I recently received a phone call from a long time client who is the Vice President of Human Resources at the leading carpet and flooring company in the country. He just wanted to hear my opinion on an issue that was a very hot topic inside his organization. First, their organization, just like most across the country, is experiencing a retention problem. Second, the practice of ghosting (an employee just doesn’t show up for work and doesn’t let you know they no longer desire employment) has become rampant. And third, low tenured employees expect more time off than is offered by the traditional vacation allotment.
These are issues that are all tied together. Most people might be tempted to categorize these as a millennial issue, but its bigger than that. Low unemployment means that jobs are readily available for everyone – not just millennials. Ghosting is a practice that has become more rampant across all generations as digital and smart devices have become more prevalent in everyone’s lives – we are so bombarded by information we start to ignore it and make that a habit in many other parts of our life. Finally, all employees want more time off, quality time off, time off that fits with their family and social lives, and a schedule that is both flexible and predictable.
He wanted to know how other companies are dealing with these issues. There is no one right answer. I have worked with numerous clients in the past two years where we have implemented multiple schedules to provide employees with choices that may fit their needs. This in itself is not easy when different areas rely on each other for the company to function. I have also helped companies introduce policies that give people more control of their time off and offer more short term incentives for showing up like they are supposed to. An example of this is the practice of using attendance points to manage absenteeism – instead of annual reductions of points, some companies find success in offering quarterly good attendance reductions.
In the age where everyone is accustomed to smart devices, having software and apps that engage the workforce is a great way to keep them connected and know what they are doing. Perhaps even giving them control to accept work assignments daily. Today we have a schedule and we assume everyone is showing up as scheduled each day. Maybe the future is that everyone accepts their work assignment the day before and we become more aware of potential absences in a timely manner.
This leads to time off. Absenteeism tends to become more of a problem when people feel like they are not getting the time off they want or need. Whether its FMLA, sick time, or some other excuse, people will find a way to get time off when they really want it. Maybe we should be writing policies that make it easier for people to get unpaid time off as long as they schedule it in advance. A known absence is much easier to deal with than an unknown one.
This may seem like organizations catering to the whims of its employees, but it’s not. It is organizations balancing their business needs with the reality of what they face in the current employment environment.