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Commentary: Preventing Employee No-Shows

Steve Kramer
Steve Kramer

Anyone who has managed a business has probably experienced that familiar jolt of panic that hits when an employee still hasn’t arrived 30 minutes after their shift was set to begin. The moment you realize the employee likely won’t show up, you’re forced to scramble to find a replacement to help your short-staffed team.

In some instances when employees don’t show up, there’s a true emergency that validates a lack of communication. But most no-shows need attention from leadership — especially when they become a pattern.  To implement policies and procedures that minimize worker absences, leaders must understand why these patterns occur and recognize potential flaws within management processes that contribute to them.

Understanding why employees don’t show up

Employees fail to show up to work for many reasons, and some justifications warrant more sympathy than others. Sick children, medical emergencies, problems with management or employee relations, or even a simple lack of understanding around scheduling and rules can be enough to keep workers home.

Asking your team what drives them and their coworkers to stay home will help you prevent these instances in the future. While missing a shift may feel like grounds for immediate termination in the moment, discovering a pattern of common causes behind the no-shows can illuminate the need to reevaluate some management practices.

Continuous reevaluation is particularly important as the labor market surges and the unemployment rate plummets in the U.S. In fact, employers are noticing a trend: some new hires aren’t showing up on their first day of work. This means business leaders today must convince new hires that your company cares about employee experience. Offering employees access to digital workplace tools on their phones is a powerful place to start.

Eliminating no-shows with digital workplaces

Whether you’ve already encountered problems with no-shows or are hoping to proactively prevent them, adopting a digital workplace platform empowers employees to take ownership of their schedules and managers to refocus on higher-value work.

Digital workplaces allow businesses to eliminate labor-intensive scheduling practices that leave workers burnt out and thirsty flexibility.

Here are three ways that employers should respond to their workers’ needs.

  • Enable more scheduling flexibility. Rotating schedules posted on Sunday nights in the break room cause stress for front-line employees and require lots of manager attention. Traditional paper scheduling hinders shift changes and time-off requests, creating a workflow bottleneck at the management level. Digital workplace platforms offer straightforward ways for employees to communicate availability and request time off while enabling them to autonomously view, swap, and pick up new shifts. In addition to boosting company wellbeing through flexible scheduling, workers’ choice scheduling minimizes the amount of no-shows by simplifying the process to find a replacement.
  • Open up accessible two-way communication. When employees feel they don’t have a solid line of contact with their higher-ups, communication can stall at critical time. As a result, employees may decide skipping work is easier than going through the hassle of getting in touch with out-of-reach bosses. Leverage smartphones and digital tools to set an expectation for frequent contact between managers and employees, and to eliminate potential communication barriers. The more your employees feel connected to coworkers and their supervisors, the better they’ll feel about showing up for work — or ensure someone else will when they can’t.  
  • Clarify policies during onboarding and continuous trainings. In industries notorious for high turnover rates, it’s difficult to keep track of which employees have received what information. Onboarding and training disparities can account for confusion surrounding no-call, no-show policies and other important HR functions. By adopting a digital workplace platform, managers ensure all employees receive the same information when they join your team and have access to continuous training and feedback. This not only offers employers a low-cost method of upskilling employees, it also enables you to hold workers accountable when they don’t comply with clearly defined expectations.

Research shows that predictable hours have a positive impact at all levels of an organization. They entice new talent, reduce turnover and improve workplace culture. Denying your workforce flexibility may just push them away to other opportunities thanks to the healthy job market. That means a strictly enforced no-call, no-show policy shouldn’t be your frontline approach to improving retention.

Rather than using traditional scare tactics to ensure employees never miss a shift, create a culture of empowerment by equipping workers with digital resources and tools that help them succeed.

Steve Kramer is CEO and president of WorkJam.

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