategy and best practices, download our free eBook, Best practices in absence & disability management.

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