Managing Absenteeism: Tips and Tricks to Keep Your Team Working at Full Steam
Providing top-quality customer service is of paramount importance in the hospitality industry. To be able to identify and respond to your guests' needs, your team members must be well-trained, focused -- and present, both mentally and physically.
Even the most seasoned, service-oriented staff won't be able to give your guests the level of responsive, comprehensive attentiveness that will put your property ahead of the competition if they're chronically short-handed. The plain truth is that a team riddled by the holes and gaps that employee absences create cannot provide the type of top-notch service today's guests have come to expect.
An Industry-Wide Epidemic
There's no doubt about it -- chronic absenteeism can hurt your organization's bottom line. According to a 2005 study, the direct payroll costs of absenteeism often exceed $650 per employee each year. But it's the indirect costs of absenteeism that are often most significant for companies in the hospitality industry. When you factor in the stress, uneven workload distribution, and diminished service quality that can also be linked to absenteeism, the impact of this problem looms much larger.
Unfortunately, widespread absenteeism is a challenge that many organizations in the hospitality industry have long struggled with. Industry analysts have spent decades trying to pin down the causes of -- and cures for -- absenteeism in the hospitality sphere, and front-line managers have long struggled with the dreaded prospect of facing a full house with a short-handed staff.
Taking Charge of Attendance
So what can you do to help cut down on excessive employee absences? According to Casey Fitts Hawley, longtime HR consultant and author of 201 Ways to Turn Any Employee Into a Star Performer, most organizations can slash their rate of absenteeism by adopting a more strategic approach to the problem. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you fine-tune your absence management strategy.
Selective Hiring Can Cut Down Significantly on Absenteeism.
From the first interview onward, emphasize the importance of consistent attendance in your organization. Include interview questions and hypothetical scenarios that gauge an applicant's attitude about absenteeism, and be sure to ask all candidates' references about their attendance record in past positions.
Breathe New Life Into Your Attendance Policy.
Most hospitality workplaces already have "official" attendance and absenteeism policies on the books, but there's often a major disconnect between policy and practice. Translate your attendance policy into tangible, real-world actions. Hand out desirable prizes, perks, and privileges for unbroken attendance for a week, a month, a year, or more. Start an anonymous comment box that allows employees to talk about how absenteeism impacts their ability to perform on the job, and post selected stories on a bulletin board.
Create an Organizational Culture that Demands Attendance.
If you really think about it, the term "excessive absenteeism" doesn't make sense. When your organization's ability to function smoothly is at stake, even one unwarranted absence is too many. Make sure your employees know from the get-go that unexplained, unjustifiable, or unexcused absences simply won't be tolerated in your organization. Identify, warn, and terminate employees who flagrantly violate your attendance policy. Do everything necessary to stamp out the attitude that showing up for a scheduled shift is optional.
Communication is Key.
An open-door policy can go along way toward reducing absenteeism. Make sure your employees feel comfortable discussing situations that may impact their ability to work whether they are health-related, scheduling conflicts, or personal problems. By the same token, if you notice that a particular employee is starting to rack up too many questionable absences, don't beat around the bush -- ask about it. Sit them down, express your concerns, and talk matter-of-factly about what both of you can do to eliminate the problem.
As long as there are employees, there will be employee absences -- it's an inescapable part of running a business. But by taking a more proactive approach to managing absenteeism, you'll be able to boost consistent attendance and diminish the negative impact that absences have on your organization's ability to deliver the level of service quality your customers have come to expect.