Minimising Absence Top Tips
Because absence costs your organisation money
1 Make Attendance a business or team priority
Get commitment from the top. Understand what absence means in context for your organisation and services.
Do you know what absence costs, what impact it has on your services? To your customers? On your bottom line?
Have clear and effective Absence Management and other people management policies and make sure these are communicated and understood. Create an effective absence / attendance policy and communicate it. Brief Managers and Employees on it; cover it at induction and local team meetings.
It is for everyone to TAKE OWNERSHIP – WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE FOR OUR OWN HEALTH AND WELL-BEING.
2 Record and Measure absence – information and trends.
Organisations and teams need to know what is happening. Without records there is no benchmark, things can drift along. With good information managers can track attendance and trends and reasons for absence and consider actions to address it.
How is the organisation doing, compared to last year, other sector employers, by Department, Division or team? Do you know? And how is this reported and reviewed at the right levels in the organisation.
3 Work Role and clarity of objectives
Employees need well-defined job roles, challenging but realistic targets, and support and training to help them achieve these targets.
Establish effective performance appraisal / management processes in place, to align team and individual objectives to your business vision.
Develop the means to review roles and objectives, to have annual reviews, and one-to-one meetings so that employees know how they are getting on.
Employees need to know what they are supposed to do, how they should do it, and be trained in doing what is expected from them.
4 Early intervention and communication and developing Manager Skills
CIPD research reveals that some of the most successful tools in reducing employee absence are an early intervention by line managers and good communication.
This effective communication can help to identify underlying causes of absence. A large part of managing absence is about ensuring that staff can raise issues that may be troubling them at an early stage so that they can be addressed before they escalate.
5 Develop empowered, effective and skilled line managers – think about developing coaching approaches.
Line managers take primary responsibility for managing absence in the majority of organisations. Train and support line managers. Build their capability, skills and confidence in their people management and communication skills. Build their ability to have the sensitive and difficult conversations, including the return to work interview, sensitively, constructively and in a timely way. These skills and the confidence it will develop will carry over into all of their work. Providing adequate training and ongoing support also sends a clear message regarding the significance of absence to the organisation.
6 Return to work arrangements – Return to Work Interview
The return to work interview following absence has been shown to be one of the most effective tools in reducing absence, but managers must be supported and given the right skills to carry these out to maximise consistency and effectiveness.
It is important that employers – that is line managers with support from HR and other appropriate sources – support employees with effective well managed and positive return-to-work programmes as part of their absence management strategy. It is also important that employers remember that most absence is genuine that and employees often need support in their recovery.
There are four typical elements in the recovery and return-to-work process:
- Keeping in contact with sick employees. This should be done in a supportive way. Let them know that they are missed and ask how you can help?
- Planning and undertaking workplace controls or adjustments.
- Using professional advice and treatment.
- Carrying out a return to work interview after every absence and planning and co-ordinating a return-to-work plan.
7 Have a Positive Working Environment and Working Conditions
Effective absence management is also about creating work environments where employees are less likely to wake up and think ‘I don’t feel like going in to work today’. This is about managers and leaders creating the working environment and culture in which their teams work. If there is a supportive culture, people will come to work.
Carry out workplace assessments, risk assessments, consider reasonable adjustments in the workplace. Give people the right training and tools / equipment with which to do their jobs.
Build the team; get to know them and how they work.
And HAVE SOME FUN! You all know how this can be achieved…….. Dress down days, have a charity day, a themed day at work……and you can be more creative than this!
8 Well-being culture – Organisational and Employee Support arrangements
This is about pro-active absence management. A focus on employee support and well-being can be an effective way to avoid absence problems developing and provide support the organisation and them when absences arise. Consider developing a stress management policy and engage the workforce in developing and celebrating a culture of well-being. Establish health promotions. Consider support for the organisation, managers and employees; for example, from the following;
- Employee Assistance Programmes
- Counselling Services
- Access to Physiotherapy Services
Within an organisation occupational health must work closely with those in HR and those responsible for health and safety. It is important that line managers feel able to approach the occupational health adviser to discuss any concerns and issues. Occupational health services can be used to assist organisations in managing absence situations and in supporting well-being promotions in the workplace. The opinion of an occupational health specialist might be crucial in determining how to manage a capability issue, or as key evidence in a claim to an employment tribunal.
9 Manage change effectively and engage your employees.
Engagement levels can be predictors of sickness absence, with more highly engaged employees taking an average of 2.7 days per year, compared with disengaged employees taking an average of 6.2 days per year. (Gallup). Lots of organisations are going through change, reduction in size, merger, having to achieve efficiencies, changing “the way we do things around here”. All of this can have an impact on employee morale, confidence, and engagement. So, think about how you engage with employees and think, amongst a range of other things, about;
- Your internal communications,
- Job role, requirement s and satisfaction, and people / performance management arrangements
- Learning and development
- Reward and recognition approaches
- Employee support programmes.
Establish a culture where contributions of employees are valued. Celebrate attendance. Consider recognition or reward approaches for great attendance – certificates, lunch and presentation, additional time off as a reward, more flexible benefit options.
10 Promote flexible working opportunities
A third of organisations report that home/family responsibilities are in the top five most common causes of absence. Demographic changes to the population mean that an increasing proportion of the workforce have responsibilities as carers and organisations will need to address their needs through appropriate, and flexible, working arrangements. ‘Illegitimate absence’ and stress can also be reduced through serious commitment to flexible working.