Emerging people management trends

Managing absenteeism

A recent survey by Direct Health Solutions (DHS) showed the highest rates of absenteeism in 2012 were in telecommunications and utilities companies (average 11.5 days per employee) and contact centres (average 10.9 days per employee).  Not surprisingly, absenteeism was found to be higher in larger organisations of 1000+ employees.  In 2010 PriceWaterhouseCoopers estimated an annual cost of absenteeism to the Australian economy at $7 billion.   In short, absenteeism greatly reduces productivity, increases cost and has the potential to erode team morale.   Dealing with these issues is complex and often involves some level of risk.

We advise our clients to adopt a wholistic, systematic and compliant approach to better manage absenteeism.  It is critical for organisations to accurately record and proactively monitor absences across the board to identify any emerging patterns.  Review workplace practices and dynamics to determine whether absenteeism is a symptom of a bigger issue – such as disengagement, team conflict, or high work volumes. If so, a more strategic approach is required.

Where the absence is genuine, look for ways to provide support to the employee through available mechanisms – such as staggered start and finish times – and maintain regular communication.  Be clear on the company’s expectations of notification and, where applicable, documentary evidence.  Ensure expectations are in line with relevant company policy and/or industrial instruments.  Where it is suspected that the leave may not be genuine, meet with the employee to investigate further, discuss the issue and leave frequency.  Establish an action plan and agreed process moving forward. Whilst in certain situations disciplinary action may commence we strongly advise clients to seek advice before going down this path to ensure compliance with relevant legislation.

Investing in flexible work practices

Flexible work arrangements extend beyond working part time and are a major source of competitive advantage to attract and retain the best talent, across genders and generations.   Research and exit interview data points to the ability to strike the right balance between work and personal commitments as a key retention driver.  Technology provides enormous opportunities to work remotely and effectively across a number of industries.

From a legislative perspective a range of family friendly amendments to the Fair Work Act mean that from July 1, 2013 more groups of employees have the right to request flexible work arrangements, including:  employees with carer responsibilities, parents or guardians of children that are school age or younger, employees with disability, employees who are 55 years or older and employees who are experiencing family violence or who are caring or supporting a family or household member who is experiencing family violence.

A commitment to flexible work practices is an investment.   To be successful it may require a shift in management practice and mindset and should always be supported by a clear policy and guidelines for Leaders and employees.