Poor attendance and sick leave abuse are two expensive problems that often reflect an underlying ailment in workplace culture. Of course you’d like your employees to take attendance seriously, especially if our business is driven by deadlines and customer service. And ideally, you’d like your employees to bring the same competitive spirit and enthusiasm to their attendance records that they bring to every other aspect of their jobs. But high attendance is usually a general reflection of morale, that mysterious element that supports a productive social and cultural environment, and morale issues are a management responsibility. You simply can’t force people to want things, and you can’t bully people into showing up cheerfully when they’d rather take a mental health day.
Start by obtaining clear numbers. Exactly how bad is your attendance problem? Gather your attendance records together and thoroughly review them. Are your absentee rates higher than those of similar industries during similar times of the year? If not, they could still be better. And if so, you have a problem. The following tips can help you set things straight.
First, begin paying closer attention. Have your managers keep an eye out for patterns. You don’t need to introduce disciplinary measures or record every late entry or early exit in a formal file, but make note of who’s coming and going and when.
Take a closer look at the positions of the worst offenders. Do some of these positions need to be restructured or arranged in a new way that keeps them fresh and challenging? Employees want to be elsewhere when they’re bored or have lost their passion. If they’re chronically bored and passionless, something about their jobs may need to change.
Find out if something else is affecting attendance, and if so, address the problem at the source. Are employees running to catch the train that leaves at 4:50, because the next one doesn’t leave until 6:00? Are they taking advantage of a loose record keeping system? Are they trying to beat rush hour gridlock? Try increasing your flexibility. Let train commuters come in at 10:00, so they can work a full day and leave at 6:00. Let drivers avoid rush hour by occasionally working at home.
Finally, start looking for ways to reward excellent attendance records. Don’t punish; Punishing absenteeism will only make the problem get worse and the offenders get sneakier. Instead, develop financial incentives or provide public recognition for those with the best attendance records. Make sure the rewards you offer have an appealing place in your company culture.