Though it’s hard to put a true ‘value’ against it, it reportedly costs UK schools and academies over £1bn every year. Its impacts are felt organisation-wide, ranging from reduced staff morale, arduous recruitment, and poor employee retention to lessened student performance and progress. It’s also the biggest cause of overspend in the education sector. The mighty ‘it’ we’re referring to here? That would be staff absences in schools.
In an ideal world, monitoring workplace attendance would be easy. After all, what’s so complicated about employees turning up to work on time, doing their job, and going home when they’re supposed to? Well, simply put, managing attendance isn’t as straight-forward as it first appears, nor is it an exact science.
For instance, a staff member could always turn up on time, but will here and there decide to leave early. Generally, this wouldn’t cause too big an impact but, over time, lessened staff presence affects results and the emotions of both students and staff. Or, you could have an employee that turns up late every single day, but you feel you’re in rather a catch-22 situation as they’re one of your best-performing members of staff. Or, by and large it could just be that a staff member’s child catches a sickness bug, so they need to stay home and look after them. Then a few days later, their second child catches it, so they’re back home again. And before you know it, the member of staff has been taken down, too, so they’re off the following week. See where we’re going with this?
You can’t change what you don’t know
The knock-on effects of poorly-managed staff absence are not only confined to the individual, but filter through the whole staff and student body. Productivity suffers and focus can falter, shifting from the job at hand to having to hurriedly source, train, and pay for cover staff.
It can become very easy to play a bit of a blame game when it comes to people taking time off work. Sure, we can all name a colleague that’s fallen curse to a bout of the ‘Friday flu’ one too many times for it to be a coincidence. However, without a proper trail of absence records, you’re never going to be able to change anything, nor least improve staff morale.
And it’s not just in terms of pinpointing those that are seemingly liable to taking the mickey, either. Absences could also be masking workplace issues. It could be the case that a certain department has higher levels of absence than any other. Would it be such a coincidence that the department in question just appointed a new lead?
The thing is, it’s awfully easy to forget that we’re all only human when we’re discussing time off work. We get sick; we’re susceptible to accidents; we’re not protected from having a bereavement. Staff absences are an inevitability of staff management; what’s important is to establish a process and employ a system that monitors it with the best interests of the organisation and its employees at the forefront of design.
Patterns come from data. Fortunately for you, Every’s HR software is a data goldmine. Absences are easily inputted to the e-system and held on a central dashboard, providing an organisation-wide overview of attendance. Users can then drill-down into the finer details, from school to department to individual staff member stats.
Visuals, including a central calendar tool, help users to spot any absence trends. Then take actions accordingly. When you notice a pattern in an individual’s attendance, opening a conversation straight-away is one of the best things to do. Firstly, try to establish the cause. Secondly, work to put actions in place to reduce the likelihood of it happening again. Backed up with your data from Every, you can have a more transparent dialogue with the staff member as you address your concerns.
We’re all about streamlining HR processes at Every. And so, employees can input their absences onto the central system, enhancing trust and hierarchal relationships. A beneficial bi-product is the saving of administrative time and energy which could be better used elsewhere.
Moreover, digital records are far less prone to inaccurate data that could be a result of human error. Information held on staff attendance is accurate, up-to-date, and reliable. Reports can be generated from the data on the system and compared with past and future records, helping to identify improvements.
In a landscape increasingly using technology for the greater good, employing automatic absence alerts helps users determine triggers specific to certain activities. For instance, there may be a member of staff whose behaviours you’re particularly concerned about. Being informed as to exactly when they are absent and the reason why helps to work towards effective problem-solving and absence omission. It’s well-known that early detection of repeated absence helps to foster a more positive working environment.
When a staff member doesn’t show up at work, the strain is felt across the whole team. And the student body, too. Working with your staff, not against them, is the first step to finding a solution for absenteeism. By taking a proactive, not reactive, approach to absence, you’ll soon find yourself shouting louder about those with good attendance than those with bad.