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5 small steps managers can take to reduce absenteeism

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It’s another Monday and Kevin is a no-show. His usual pattern. What can his boss do to keep him at his desk, beyond turning to Crazy Glue?

Absentee policies and progressive discipline will take you only so far. Here are five small things supervisors can do:

1. Provide outlets for dissent

Not all absenteeism is capricious. When people don’t have outlets for their job pressures, they tend to run from them. Managers need to make dissent possible by encouraging people to speak up, hearing them out and, where feasible, acting on what they hear.

Start by stopping by an employee’s workstation and asking, “How are things going?” Employees may learn they don’t have to escape from the workplace to let off steam.

2. Cut the drag of boring work

You can’t eliminate all tedious assignments, but you can reduce the need to flee from them. How?

  • Expand boring jobs so employees can see their tasks through to a worthwhile result. Giving a task a beginning, middle and end increases the satisfaction level by at least threefold.
  • Break down boring assignments into smaller pieces to distribute dull tasks among more people.

3. Use carrots, not sticks

Extra pay for showing up is not a radical idea, and it’s relatively cheap. The concept of “well pay” instead of sick pay has proved itself and is easy to adopt.

For each paid sick day that goes unused by year’s end, an employee gets paid for a day and a half. Or, let employees bank sick time to use in case of future disability. These kinds of arrangements can be a magnet to the workplace.

4. Try gimmicks

They’re only good for the short term, but they’re also reusable from time to time.

For example, managers can award a $100 gift card to the person in their departments with the fewest absences in a three-month period. Use gimmicks sparingly, but play them up when you do. And make them fun, not work: Don’t ask people to do anything except come to work on time.

5. Paint the big picture

When people feel easily replaceable, they think they won’t be missed. If managers constantly remind employees why they’re needed, it won’t be as easy for them to stay away.

Each employee is a specialist in some way. Taking the time to point this out makes each one feel skilled, valued and needed. 

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