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Meeting business goals can become difficult if no one shows up for work. Not only does poor attendance drain the morale of co-workers who must pick up the slack, but it also increases expenses and reduces productivity. Absenteeism ultimately affects your bottom line. The HR Professionals at Resourcing Edge have identified five actions that can help you identify and improve employee attendance.

According to, the average number of sick days taken in one year in the United States is 5.2 per employee. When that number is multiplied by your employee count it can become problematic not only to manage but to forecast goals.

1. Set Clear Expectations

  • Make your employees aware of attendance expectations, including call off procedures and how to request leave.
  • Ensure they are aware of the impact poor attendance can have on the company, including its effects on co-workers, customer service, and workload.
  • This information should be shared during the on-boarding process and communicated on a regular basis.
  • Clearly define expectations in your employee handbook.
  • Having a physical and electronic way for employees to reference will help limit the excuses of not knowing the details or misunderstanding the expectations.
  • Consistency is key when implementing and managing an effective attendance policy. Ensure you are treating all employees equally. If employees notice that someone else in a similar situation was treated differently, it can lead to a decline in morale and increased turnover rates.
  • Consider implementing a point and/or strike system. These can hold employees accountable for their attendance and set clear consequences.

2. Look For Hidden Causes

  • Poor attendance can be a result of a larger problem. Aside from an injury or illness, there could be other factors causing attendance issues.
  • Be on the lookout for:
    • Conflicts with co-workers or supervisors
    • Issues with the work itself (heavy workload, deadlines, lack of training)
    • Family or personal issues
  • Before any disciplinary action is taken, take the time to meet with the employee to determine the cause of their attendance issues. You might discover their absences could be protected under FMLA or ADA.
  • Taking the time to determine the root cause of missing work can lead to a plan of action to get the employee to work and back on track.

3. Train Supervisors

  • Supervisors have a responsibility to manage and encourage employee attendance. In most companies, employees are required to contact supervisors directly when they are going to be out. Properly trained supervisors monitor and address issues promptly and effectively.
  • Initially, supervisors should accept a call off without asking too many questions, accept the reason for the absence, understand the impact the absence could have and shift the workload if necessary, and tell the employee they will be missed.
  • If a pattern develops or the supervisor feels an employee could be abusing the policy, a note about the absence should be made and the employee’s attendance should be monitored moving forward. Proper documentation will be important if the attendance issues continue resulting in disciplinary actions or termination.
  • Supervisors should be aware of how to track attendance, be familiar with the attendance policy, and know when to apply disciplinary actions.

4. Reward Good Attendance

  • Balancing the consequences of attendance issues with rewards for good attendance is an excellent way to show you recognize employees who are dedicated and gives everyone something positive to strive for.
  • The biggest roadblock employers face when considering a reward system is the mindset that it would be rewarding employees for simply doing what is expected of them—coming to work. However, these programs do not have to be a large expense or even an expense at all. They can be as simple as recognition in a newsletter or during a staff meeting, or certificates given out quarterly.

5. Offer Flexibility

  • This may not be feasible for all companies, but implementing flexibility in work schedules can improve attendance and engagement of employees.
  • By allowing employees to flex their start time you may help employees who are having difficulty at home with childcare. Allowing employees to switch their shifts with co-workers could eliminate call-offs due to unexpected personal issues.
  • Similar to your standard work schedules, any flex schedules should be properly documented and approved by management so these can be tracked and monitored.

Identifying and addressing attendance issues quickly and consistently is a first step in lowering the stress that call-offs can cause businesses. The HR professionals at Resourcing Edge will partner with you to develop an attendance policy that is both effective and compliant to help you focus on managing your business with your employees at work.

Kimberly D. Gray is a Senior HR Services Partner at Resourcing Edge, who has 25 years of experience in employee relations, training, and compliance.

Kimberly D. Gray, Senior HR Services Partner
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