Reducing Chronic Absence
When reducing chronic absenteeism, companies engage in strategies, such as opting for a cross between the “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” (IOYO) concept2 and Operant Conditioning3. Obviously, you’ll never explain the concepts to managers and supervisors in these terms, however, our director of training with a degree in teaching explains it like this, so I’m passing it along…
IOYO incentive programs are based on the performance of the individual, i.e., employees caught in the act of being good are rewarded. Thus, errant employees conform to corporate standards, and their rate of absenteeism subsequently decline. The individual has only himself or herself to measure performance against the corporate standard, which may work well for highly motivated individuals, but not so well for those engaging in chronic absenteeism.
In organizations where 20 percent of employees routinely take sick days or experience lengthy illness and constitute 80 percent of absence costs, employers must consider a departure from the traditional reward paradigms. Companies must act quickly before absenteeism becomes a drain on fiscal health, the goal being to bring all employees’ value systems into line company standards.
As the employer works with the employee benefits manager to develop a strategy to control absenteeism, a solid plan design is constructed contain four elements of effective communication tools, program administration and funding.
Four Elements are:
1. Value systems and absence management
2. Absence management facilitators (AMFs)
3. Peer pressure through team building
4. Supervisor involvement
1. Value Systems and Absence Management
Corporate culture impacts the absence practices of employees. By using team-building employers take the novel approach of altering the value systems of their employees4.
Value systems consist of attitudes, perceptions, and widely held beliefs individuals hold about themselves, their relationships with their peer groups, and their standing in the community or the organization where they work. Every one has an attitude toward work, a perception of himself or herself as a worker, a belief in his or her capability to perform work at a given level.
Inherent in the work ethic is an attitude toward absenteeism with employees existing on a continuum concerning work ethics, attitudes toward work and absenteeism. There are three types of employees. Those who are never absent, experience average absences or are chronically absent. Altering employee value systems means employers work to bring employees with high-frequency, short-duration absences into line with the corporate value system. Continued … in Step Two.
2. Thomas Harris, I’m Okay, You’re Okay. A guide to Transactional Analysis, Harper & Row Publishers, New York (1969), Harris builds on earlier theory of transactional analysis, an interactive theory originated by Eric Berne in his book, Games People Play, Grove Press, New York, (1964).
3. B.F. Skinner, a Harvard behavioral psychologist, posited the theory of operant conditioning. Skinner argued behavior is determined by external forces. The consequences of a given behavior will determine whether the frequency of the behavior will increase or decrease.
4. Joseph J Martocchio, “The Effects of Absence Culture on Individual Absence,” Human Relations, 47:3, 243 (1994).
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