"...Our absenteeism has been rising and it is now about 15%. We have tried many things to solve this absenteeism problem but in our limited labor market we cannot afford to terminate offenders. What can you suggest we do to bring it down to 5% or less?" A.H., North Carolina
THE INDUSTRY ADVISOR
THE SECRETS TO REDUCING
ABSENTEEISM TO 3% OR LESS
Gene Levine - www.genelevine.com
Since absenteeism is a major barometer of employee morale, absenteeism above 5% per week is very serious (3% is the standard goal of industry). Left unchecked, high absenteeism usually develops into very serious business problems including morale issues and high turnover.
To reduce absenteeism, first check the percentage of employee absenteeism by supervisor. Usually absenteeism is localized to one or two supervisors. If you find the absenteeism equal throughout your business then look to other things for the solution. If it is localized then the answer is obvious under-trained supervisors. While you're looking at the absenteeism figures note if any excessive portion is caused by new employees. If it is, you might need to update your hiring procedure to ensure you only hire dependable people.
Next you need to look at absenteeism a little more closely, in terms of the principal reason given for it sickness. Is any part of this type of absenteeism avoidable?
Sometimes employees call in sick when they really do not want to go to work. They would not call you up and say, "Im not coming in today because my supervisor abuses me." Or, "Im not coming in today because my chair is uncomfortable" Or, "Im not coming in today because the bathrooms are so filthy, it makes me sick to walk into them."
The answer to eliminate those types of absentees is to develop an effective program that strikes at the core of the issues. Our Manual for Reducing And Controlling Absenteeism and Labor Turnover is a good place to begin.
Any program intended to cut down on absenteeism has to move along two parallel paths. For example:
1. Find the causes of worker discontent and eliminate them.
If workers find their supervisor or job unpleasant - really unpleasant - the worker looks for legitimate excuses to stay home and finds them with upset stomachs, splitting headaches, aching wrists, etc. Any effective absentee control program has to locate the causes of worker discontent and modify them or eliminate them entirely. In other words, if we deal with the real reasons workers stay home it becomes unnecessary for them to look for those sickness excuses they actually use.
2. Change the workers way of reacting and responding to discontent.
Well, what are the real causes for worker discontent? To find out, there was a landmark absenteeism survey taken where questionnaires were sent to 3,000 workers in 18 companies. The workers were asked to answer five questions relative to their employment. Answers were put alongside their absentee records and their answer to a sixth question. "How many days of work did you miss during the past twelve months?" With this comparison, it became apparent that there were some fascinating correlations between types of worker discontent and rates of absenteeism. Is the employee who thinks they are underpaid more likely to miss a day here and there than the employee who cant stand their supervisor? Or is it the other way around?
Question #1: Are you paid enough for the work you do?
The answers revealed that there was no apparent connection between the absenteeism and pay. Many workers who said they were satisfied with their pay, had poor attendance records. Many others who said they were underpaid, were never absent.
Question #2: Do you feel overworked?
Surprisingly, again there was no apparent connection. Usually the thinking is that the employee that feels they are being overworked, would feel they were entitled to an occasional day off and they would call in sick. But it doesnt seem to work that way. Thats the assumption that was sought, but was not found. So it appears we can be sure its just not there.
Question #3: How do you feel about your company?
Here that indefinable thing called "company image" was questioned (I.E., Are you proud of your company? Do you think it offers appropriate opportunities for advancement? etc.).
Everyone was given five answers to choose from . . . excellent, good, fair, not so good or very poor. There were a large number of responses to each question. In each group, there were workers who were absent too often, others whose attendance was all right and others who went for years without missing a day. Once again, no connection at all.
Question #4: How do you rate your working conditions?
We are talking about the actual physical working conditions at work . . . heat, light, air conditioning, etc.
In the answers to this question and to the one that follows, there was a dramatic switch over from the answers to the first three. These answers clearly reveal the strongest, most often overlooked causes of absenteesim and provide you with a solution springboard.
Here then are the REAL causes and cures . . .
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