At the CIPD HR Software Show, HR manager Rosie Green engaged her audience with a talk on how her organisation tackled and reduced absence management.
Green told an attentive audience how her team reduced absenteeism and saved their employer, Poole-based Synergy Housing, hundreds of thousands of pounds. This was done by tracking absenteeism accurately, adopting a robust absence management policy and using appropriate software that included the Bradford Factor - an algorithm for measuring the cost and impact of absence.
It uses a formula based on multiplying spells and durations of employee absence to give a cost to the business of individual absenteeism. Typically, the method shows that frequent short-term absence is more costly to employers than occasional long-term bouts.
However, software was only part of the story Green told. "We had to directly relate absence to pay," she said. In short, this meant reducing sick pay and linking appraisals and pay rises to absenteeism, so that those with high absence levels did not get a pay rise or only a percentage of the general annual one.
"Staff affected by this were not ecstatic," adds Green.
However, the systematic tracking, reporting and carrot-and-stick approach seems to have reaped dividends.
In 2010, said Green, employee absence averaged 12.96 days per head "at an average payroll cost of £1,350 per employee", giving a total, for 354 employees, of £477,900. "This did not include the cost of temporary staff cover or overtime," Green told the audience.
A year later, average absence per head had fallen to 5.13 days per year, with a cost per employee of £526 - not including temporary staff or overtime costs. Green said that was a saving of £291,521 over the 2010 figure.
Synergy used Cascade software to calculate employees' Bradford Factor scores, run monthly absence management reports, devise best practice absence management workflows, and link absences to appraisals and employee pay.
Green said this technology was crucial to the project, as were return-to-work interviews for everyone taking absences and communicating with absent employees. She added that it is important to let employees know that "we did not doubt they were ill".
As far as the software is concerned, Green said she would like to see more portable features added so that the absence management system can be accessed remotely.
See XpertHR's report on absence management.