Absenteeism is one of the biggest challenges facing contact centers. It is also one of the most perplexing to solve. The cost is significant and probably haunts all Workforce Managers into the wee hours of the night.

What causes absenteeism in call centers?

Some high level, systematic causes are:

  • Poor selection is probably the first cause. Many contact center firms simply do not have a hiring process with the right tools that allow them to identify unreliable applicants.

  • Poor front-line leadership is another cause. From poor supervisor hiring practices to weak development systems to the wrong incentive/reward systems, many supervisors are just not able to manage their teams and help prevent absenteeism.

  • Poorly engaged workforce where missing work is OK.

What factors influence absenteeism?

Digging deeper, we find other factors that influence absenteeism:

  • Mandatory overtime

  • Lack of schedule flexibility

  • Cannot make up lost time during the week

  • Cannot change any part of the schedule for 90 days

  • Not being able to take sick leave in short (60 minute to 1/2 day) increments

  • Frequent mandatory shift bids

  • Lack of sufficient mentoring or supervisor support during the transition period after training

  • Large team sizes (20+ per team)

  • Cancelled team activities like 1:1 coaching due to heavy call volume

What are solutions to help reduce absenteeism?

First, a pre-hire process for front-line employees and supervisors that is based on best practices and empirical methods should be implemented. This will arm hiring managers with the tools needed to better identify reliable applicants.

Second, an employee engagement survey to gain insight into the employees’ attitudes towards the company and its leadership. The output of this survey is an action plan designed to address key issues. Note, these results should be shared with the employees as well as the action plan to address the key issues.

Third, review internal processes and systems. Are there any factors that might be unintentionally rewarding employees for taking leave? Are there links between absenteeism rate and early indication of voluntary termination?

Fourth, implement attendance management programs. Some ideas include:

  • One organization uses a “bank account” type allotment of time off. The employee can use the account as needed but if they run out of time, they go on corrective action. Each employee can earn more time to deposit into the account by not being late and keeping 100% attendance.

  • Another program uses the standard verbal, written, and final warning process leading to termination. However, the attendance is the primary factor determining if the employee can pick their shift in a shift bid process or have it assigned, promotional opportunities, and pay increases.

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