Is your employee absence reporting too “casual”?

Is your employee absence reporting too “casual”?

Do you work at one of the 64% of organizations today that doesn’t track casual absences in an effective way? To help you answer that, first let me tell you what I mean by that:

  • Casual – absences involving employees who book off time incidentally, not because they’re on disability leave, but for reasons such as a brief illness, a death in the family, a lack of child/elder care, car trouble, and so on. 
  • Effective – the ability to track absences on a single or unified system that allows your organization to easily and rapidly analyze the data/results and make timely interventions with the employees involved.

So – with that understood, truthfully, are you part of the 64%?

Because if you are, you’re undermining your people strategy in four ways:

  1. You’re not getting useful insight into when and why people aren’t showing up for work. As a result, you may not identify patterns and issues in the workplace -- like excessive job stress, bullying, or team conflicts -- holding your organization back from achieving its goals.
  2. You won’t know when it is proper to intervene to support employees who need help before they reach a disability leave. If you don’t know that someone is absent because of persistent migraines, or symptoms of another chronic disease, like Crohn’s, or clinical depression, how can your Benefits program provide support in helping them be at work and doing their job productively? 
  3. You could be missing an opportunity to promote the right workplace values. In an organization where attention is paid to absenteeism, only a very small percentage of people will abuse their sick-leave privileges and they will be quickly identified and dealt with. However, if it is widely believed to be possible in your organization for people to draw down on their paid sick days without having to account for it -- or taking days off when they’re not sick! – the number of absent days will increase. And an “entitlement” culture can be created. That’s hard to change if it takes root.
  4. Being inconsistent in how you handle absences creates other problems. If one manager tracks absences with a spreadsheet and judges employee performance in part on their attendance record, and another doesn’t, you are creating a two-tiered or unbalanced performance management approach that leaves you open potentially to lawsuits.

A real-world example

To bring some of these issues to life, here’s a story for you:

Let’s go back a few years into the workforce of an organization that had an absence reporting process that worked like this: as an employee, you’d call into a scheduling dispatcher, tell them you’re booking off sick, and they’d say, thank you, have a good day, and hang up because they would now need to find someone to replace you so that operations would not be impacted. That’s it, basically. Their focus was on the operation, not the employee at all. 

Over a period of months, we worked with this organization to centralize its absenteeism tracking process by deploying a unified software system that featured built in workflow and real-time data analytics to identify absence patterns and to trigger follow-up activities with the employee, his or her manager, and when necessary, medical and other support professionals. 

In due course, we learned things that proved very useful. It became apparent that every year, on the last long weekend in August, there’d be a surge of absences that caused scheduling problems with their operation, with a corresponding increase in customer service complaints. With this information in hand, the organization made changes to mitigate the problem.

Beyond that, the organization overall started to better understand why some people were not coming into work, providing new opportunities for early intervention in support of the goal of a healthier, more accountable workforce. One year after we established a benchmark for their annual costs of absence, the organization dropped those costs by some 31% against a baseline of $4 million. This has remained consistent to this day, years later. That’s real ROI.

Summing up 

Too many organizations today take a casual approach to casual absences – most don’t track them at all, and of those that do, some don’t do it effectively. That’s often because managers are overwhelmed by the paperwork, the administrative burden. But it doesn’t have to be like this -- not with the automated solutions available today, built on the latest digital and mobile technologies, driving a new wave of innovation in absence reporting. Maybe it’s time you checked out an absence reporting solution for yourself.

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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