Not sure that any company has completely conquered this issue of excessive absenteeism & it truly remains a major impediment to maximizing an organization’s ability to properly service its customers, get the optimal financial results & increase overall employee satisfaction.
There are a few different approaches to this situation.
Encouraging your people to be proactive by visiting their doctor for a regular physical, joining a health club or regularly visiting the on-site facility, eating healthy, getting their annual flu vaccination (Yes, I fully realize that some people are dead set against all vaccines.) & improving their overall health lifestyle is always a positive thing to do.
But, then again, “calling in sick” does not necessarily mean that the emloyee’s really ill or unable to come into work. I studied the absenteeism patterns of all the different organizations for which I worked.
It was no surprise whatsoever that Monday was, by far, the day with the highest absenteeism rate. That was followed by Friday, then Tuesday, Thursday & Wednesday were lumped together.
I seriously doubt that there’s actually a Monday flu (or Monday fever or Monday upset stomach, for that matter)!
What to do?
When I ran a Customer Service organization back in NY (before FMLA, before cell phones, etc.), whenever we received a sick call in the morning, we would ask the employee if it was OK for us to call them in a few hours to see if they were still feeling sick.
If their tummy got better, they were welcome to come in late & start their shift. We would adjust their schedule accordingly for that day & they would have neither an absence nor a tardy on their record.
That worked very well back then, especially since we could only call their home number. And I know you cannot ask any questions when someone wants an FMLA day. And God only knows how HR would even feel about this practice today.
But here’s a procedure you can implement immediately…
Whenever an employee returns from a sick day (or days or a leave), they have a discussion with their immediate supervisor as soon as they come in. The supervisor reviews the employee’s attendance for the past 3, 6, 12 months, paying strict attention to the company’s policy on what is considered excess absenteeism.
It could be “I think you need to be careful as you’re very close to getting a verbal warning” or “This is your first absence in the past year. While not perfect, you’re still doing a great job. Thank you!”
I’ve always hated when I’d see other managers in the company putting someone on “formal documentation” (“You’re officially in deep trouble now!”) or even fire them…and they’ve had dozens of absences!
Where were you after the 1st absence? The 3rd? The 6th? If you’re not on top of the situation (and that includes not thanking those who’ve performed well), well then, employees will feel that it’s OK to abuse (or further abuse) the policy.
Reinforcing positive behavior can be just as beneficial & rewarding as trying to correct abuse.
Managers need to review the employee’s record with every absence or tardy. And a quick, semi-annual review will also help identify your top performers in this area.
A simple, hand-written congratulatory note (from both the manager as well as the VP), personally delivered, would go a very long way to making your people feel appreciated for what they do for you regularly!
And, hopefully, keeping a close eye on things & having a short conversation after every occurrence will greatly help curb abuse.
(FYI, my Customer Service Unit experienced a <3% absenteeism rate for 5 consecutive years & all my units in San Antonio had the best rates in the entire organization. And not surprisingly, we also had the highest employee retention rate (the lowest attrition rate) in the entire business.)
It’s not magic…you just have to be on top of things. When an employee is out today, make a small note for yourself in tomorrow’s calendar.
Oh, one more thing…lead by example!