Getting to the Root Cause of Attendance Problems

“Our supervisors just need to get more disciplined about administering the attendance policy.”

“We are just being too lenient with FMLA”

“There’s no way he’s really sick again.”

Attendance issues can be frustrating. In fact, the traditional methods of trying to “fix” such problems, often aggravate them.

Going Deeper

There was a point in my career where I became known as the “attendance expert” The truth is there was absolutely nothing complex about it. I just asked questions.
A department would have an attendance problem, and I’d get on a plane or train and live with them for a while. I’d talk to everyone, observe, look at processes, and gain an understanding of what it was like to work there every day.

The problems were complex

It wasn’t just that

  • she had “daycare” issues she had discovered her daycare provider was on crack cocaine
  • he was a FMLA abuser, he was “this close” to getting his degree, and the new mandatory shift was making him miss the last few weeks of class
  • It wasn’t that she “didn’t care”, it was that the new computer system was totally intimidating

Attendance issues run deep, and the questions are important. By digging deeper, we were always able to cut the attendance issues in half

You don’t need magic You just need you and some open-minded questions
How can you dig deeper?
How can you slow down and learn more?

Perhaps they won’t (don’t want to) come to work.

Perhaps they can’t (something else is getting in the way)

Perhaps it’s some combination of the two.

I like to use a 4 quadrant matrix to structure the thinking. On one axis, run the continuum of why employees “can” and “can’t” come to work. On the other, the other explore why they “want” or “don’t want” to come to work.

This tool can be used at a team level (thinking about both issues and individuals) or in very large organizations.

Getting to Root Cause of Attendance Issues

A few possible questions. I am sure you can also fill in the blanks.

Can/Want (Encourage Me)

  • What are the common characteristics of those employees skipping to work on this team?
  • What best practices could be shared?
  • ?

Can/Don’t Want (Engage Me)

  • How are the frontline leaders interacting with their teams?
  • Who is being recognized for what?
  • ?

Can’t/Want (Help Me)

  • Do employees need support with finding safe child/elder care or other work-life issues?
  • How could scheduling be made more flexible or consistent?
  • What behaviors is your attendance policy inadvertently driving?
  • ?

Can’t/Don’t Want (Help Me Leave)

  • What are you doing to manage performance?
  • What could make your attendance policy more effective?
  • Who is in the wrong job, and how can you help them find the right one?
  • Do you have employees abusing FMLA?
  • ?