How to deal with employee absenteeism

Published on 27 October 2021

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While on average an employee would miss 54 days of work in 2020, the logistics sector holds an unfortunate record: one of the highest annual increase in absenteeism, putting it just behind the health sector, i.e. 32% over one year. Beyond the exceptional sanitary situation, the supply chain is facing a chronic problem of the workforce retention. What HR and organizational levers should be used? Here are a few ways to encourage employee commitment and well-being... and reduced absences.

In its annual survey based on data from 671 companies and more than 350,000 employees, Gras Savoye Willis Towers Waston confirm that absenteeism has increased sharply and steadily over the last five years, particularly in SMEs and ETIs. If the first containment has had an obvious impact, it is far from being the only explanatory factor.  While the "transport and logistics" category now holds the second place in the sectors most affected by this phenomenon, the study reminds us that the average cost of absenteeism in a company of 1,000 employees varies between 1.7 and 3.5 million USD per year. The weight of logistics activities in this loss of earnings is considerable. Faced with the growing risks of delays and shutdowns in the supply chain field due to lack of personnel, here are three steps for dealing with absenteeism.

1. Offer visibility to employees regarding the impact of their tasks on the entire operation

Just like remuneration or benefits offered by the company, the quest for meaningfulness is now well known as a major lever for commitment to the workplace. But how to motivate employees when the tasks they are entrusted with are by definition simple and repetitive? As a manager in the logistics sector, taking the time to regularly explain the stakes and the purpose of your job to each employee, and being able to give them concrete and personalized feedback on the impact of their work, is a way to give meaning to low-skilled logistics functions. Examples include employees knowing which customer profile is ultimately targeted, having details on the products handled and the marketing promise, knowing and understanding all the other technical steps upstream and downstream of his or her intervention. This type of information will help everyone understand his or her role in the supply chain, and therefore, empower teams individually and collectively. 

Today, integrated HR tools and advanced warehouse management solutions offer a comprehensive view of current operations and can provide data and visibility to managers. 

To learn more about technology that can help you optimize your workers performance and increase motivation, read our WMS – Decision Making Guide

2. Invest in technology and robotics to reduce drudgery

Implementing voice command devices for operators or equipping them with exoskeletons is a way to limit strenuous movements and loads carried, thus reducing the risk of musculoskeletal disorders. Some companies are even starting to equip themselves with 'cobots', these robotic collaborative assistants that help employees prepare orders and reduce their movements.
 
Used wisely, these tools have the dual benefit of reducing the risk of sick leave and work-related accidents while optimizing overall warehouse performance.

3. Incentivize employees through game-based management

Sometimes alone at their workstations, with no real opportunity to communicate with their colleagues for long hours, supply chain operators can legitimately feel isolated. Keeping them motivated is a daily challenge for managers and HR. Gamification is one way to encourage commitment, pride of belonging and team concentration. For example, it is a matter of organizing interactive performance contests, between peers or between teams, aiming at collecting a maximum of points to obtain symbolic or material rewards. Or measuring the quantity of plastic recycled by each person, with rewards at stake. These challenges can also encourage employees to follow professional training courses or to respond to co-optation campaigns. These initiatives contribute indirectly to the fight against dropping out of the workforce and absenteeism.

Generix Group North America helps distribution & manufacturing companies achieve operational excellence with their WMS & MES Supply chain solutions. We invite you to contact us to learn more.