Effective absence management
AUG 31, 2009
While much of the debate about managing absence focuses on practical interventions and strategic well-being initiatives, the problem for many companies is that far more mundane pieces of the equation are still getting overlooked.
Early in September, Webster Buchanan Research will be publishing a new Briefing Paper focusing on managing absence in the public and private sector. It examines the business impact of absence across a wide range of areas, not least cost. With the UK's Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development estimating that absence costs on average £692 ($1,126) per employee per year, this equates to at least a six-figure dollar sum annually for any organization with more than 100 employees. The Paper also looks at some of the approaches organizations are taking to tackle the problem, from basic steps such as enforcing back-to-work interviews to more enlightened initiatives around long-term sickness intervention and employee wellness programs - initiatives that have featured in this column before.
But while high-performing organizations grab the headlines, many others are further back down the curve when it comes to managing absence, and still struggling with some of the operational basics. As our Paper argues, the reality is that it's hard to put many absence initiatives into place without first ensuring you have a good operational framework - which means effective data management, procedures and policy.
Over the years, Webster Buchanan's research has consistently shown that HR's efforts are hindered by poor data management. Take our last survey, where almost four out of five HR managers agreed that the difficulty of getting relevant data together undermines their reporting and analytical capability. This is as true of absence as anywhere else, where conventional approaches to both gathering and then managing absence data tend to be inefficient at best, haphazard at worst.
At the same time, if absence procedures such as setting up return-to-work interviews still rely heavily on human interactions and manual processes, there's always going to be a danger that something will be overlooked. Automating these workflows could bring far greater consistency into your absence programs.
Technology is rarely - if ever - the sole solution to a business problem, of course - but in areas such as absence, a relatively modest investment can sometimes prove to be a pretty useful enabler.
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