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14 Tips on How to Improve Attendance

Do you have attendance problems? Are you looking for ideas to improve employee attendance?

Recently, at my request, Associated Oregon Industries polled prominent employment attorneys and human resource managers on tips for improving workplace attendance. Their 14 suggestions, in their own words, are set out below.

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Our monthly bonus program is tied into attendance and punctuality as well as a $100 bonus every 6 months for perfect attendance.
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I'd recommend a 2-pronged approach:

1. Explain why it's important to arrive by a certain time - is it just a supervisor preference or is it really important for coverage? If it's just a supervisor preference, then it's a matter of sharing expectations and consequences.

2. We had a quarterly award for good attendance - could combine that with punctuality. We used $25 gift cards from various places (one that could be used at a grocery store or converted for use at a number of different stores; e.g., Home Depot, Bed Bath & Beyond, Borders Bookstore, etc.)
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I've not typically had great results with individual incentives to improve attendance/tardy. The reward was typically not significant enough those who had these issues to come to work or be on time. I have had more results with introducing "team incentives" in which the team is rewarded because of the group's performance. Those who have problems typically have less responsibility to the company but a significant amount of responsibility toward their peers. If their absence/tardy means their team doesn't get the reward then they will change their behavior.

If this approach is taken I've found it important to post the team's results daily or very regularly - peer pressure plays a significant role in helping. Also - set a threshold and reward every team over the threshold - giving only the top team the reward will quickly eliminate any team that thinks they are out of the running.

Finally, communicate frequently and use the term "reliability" when communicating. My experience has been that most don't worry about being told they have excessive absence but take it very personally when being told they are not reliable.
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We have discussed the attendance issues extensively and at the end of the day we just don't want to pay employees extra $ for adhering to the terms of the job. We are fairly aggressive about terminating people in areas that have properly documented the situation (operations). We too have significant issues with the basics of employment; showing up on time, properly prepared to work (like having a pair of shoes on) or just showing up at all. We have a tight standard of 2 day no call/no show termination practice. We do hire this group back the following year however.
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Our Company has an Attendance Bonus Program that provides employees with an end of the year bonus for perfect attendance, which is inclusive of arriving at work on time. This program was just implemented this year so I don't really have much history.

Punctuality can be impacted in many ways. One way is to reiterate the company's policies on attendance during the hiring process (i.e. have them sign a policy that they understand 2+ tardies in the intro period is cause for termination.) This tells them right up front that you are serious. The best way to encourage attendance is through group pressure or a positive team environment. For example, a department could have team competitions for attendance with prizes or rewards that really are motivational to the individuals involved. I have seen this work really well in a call center environment where punctuality is crucial. If your members want specific examples of the challenges please let me know. Another option to consider is making attendance tied to compensation (but of course not penalizing for protected leaves.) Money is a motivator that people do strive for.
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On the issue of punctuality we included attendance in our safety bonus program. Our employees could earn up to $800 bonus per year. We defined tardy as clocking in anytime after the start of their regular shift, with one grace tardy per year. After that they were charged $50 per tardy. It worked so well that we removed it from the safety incentive a couple years ago and to this day I have very, very few tardies. I have noticed over the years that the employee's age seems to be a factor in tardiness. The older workers, those over 35 seem to understand punctuality and take getting to work on time more seriously.
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We have a attendance bonus but it has been diluted by FMLA. Perhaps the most impact has been a simple thank you by the supervisor for being on time and attentive.
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Punctuality can be a problem in today's office environment. For key office staff, punctuality for specific positions is mandatory. One technique we use is scheduling 8 am meetings for specific purposes, i.e., scheduling workload, marketing effort review, project reviews, etc.
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Most of our office positions have some level of flex-time. Our professional staff can come and go based on their workload and personal schedules. As long as the meetings are attended, work is completed, and timesheets reflect the 40 hours per week mostly billable, we allow flexibility.
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I believe that the time for 'strict punctuality' is passe. In today's 'home office', 'virtual office', global email, video conferencing, and 'call my cell' technology; the new generation of employees just don't respond to the punctuality 'need'. I believe our ways of operating a traditional office needs to change to work through these issues for a productive employee rather than a punctual employee.

We also provide an incentive for attendance, of sorts. Our non-exempt employees are provided 40 hours of paid time off annually - not as an entitlement like vacation (so it's not an accrual paid out upon termination). But as an incentive for good attendance, employees still active at year end are paid out the remainder of their 40 hours not used during the year. We designed this system to avoid any perceived unlawful penalizing of employees taking protected absences, as exist with perfect attendance award programs.
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Our incentive for promptness is to still issue a check with the employee's name on it the next payday.
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When I was a teacher, I used to use both a carrot and a stick. Everyone who wasn't tardy or absent during the week was put into a drawing for a prize on Friday. They were crappy prizes from Goodwill – usually with a theme. It wasn't much, but it sent a positive message that I appreciated their punctuality. On the stick side, I called their parents.
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We have a Tool Bonus program ($25 per week) in place that rewards our Technicians for being on time every day and for working 40 hours per week. We pay the bonus weekly, and a Technician can get an extra $1300 per year in tools if they are always on time!
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We have not provided incentives to get to work on time. There are adequate dis-incentives in place.


With any attendance and punctuality program, work with experienced legal counsel to make sure you are in compliance with wage and hour laws and all applicable employment laws.



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Reader Comments (1)

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Very good interesting article.
September 28, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdrm

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