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Guest Blog Post from #hrbartender - Absenteeism is a Global Business Problem

Today's guest post is courtesy of Sharlyn Lauby, The HR Bartender.  I met Sharlyn at KronosWorks last week in Las Vegas, where we had the opportunity to get to know each other a bit.  As Sharlyn notes below, and we've written about before, absenteeism is a significant and costly business issue around the globe.

During last week's KronosWorks2012 event, I had the opportunity to hear the latest data on absenteeism in the government and education sectors.  The data, presented by the Governing Institute and Center for Digital Education, puts the cost of public sector absenteeism in the billions (yes, that's billions with a “b”).

And part of that cost isn't just the benefits paid or the lost productivity. It's the cost of actually keeping track of employee absences. The Governing Institute and Center for Digital Education says that 52% of organizations rely upon a manual time and attendance system. They figure the average manager spends 1.5 hours per week focused on managing time and attendance.

Using that 1.5 number, let's say the average manager makes $20/hour. That means the estimated national annual cost for managing absenteeism (just the managing part) comes to over $880 million in the government sector and close to $2 billion in the education sector. I don't need to tell anyone that's a lot of money.

But as I was listening to the session, it occurred to me that the challenges with absenteeism in the public sector aren't exclusive to their industry. They're evident in every industry. For example, take my background in hospitality…managers were always dealing with an employee absenteeism issue. Now magnify that to the ten or twenty managers in the company. We'd have ten or twenty absenteeism issues. All costing the company money.

To illustrate my point, I wanted to do some more digging on the subject and ran across The Kronos Global Absence survey. If you haven't seen it, I hope you'll check it out. It confirmed that absenteeism is a global issue and shared the extent we're all in this together.

For example, the country with the largest percentage of employees calling in sick when they're really not is, of course, China at 71%. It only makes sense since the population is so large. But that really doesn't explain Australia with 58%, Canada with 52% and the United Kingdom with 43%. BTW - the United States came in at 52%. The best country? France at 16%.

Why do employees call in sick when they're not? Top reasons include stress and too much work.

What would prevent them for calling in sick?! You guessed it - flexible work schedules.

So we can see the direct path between flexible work, engagement and productivity. The absenteeism challenge extends far beyond one industry and one country. And the solutions are consistent between industries and countries as well.

If you're wondering about the time spent tracking time and attendance, the numbers appear consistent. Only half of employers are using an automated system. That means managers spend a lot of time manually monitoring their employee's time.

It makes me wonder. If companies are having challenges with employee absenteeism. And the answer is creating a more engaged workforce to increase productivity. Then it only seems logical to make sure that managers spend their time on activities that will create engagement (not on administrative tasks).

Fixing absenteeism is a manager's problem. But they can't fix it if they're bogged down in administrivia. Free up managers time so they can do what brings the most value to the organization.

What do managers do at your organization to manage unplanned absenteeism?

Share your insights!

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