Keep keen eye on em­ployee at­ten­dance Su­per­vi­sors need full sup­port of man­ange­ment, proper train­ing to man­age ab­sen­teeism

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - CAREERS - COLLEEN COATES

IT’S five to nine in the morn­ing when the phone rings. Be­fore the su­per­vi­sor an­swers it, they in­stinc­tively look around and take a head count. Who’s call­ing in sick today?

Whether they want to or not, the re­spon­si­bil­ity for mon­i­tor­ing em­ployee ab­sences falls to im­me­di­ate su­per­vi­sors, who are of­ten the only ones aware when an in­di­vid­ual is away from work. They have a good un­der­stand­ing of their staff mem­bers’ work habits and are of­ten em­pa­thetic to any ex­ten­u­at­ing cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing an in­di­vid­ual’s ab­sence. This also puts them in a po­si­tion to iden­tify pat­terns of ab­sence and flag po­ten­tial abuses of the sys­tem.

Be­cause of this, it is im­por­tant that su­per­vi­sors re­ceive proper train­ing in man­ag­ing ab­sen­teeism rather than leav­ing them to carry out the un­en­vi­able task of iden­ti­fy­ing, con­fronting and re­solv­ing any per­for­mance or be­hav­iour is­sues on their own. Con­sid­er­ing that it is now es­ti­mated that al­most two out of three em­ploy­ees who don’t show up for work are not ac­tu­ally sick — this peo­ple mat­ter may be too large for any­one to han­dle alone.

First and fore­most, su­per­vi­sors should have the full sup­port of the se­nior man­age­ment team. This should in­clude work­ing together to de­velop and draft a suit­able at­ten­dance pol­icy. To be ef­fec­tive and pro­vide con­sis­tency, the pol­icy should out­line all ex­pec­ta­tions of em­ploy­ees, such as spec­i­fied hours of work, al­low­able break times, lunch pe­ri­ods and ex­cused ab­sences.

It also needs to in­clude the steps em­ploy­ees should take if they are go­ing to be late or ab­sent (e.g. call their first-point-of-con­tact su­per­vi­sor and plan to make up any work missed) as well as the dis­ci­plinary ac­tions the em­ployer may take if the em­ployee does not com­ply with pol­icy or if it is de­ter­mined they have abused their sick­time ben­e­fits.

Once an at­ten­dance pol­icy is in place, each su­per­vi­sor should en­sure that their staff mem­bers are fully aware of th­ese ex­pec­ta­tions and their re­spon­si­bil­ity to re­port to work on time and call in when they will be ab­sent or late. The or­ga­ni­za­tion can also sup­port su­per­vi­sors in en­forc­ing good at­ten­dance poli­cies and pro­ce­dures by:

Hir­ing with care — The im­por­tance of con­sis­tent at­ten­dance should be ad­dressed at the very first in­ter­view with job can­di­dates. When talk­ing to ref­er­ences, don’t shy away from ask­ing

about their pre­vi­ous at­ten­dance records.

Im­ple­ment­ing a warn­ing sys­tem — De­velop a sys­tem of track­ing at­ten­dance and iden­ti­fy­ing the high, medium and low risk em­ploy­ees.

Nip it in the bud — Just one un­war­ranted, un­ex­plained or un­jus­ti­fi­able ab­sence is a slip­pery slope; there­fore, it should not be tol­er­ated. If any­one fla­grantly vi­o­lates the rules, they should be dealt with im­me­di­ately and ac­cord­ing to pol­icy; oth­er­wise, ig­nor­ing such prob­lems af­fects the team and sends the wrong mes­sage that it’s OK to come in late, take ex­tended breaks or skip work al­to­gether.

Treat ev­ery­one the same — All em­ploy­ees need to be held to the same level of per­for­mance, both in terms of pro­duc­tiv­ity and at­ten­dance. For the pol­icy to be ef­fec­tive, it must be en­forced fairly and con­sis­tently.

Lead by ex­am­ple — Both su­per­vi­sors and man­agers should demon­strate ad­her­ence to the at­ten­dance pol­icy and set a pos­i­tive ex­am­ple for em­ploy­ees.

En­cour­age an open-door pol­icy — It is im­por­tant that em­ploy­ees feel com­fort­able talk­ing to their su­per­vi­sor about any per­sonal sit­u­a­tions that may af­fect their abil­ity to put in a full day’s work, be it a med­i­cal is­sue, a per­sonal prob­lem or a sched­ul­ing con­flict. On the flip side, su­per­vi­sors should be able to ex­press their con­cerns to an em­ployee who is ac­cu­mu­lat­ing a ques­tion­able num­ber of ab­sences. Together, they must work together to find a way to elim­i­nate the prob­lem be­fore it es­ca­lates.

Deal­ing with em­ployee at­ten­dance can be a time-con­sum­ing, un­pleas­ant task if left un­man­aged for too long. Deal­ing with at­ten­dance is­sues in a timely man­ner will save the or­ga­ni­za­tion time, money and a neg­a­tive im­pact on em­ployee morale.

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