Nigel McPolin
Founder, etimes2 ltd

Absenteeism is a problem in many workplaces and is a huge drain on company resources.  It deprives a business of key talent and people needed to ensure company targets are achieved.  In fact, absenteeism costs UK business £16bn per annum.

Yet, many employers fail to see that absenteeism is often a symptom of factors other than illness.  They tend to focus instead on the policies and procedures governing absenteeism in the organisation.  They fail to properly identify the cause.

Many instances of absenteeism are caused by employees feeling disengaged at work.  This is less tangible than illness related absence.  As a result, absence management procedures are less likely to achieve a positive result.  So, what can you do about it?

  1. Discover what is driving disengagement

This requires more than the usual employee engagement survey.  Businesses should look to this type of discovery as an on-going process.  You should be continually asking employees about how they feel and whether they are disengaged.  You can also ask them why.

  1. What is happening at first and middle line management?

Employees have a voiceThere is an argument that people are not engaged or motivated by senior management or mission statements.  Personally, I tend to agree with this argument.  Employees are engaged, motivated or disengaged by what is closer to them.  This is why employee engagement data shows that the most significant influence on whether an employee is engaged or not is their line manager.

So, map your survey data back to teams and analyse what is happening within each team.  Then dig deeper to find out why.

  1. Have you hired ‘clever’ people?

Yes?  Every business sets out to recruit the best talent.  The next question you must answer is ‘what are you doing to ensure they can use and develop that cleverness for the benefit of your business?’  This will involve monitoring the impact of line management on your talent.  Are they enhancing the talent within their team?  Or, holding it back?

  1. Trust should be the default position

Trust is a major factor in employee engagement.  Employees who are trusted to use their skills and experience to solve problems will be more motivated and engaged.  Engaged employees can reduce absenteeism by up to 25%.

  1. Empower employees to become engaged

Each employee will experience the workplace in a slightly different way.  Each employee will want slightly different things from their work.  This means that a survey and follow-up action plan is always going to be too general to address each employees own specific engagement drivers.

Individual employees must share responsibility for their own engagement levels.  They must be empowered to contribute to the conditions that will drive their own personal sense of engagement.

  1. Make data intuitively actionable at all levels

Too often, engagement surveys actually try to measure too many things.  In my experience, they often end up containing items that are irrelevant.  Keep data gathering simple and continuous, providing feedback on actionable outcomes to all employees, teams and line managers.

  1. Map data back to ‘business data’ such as absenteeism and productivity

Why measure employee engagement if it is not being linked to ‘business data’?  It means little if we don’t have a look at the impact.  Is there a clear correlation between disengagement and absenteeism?  Do engaged employees actually perform better?  It builds the story of why people feel disengaged, the impact it is having while also enabling targeted questions to identify an appropriate solution.

What employee engagement initiatives will you run to reduce absenteeism?

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