Last year, I was asked to assist an organization develop a new attendance control program. They were a 24 / 7 operation with various departments. The facility had a three step progressive discipline performance management process that outlined specific actions based on a no fault point system. The time and attendance system monitored occurrences and the Human Resource Department ensured consistency in its application.
Despite this process, occurrences were still rising resulting in the normal business issues: reduced productivity, increased cost including overtime, declining quality and customer service, stress on teamwork and employee cooperation, etc. The client wanted a new program. I suggested a different approach.
Attendance is a result, i.e. an effect of some actions or causes. Their attendance control process was being properly employed. Improved attendance could only be attained if the root causes were identified and actions taken to minimize their impact. Each facility may have different results. In this particular case, we found the following:
- No communication had been given to the plant population regarding the issues caused by attendance. Employees were not engaged to assist. A formal announcement by the facility manager was made to focus all employees on the importance of regular attendance and results were posted monthly like production, quality and safety.
- As I began to study patterns within the facility, it was apparent that results varied greatly by shift and department with little correlation. This was not atypical to my experience when examining attendance data. My hypothesis was that supervisors are not well trained to manage attendance and that some naturally do a better job than others. A survey of supervisors revealed that none had ever received specific training on how to approach attendance control. Supervisory training was provided on how they could impact occurrences in their work group and absentee rates were included in their performance management metrics.
- We identified “high occurrence” employees, examined their length of service, capabilities for the assigned positions and types of absence. They represented about 15% of the employee population. 1/3 of this group had chronic health issues that could not be addressed. Each of the remaining were interviewed from a positive perspective of determining why they were an outliners. Cooperation was excellent. 75% of this group raised issues that could be successfully addressed. Several admitted that the work was not a good job match and accepted a small outplacement incentive.
As a result of the cause and effect approach to attendance control at this site, occurrences dropped. 53% by the end of the first year. Plant results improved as well, although it is difficult to correlate this directly to improved attendance. Disciplinary Time Off under the Attendance Control Program almost disappeared as employees knew that, if they were unhappy, they could accept the small outplacement incentive as an alternative.
Note, you might initially look at this as “expensive”. However, in terms of the management and supervisory time and disruption of having to terminate an employee through the disciplinary process, the stress a dissatisfied or unhappy employee places on the work team and the risk of potential litigation, it is a very cost effective and viable solution. The annual employee engagement score improved 6 percentage points.
If you would like to learn more about how a cause and effect approach to solving your workforce issues, please contact us at Treyburn Human Resources Group.
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