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Cutting the cost of absenteeism.

In 2008, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) estimated that 172 million working days were lost to absenteeism. This deficit, averaging at 6.7 days off sick per employee, costs British Industry a staggering £13.2 billion - or £517 per employee per year.

In fact, 'pulling a sickie' cost the UK economy £1.6 billion last year and this was just the direct cost.

The full scale of the problem becomes clear when the indirect costs of unauthorised absence are considered. In a lot of cases, unauthorised absences are accompanied by little or no notice. Replacing resources or delegating the workload with such short notice is not only inconvenient, time consuming and costly, it also places an additional strain on other employees. It also has a domino effect on the organisation by creating a negative impact on morale, overall productivity and customer relations.

A few years back, a habitual pattern of absenteeism across one of our client’s contact centres was having a detrimental effect on customer satisfaction levels. To address the problem, we discussed the feasibility of a hard-hitting internal campaign that would get people thinking differently about unauthorised absence in terms of the business, customers and colleagues. The objective of the campaign was to reduce manageable absence by half and so achieve a significant cost-saving.

The resulting creative work was a bold and straight talking multi-channel campaign that tackled the problem head-on. Getting straight to the facts – we chose messaging that clearly hit home the impact absenteeism has on the bottom-line and team mates.

Our campaign was part of a number of proactive engagement processes that involved everyone from advisors and operational leaders to HR, PR and Internal Comms. As well as re-educating people, the campaign set out to bring individuals and business objectives closer together. Face to face meetings gave people the chance to hear about the absentee issues directly from senior executives. Line managers were called upon to pass on information and remind people of the implications and how absenteeism affects everyone directly.

Delivered in two phases, the first phase of the campaign focused on raising awareness of absence levels and this succeeded in getting people talking and bringing the problem out into the open. In doing so we identified a problem that employees hadn’t realised was so crucial to business success.

Phase two of the campaign aimed to build on the emotional and rational arguments. Taking a more positive tone of voice, it both reminded and reiterated that the business is a great place to work and that leaders are committed to doing their part in delivering ongoing improvements to the workplace and employee benefits.

Of course, changing behaviour is not something that happens overnight, but this high impact campaign achieved some impressive results. In four months, absence levels dropped by 37.5%.

Blog Posted by: John on 11/08/2010

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