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Dear Workforce How Can We Combat High Absenteeism In Our Call Center

Absenteeism in a call center has more to do with environment, management practices and workforce culture, rather than the size of the operation.

September 7, 2011

A Dear Frazzled:

Absenteeism in a call center has more to do with environment, managementpractices and workforce culture, rather than the size of the operation.Additionally, a particular day of the week can define a pattern of high absencesand will also impact the overall absenteeism measurement for the center. Hereare some suggestions for reducing absenteeism in your center:

  1. There are a variety of things that can be implemented within yourattendance policy to create a balance between business needs and the associates'personal needs. A few examples would be:

    • Allow the agent the opportunity make up lost time, without penalty, duringa time frame designated by staffing and scheduling within the same workweek.This can allow the company to positively affect staffing shortages, therebyassisting in meeting service-level requirements while accommodating the employee’spersonal needs. Of course you will want to incorporate rules around the numberof hours, minimum increments, etc. that can be made up during the week, month,etc.

    • If your company grants sick time, in addition to other paid time offprograms, you could consider allowing the paid time off that is designated as"sick" time to be utilized with no attendance penalty. If an associate has"sick" time available to cover the entire absence, then they would not bepenalized for using it. This also may help to minimize multi-day absences, sincethe only absences covered would be those in which sick time was available. Thispolicy is intended to communicate that the company understands last minuteemergency-type situations occur, and has designated a number of days per year tocover such emergencies. Once that pool of time has been exhausted, thendisciplinary action will result. As always, you will also need to keep in mindlegal requirements such as FMLA and ADA that may also apply to the situation.

  2. The human resources department should provide a work-habit training classfor those agents in jeopardy of being terminated due to violation of theattendance policy. This class should present information on proper work habitswith an emphasis on attendance, overcoming the barriers to good attendance andthe financial impact of absenteeism to the agent.

  3. During the new-hire interview session, are you asking how many absencesare acceptable in a six-month period? (The answers will surprise you.)

  4. Check with the references provided by a prospective agent. Ask thempointed questions about the agent’s attendance history.

  5. Agents should be granted time off for reasonable requests, such as toattend functions that are important to them, especially during non-traditionalshifts.

  6. Policies should be adhered to on a consistent basis. Make certain thatyour supervisors have access to the attendance records of every agent in thecall center so they can make appropriate decisions. The inconsistent enforcementof policies within your center can be detrimental to employee morale, and oftenleads to further attendance/performance issues.

  7. Promote an environment of zero tolerance for new agents in orientation.For agents, this should translate into: "if you are late or absent to thejob-offer session, orientation, training, etc., the job offer is revoked."

  8. An incentive program should be in place to reward those individuals thatmaintain perfect attendance; however, attendance incentives in and of themselvesare not always effective. Associates should have an opportunity to earn theirway back into the disciplinary process by maintaining perfect attendance for adesignated time frame (usually 30 or 60 days).

  9. You should include a clause to the attendance policy that addresses thechronic abuser. If your disciplinary policy is done through a "step"process, the number of times an associate can be on the final step should belimited. Patterns in absenteeism also should be addressed (i.e., an employeethat has Saturday and Sunday off develops a pattern of being absent on eitherFriday or Monday.)

Take a serious look at your management practices, selection philosophy andpolicy implementation. Developing programs that are employee-friendly, but firm,will assist you in creating an environment that leads to improved attendance.

SOURCE: Kim Davis, vice president, SpherionCorporation, Atlanta, Georgia,Feb. 14, 2002.

LEARN MORE: What Does Absenteeism Cost?

The information contained in this article is intended to provide usefulinformation on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice ora legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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