“Absentees are not always wrong” or how to achieve absence control?

Unplanned absence is still one of the main headaches for Swiss managers. In fact, over the past 15 years, the average absence rate circulating among insider HR circles has doubled from about 2-2.5% to 4-4.5%. Companies often try to fight this evil by declaring a fierce war on it, because the evil must of course come from the employee, right? And if finally “the absentees were not always wrong”? Let’s explore together some ways NOT to follow!

Talent drain, disengagement, presenteeism, unhealthy atmosphere, disassociation and various other ailments, not only of the head… Many are the consequences of absence. But let’s translate this into concrete terms…

Zoom in on your teams for a moment and imagine this rate, i.e. 1 person out of 20 who is permanently missing. How do you manage that? Is it manageable? What if we were to question the functioning of this “social body” that is the company, certainly nobly occupied with the pursuit of constant performance, but more difficult to listen to the precious human capital? And what if we also imposed the rule of avoiding judgement linked to absence and, even more so, to the differences between each person?

Here are some interesting avenues that we will explore with enthusiasm.

Absentees: False trail no. 1: the search for the legitimacy of the absence
How often is an employee asked (by default) to “medically prove” his or her absence so that some people can legitimize it? This without listening to them! Yet this makes no sense, nor does it work well in practice. Our experiences in the field of many companies in Switzerland show it well: a flagrant lack of listening is to be mentioned. Very often, the managerial staff clears himself by invoking his role as a regulator, while lacking a minimum of empathy.

False track n°2: guilt and punishment of absentees
A number of empirically observed situations have demonstrated a deterioration in the level of absences (rates) when the company acts in censor mode – starting with excessive moralizing, passing through various punishments (penalizing salaries, warning, etc.) or even giving bonuses for attendance – instead of taking a step back from the situation – we did not say laxity – through the management in place.

In future articles, we will look at other ways in which the company’s operations are affected by these problems, which lead to poor scores in HR indicators such as absenteeism, the frequency of staff turnover, etc., as well as an approach that leads to regaining control of absences within the company.

Absentees – an avenue to explore: establishing a causal link
We are convinced – even if it means being candid at times – by the approach that consists of trying to understand or establish a link between, on the one hand, an increase in …. and, on the other hand, managerial functioning in the broad sense.

This avenue has been explored for a long time by some people who have become references in the field of business climate management, by which I mean the “Quebec School of thought”.

Indeed, the Quebecers (I will quote one of its pioneers, Prof. J.P. Brun, whose work on the recognition of the importance of climate change is a key element of the Quebec School of thought) have been working on this issue for a long time. Brun, whose work on recognition… deserve to be read) were quicker than elsewhere to establish the causal link between poor quality management or mediocre managerial functioning, and a high level of absences, resulting in a very affected social climate; On the contrary, as soon as management strives to be close to its employees, to recognize their needs, as soon as it takes care of them with a real interest and professionalism, as soon as it gives a human dimension to its competencies, then the whole climate of the company is affected. Motivation (re)takes the place it deserves and the evil that was fought against disappears.

You will have understood by reading this article, the goal is to start off on the right foot as far as absences are concerned and to transform your managers into real team leaders, capable of providing support. This leads us to ask you the following question: do your managers have the necessary soft skills to establish a healthy climate in your organization?

We look forward to seeing you on this blog and will be happy to develop this topic further. We would be happy to hear about your experiences in this area or to ask you further questions.

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