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Letter to Leaders & Swenson Insights

Absenteeism in the Workplace

But let’s start with the ones I do agree with:

– You can make a difference. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to set an example and make sure you set expectations as well.

– Leading by example. I once worked for a boss who believed he should be the first one in the office at least twice a week, and the last to leave at least twice a week.

– Create a bank of personal time days. In the HR world, this is called “Paid Time Off” or “PTO”. PTO combines vacation, sick and any personal days an employee is eligible for. When they call in sick, or request a vacation, it is charged to PTO – so it doesn’t matter why they’re off; they’re just off. And when that bank of days is exhausted, they can still be absent – they’re just not paid for that time off.

Here’s where I disagree with Ms. Sunken:

Let your employees know you care about them. While this is important for morale, it’s not relevent to absenteeism. If you care about your employees AND they care about their job, they’ll be there.

Emphasize the link between attendance and productivity. It seems to me that employees who are frequently absent simply don’t care about productivity (or their jobs, for that matter). Explaining the importance of productivity likely will not result in improved attendance.

Job Enrichment. Why would you go to the trouble of cross-training and developing an employee who doesn’t care enough to show up?

Prize Pool [for punctuality and attendance]. Many companies do this, and I’m frankly opposed to it. Attendance is a minimum expectation of employment. I do not believe in rewarding anyone for something they’re expected to do. (However, rewards for exceptional performance are something I highly encourage).

Setting the expectation is critical. This should be emphasized in the job interview, supported in a written job description, and addressed immediately when there is a pattern of absences or tardiness.

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