Author: Mark Thomas Walters
To deal with the issue of employee absenteeism, it is necessary to look beyond the surface of the issue, as there is no quick fix to the problem.
Firstly, punitive measures are unlikely to work because there is always a way around them. Even if they appear to work with some, workers pressured to attend work are absent in spirit. Either way, it is a lose-lose strategy because such an approach create a negative environment which can make the workplace seem like a prison, thus even further motivating them to seek ways of escaping.
So, what is the fist step to resolving the problem? Evaluate the style, or styles, of management being used. Management styles that are too authoritarian normally result in high levels of absenteeism among employees. Managers in this category are those who have poor listening skills, set unachievable goals, have poor communication skills, and are inflexible. In real terms, they shout too much, blame others for problems, and make those around them feel insignificant.
By identifying managers who manage in this style, and providing them with management training, you will be taking a huge, positive step towards reducing absenteeism. Problematic managers should receive training on how to build supportive, trusting relationships with those working under them, so as to increase the likelihood of open, two-way communication. Then, it is a matter of holding regular individual meetings to gain an understanding of how workers regard their jobs, and what is important to them. Focused attention like this in itself will foster a good level of loyalty from them.
Having done that, managers need to find ways to increase levels of commitment. This can be achieved by giving more responsibility, adding interesting tasks to their work day, seeking their input and ideas, and praising them regularly for desirable actions. All such engagement must be done at regular meetings, both individually and in teams, as unscheduled attention will too easily drift into never.
At the first sign of an attendance problem arising with a particular employee, you should explain how absenteeism can have a negative impact on the quality of their work, the morale of co-workers, and the economic success and continued life of the company. If absenteeism continues, document in a warning letter the dates and times of the absences, and the dates the person has been previously counseled. Inform the employee that continued absences might lead to further disciplinary action, up to and including termination.
To maximize results, focus should be given where there is the greatest likelihood of a good return on time and effort. Employees should therefore be assigned to one of three categories, those with legitimate reasons to be absent, long standing problem employees, and those who responded best to other changes implemented in the past.
Employees showing themselves to be most responsive at the beginning of an anti-absenteeism drive need to be shown most attention. As for those who do not respond at all, unless they are essential, or very hard to replace, there may be no other option but to find replacements who are more interested in making a commitment.
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