Bring Turnover and Absenteeism Under Control

Turnover and absenteeism have similar effects upon organizational productivity and costs.

In the case of turnover, the employee has left and there is no other person to perform the job until a replacement is recruited.

On the other hand, in absence, the employee is still in service but he or she is not around the workplace to do the job.

The adverse effect on organizational overheads has the potential of crippling your operations, bringing activities to a standstill.

Employee turnover requires that you recruit a new employee of similar qualification, skills and knowledge, if not better. Having lost valuable expertise, there is no assurance that you can find a suitable replacement. This is additional cost to your organization.

Absenteeism will cost your organization in terms of valuable work-hours lost and increased administrative overheads. There is also the numerous hours spent by management in resolving absenteeism problems among employees.

An employee who habitually absents himself or herself is within the category of difficult employees.

Labor Turnover and Absenteeism's Effect on Productivity
These two events have direct effect on organizational productivity. This is a factor to consider under Performance Management. Failure to manage employee turnover results in loss of knowledge, skills and capability.

Your organization will fall short of its targets stated under the business plan. There is the risk of losing your competitive advantage due to loss of capable employees in critical sectors or positions.

If absenteeism in not managed properly and effectively controlled, it can affect the entire workforce. It is contagious and can affect even good employees.

Some people differentiate between attendance problems from absenteeism problems. However, both have similar effects.

An attendance problem is a short-term disruptive event such as regular late arrivals at the workplace, unilaterally extending lunch breaks, and going home before time.

Absenteeism refers to unexpected absence of an employee for a day or longer.

Reasons for Employee Turnover and Absenteeism Problems
It has been argued that the most probable reason is poor control by organizations.

However, see below for the reasons given by Leigh Branham.

Your organization may not have established clear policy guidelines on turnover and absenteeism.

Supervisors may misinterpret policies whereby they verbally allow subordinates to go on leave without written approval or using vague words that have more than one interpretation.

Superiors may allow subordinates to have extended lunch breaks, for example, or to go home before the scheduled time without any reasonable excuse.

In addition, managers may allow employees who had been absent without permission to offset the days of absence from the annual leave.

This shows that policies are either non-existent or vague and poorly enforced.

Apart from poor management of turnover and absenteeism, other reasons include:

  • jobs dissatisfaction
  • low personal motivation and drive
  • alcoholism and substance abuse
  • relationships problems with supervisors and / or other employees
  • work pressure
  • influence from other problem employees
  • personal and / or family problems
  • personality problems

Effective management of these matters can minimize turnover and absenteeism problems. However, it is not possible to eliminate them altogether.

Managing Turnover and Absenteeism
Employee Turnover
Employees leave due to a number of reasons that are related to their career, personal problems and especially due to the work environment.

Leigh Branham in his book "The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave: How To Recognize The Subtle Signs and Act Before It's Too Late" (2005), he puts down the following as the reasons why employees leave.

  1. Poor management demonstrated by uncaring and unprofessional managers, overworking staff, giving no respect, not listening, putting people in wrong jobs, valuing speed over quality, and poor manager selection processes.
  2. Lack of career growth and advancement opportunities demonstrated by actions such as the absence of job openings or filling from within and favoritism or unfair promotions.
  3. Poor communication between management and employees, and between departments
  4. Pay being under-market standards, pay inequities, favoritism for bonuses or pay raises and ineffective appraisals.
  5. Lack of recognition
  6. Poor senior management leadership including failure to listen and to invest in employees, unresponsiveness and mixed messages.
  7. Non-existent, superficial or lack of training
  8. Excessive workload, being overworked
  9. Insufficient or lack of good and up-to-date tools and resources
  10. Lack of teamwork and inter-departmental coordination.

A survey conducted by the Saratoga Institute found that employees leave for reasons other than money.

It is important to take steps to rectify the problems before they become too difficult to resolve. But you need to identify what these are before you can take the necessary actions.

Attendance is a prerequisite of performance. Some people have "jobs" mostly consisting of turning up for work.

In absenteeism which is sometimes referred to as "job abandonment", the employee fails to turn up for work usually failing to give notification to the employer.

Absenteeism also occurs when the employee fails to report back for duty after the end of his or her approved leave of absence.

Where an employee fails to turn up for work, the manager concerned needs to make attempts to contact the employee.

Where provided for under the absenteeism policy and disciplinary rules, you can put up an advertisement in a local newspaper requiring the absent employee to report for duty with immediate effect and that failure to do so may result in termination with cause.

Control of Absenteeism
Your HR policy on attendance and absenteeism together with your disciplinary rules must make it very clear what will happen in the case of absence without permission or reasonable excuse that is verifiable.

  1. Find out whether the absenteeism of an employee is above the "acceptable" average
  2. Identify the pattern of absenteeism problems
  3. Thoroughly investigate and document
  4. Find out whether the problem is due to a medical condition requiring long-term medical attention
  5. Verify whether it is likely that the employee will improve his / her attendance record in future
  6. Check whether your policies are clear and the employee had been informed
  7. Ensure that you had given counselling to the employee and had given him or her an adequate opportunity to improve attendance

Keep in mind that some employees will provide excuse for their non-attendance or absence because of health problems. These employees will misuse medical leave if given the opportunity. Medical leave is usually the most misused benefit.

Steps you can take

  1. Establish clear attendance and absenteeism policies
  2. Ensure a reliable attendance monitoring system is in place and used effectively by supervisors
  3. Implement positive and negative controls
  4. For example, give value to (reward) good attendance and penalize inexcusable absence.

Turnover and Absenteeism can disrupt organization's activities

Whether you are dealing with turnover or absenteeism, you need a well-thought out plan to limit the disruption to your activities and to control costs resulting from absenteeism and turnover.

If things are getting out of hand, it is time to take disciplinary action.

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