It’s no secret that the UK has long struggled with its productivity levels. Despite current efforts to boost economic growth, the country still lags behind many of its international competitors when it comes to output per hour worked. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), UK productivity was lower than the US and France in 2019.
This productivity gap isn’t just a national issue, however. It affects organizations of all sizes, across all industries. And in order to address it, we need to understand exactly where the problem lies. Across the UK, there were nearly 12 million lost days in construction, 11 million in transport, and more than 31 million in healthcare according to ONS 2021 data. This is a significant amount of absence.
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One area that is often overlooked is the impact of employee absence on productivity. Whether it’s due to sickness, annual leave, or other reasons, when employees are not at work, their absence has a knock-on effect throughout the organization. Other team members may need to pick up the slack, deadlines may be missed and important client projects delayed.
Of course, people get sick and do need time off work. Employees are also entitled to annual leave, and the opportunity to rest and return to work refreshed. However, when absence and leave start to mount up, or requests happen during busy periods, or if there are clashes with other team members’ absences, it can become a challenge for businesses to manage, plan the resources necessary and to keep on track.
It’s not just physical illness that impacts employee absence. According to Deloitte, (December 2020 figures), poor mental health costs UK employers around £45 billion per year. This is made up of absence costs of around £7 billion, ‘presenteeism’ costs of up to £29 billion, and lost turnover costs of around £9 billion.
Insights amongst edays’ customers during 2022 showed periods of absence that can lead to a deterioration in employee well-being. For example, the average length of absence due to mental health was over 2 weeks (14.42 days), for example—and the average sickness absence, while not as extensive, could still hamper your organization’s overall productivity, at 3.20 days.
So, if you don’t have full transparency of exactly what’s going on with absent team members, along with predictions and trends around absenteeism, then these problems could harm not just your productivity, but arguably more importantly your employees’ well-being.
An important HR process that is yet to be fully automated
Given this, how can UK organizations address the challenging issues of staff absenteeism, poor productivity and employee well-being? One important strategy is to use cloud based software to help track and analyze absence patterns among employees. Sadly, too many companies still rely on spreadsheets and manual processes to log absence and leave, which are prone to error. This approach makes it difficult to get a clear and real-time view of where your team stand at any given time.
Sound people management, frequent communication and one-on-one mentoring must form part of the answer, but innovative HR technologies can provide greater accuracy, detail, and the ability to identify and analyze patterns among employees and departments. For example, if there is a team member who is taking a lot of sick days and you are too distant from their day-to-day work to see what’s going on, you might be at risk of losing a valuable team member.
However, by using people data, you’ll spot patterns and be alerted to hidden issues. This means you can intervene early and provide support and guidance where needed.
Relying on outdated methods will likely be inaccurate and give poor visibility, which could have a further detrimental effect on open conversations, understanding the reasons behind absences, and the ability to offer necessary support.
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Winning the Battle for Talent
Whilst the UK’s productivity gap remains a significant challenge, it is vital to acknowledge that tackling it starts with a deep understanding of your people. By gaining a better visibility into your workforce’s leave and absence patterns, by individual, division or location, for example, will help you become an even better employer. People data will not only improve your productivity but also help you to retain talent by offering the right support and guidance to employees when they need it most.
In today’s highly competitive job market, where the war for talent shows no signs of slowing down, investing in the right tools that help you understand and support your employees is essential.
By leveraging software technology to monitor leave and absence patterns, businesses can not only address the potential productivity issues but also improve employee engagement, satisfaction and retention rates. In essence, creating a culture that values employee well-being and development is no longer simply an option but a necessity to succeed in the modern workplace.
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