Workplace absenteeism is an issue all businesses face, and it’s especially challenging when you manage a large workforce. However, frequent worker absences can cause costs to skyrocket and productivity to plummet.

Levels of absenteeism are sometimes affected by extraordinary or unforeseen events, such as the global pandemic. But, in most cases, work absences are caused by physical illness, injury, caregiving or job dissatisfaction.

Whatever the external circumstances or influencing factors, you must proactively manage absenteeism to prevent your damage to your business brand. 

This blog highlights some ways Randstad can help you gain control over this issue, from immediate staffing support to long-term workforce management solutions and enhanced care for your employees.

staff when you need them

First and foremost, you need the right capacity in your workforce to keep your core business running, and absenteeism causes immediate disruption to your fundamental processes.

For example, according to the ONS, the number of working days lost because of sickness or injury was an estimated 185.6 million working days in 2022, a new record high. This represents an increase of 35.8 million from 2021 and 47.4 million more than its pre-pandemic 2019 level.

Therefore, when your business is understaffed, you must respond quickly to maintain a productive, efficient working environment.

We can help by giving you instant access to a vetted, reliable talent network. When you're already struggling with diminished capacity, you don't have the time to source and evaluate people who can come in at short notice to fill gaps in your labour force.

We’ll develop a ready pool of talent you can pull from when necessary. Then, with a source of pre-qualified workers, ready and willing to step in and familiar with your industry, you can quickly bring your production line up to speed.

Handing this process to a trusted, experienced HR company saves you time and ensures you're getting people who have been thoroughly checked and assessed before being recommended. No more weeding through applications only to have the person you selected not even show up on the first day.

Furthermore, if you have a strong relationship with a recruitment partner, you can reap the full benefits of using flexible and contingent talent. This means you’re paying for the workers you need when you need them, a critical principle when dealing with higher-salaried individuals with specialised skills.

We have 60 years of experience in fulfilling the hiring and talent needs of businesses across a range of industries. By taking the time to understand your business, its key challenges, goals and priorities, we make sure we supply the right people at the right time.

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by taking the time to understand your business, its key challenges, goals and priorities, we make sure we supply the right people at the right time.

workforce management solutions and scheduling

Fast, responsive staffing often proves crucial when you have a short-term need to boost labour capacity. However, it's just as important to have a clear view of the resources already available in your workforce and a plan to make the best possible use of them.

A top priority should be to ensure that you're always able to fill your critical roles — those that are essential to the day-to-day running of the company. One way of doing this is by always having staff in reserve who can do lower-priority jobs when you're sufficiently resourced but can also step in and take on critical tasks when absenteeism is high.

It's also essential to have a plan in place for positions that demand specialist training or niche expertise that could be difficult to find in the labour market.

However, the logistics of filling roles on the spur of the moment due to absences require advanced technology and expertise. This is where Randstad’s Relevate Workforce Schedule can help. This automated app takes the brunt of the work out of your hands. First, open shift positions are sent automatically to your vast pool of pre-vetted workers. Then, employees can accept or decline work without getting you involved, saving huge amounts of time for high-volume employers with contingent workers.

Efficient staff scheduling helps ensure you have people available to make up for shortages caused by absenteeism. In addition, it can also provide the time and flexibility required for employees to undergo training and acquire new competencies.

With the recent labour shortage, it’s more critical than ever to make use of the talent you have. Reskilling current employees to perform other functions within your organisation can help close skills gaps without the need for permanent new hires.

The Harvard Business Review reports that using a ‘boot camp’ mentality has helped multiple companies retrain employees to adapt to new processes. This method is particularly effective for manufacturing companies that need to quickly convert their workforce to new technology, including automation on the production line.

In addition, Randstad's Workmonitor 2023 report found that employees are interested in learning and improving. And almost a third of them are willing to change jobs to discover more opportunities for development. So, by upskilling your employees, you help improve the efficiency of your organisation while at the same time increasing job satisfaction — a win-win for everyone.

Our services solution can help improve your understanding of your human resources and optimise your workforce management to avoid understaffing problems. This includes an emphasis on planning and training to help you deploy, develop and retain your talent.

global in hand

learn what to do about understaffing challenges

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Woman operating a machine on a production site.
Woman operating a machine on a production site.

our care programme 

Fundamental provisions like pay and benefits are highly important to workers, of course, but employers who want to build strong and lasting relationships with their most valuable employees need to go further than basic remuneration.

Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace surveyed workers in over 160 countries. They found that work and life satisfaction are inescapably intertwined, meaning that employees who are happy at work are happy at life — and vice versa. Fortunately, creating a positive, fulfilling work environment is possible if you know what your employees want.

Randstad’s Workmonitor 2023 took a long look at employees' hopes, dreams and desires across all age categories. It found that overall employee attitudes are changing as most (94%) want a better work-life balance. Furthermore, almost half (48%)  of workers worldwide have quit jobs that didn't complement their personal lives.

Workers also want something more from their job than a paycheck. They like to feel they’re making a difference in the world, with 36% of employees in northwestern Europe preferring to work at an organisation that shares their social and environmental goals.

Employers looking to reduce poor attendance and entice new talent need to address the importance workers place on flexibility, both in location and hours. Almost three-fourths of the workers surveyed want work-site flexibility, but at the time of the survey, just over half had the option of remote work. Additionally, 45% of workers said they wouldn’t accept a job that didn’t enable them to control their schedule to some degree.

Concepts like work/life balance, flexibility and building a positive workplace atmosphere are directly linked to absenteeism because people who feel happy and engaged at work are less likely to take time off due to issues like stress, anxiety and burnout.

Furthermore, forging strong, collaborative relationships with employees makes it easier to have honest conversations, which will help you prevent understaffing problems.

A key element of our offering to clients is our care programme, which is part of our inhouse services solution. It can support your efforts to find out what's really important to your employees, what problems people might be facing, and, consequently, why you're experiencing high levels of absenteeism.

Another component of our inhouse services approach is having a consultant based on-site at your business, if possible. This gives us a first-hand view of your workplace and what changes could help make your workforce happier, healthier and safer. We know what it takes to engage employees and can help develop strategies unique to your industry and operations.

You'll also be supported by a wider team who can offer a broader view of your recruitment and HR function as a whole without being sidelined by preconceptions.

a holistic approach

When understaffing due to absenteeism becomes a serious problem for your business, you need to look for dynamic strategies that suit your particular needs. You're likely to find that effective workforce management solutions don’t come down to a single method or approach but a range of tactics that combine to deliver positive and lasting results.

Start by understanding your talent needs, and then, consider what you have to work with currently. By first using available skills and resources, you’ll be in a better position to identify what roles you need to fill in the future. Through intelligent recruitment and expert advice from an HR partner, you’ll soon have a pool of contingent workers ready for times when your business is understaffed.

Once your workforce is in place, consider what duties are essential and ensure you have replacement staff for emergency call-offs. If a revamping is in your future, you’ll need to assess future skills gaps and determine who will fill them.

As well as being responsive and quick to react to staffing challenges, you must proactively engage with your employees. By quickly getting to the root of any work-related issue, you can ensure that your employees are experiencing a satisfying work experience that will trickle down into their lives.

Finally, don’t forget physical issues top the list of reasons for reported absences. Offer incentives at work to encourage healthier lifestyles, including fitness classes, nutritional snacks and menu options and corporate-sponsored physical activities like step counting.

In short, you need to take a holistic approach to workforce management, placing as much focus on subjects like staff well-being, engagement and job satisfaction as on core HR processes like workforce scheduling and recruitment.

Randstad can support you at various stages of your mission to reduce understaffing and improve efficiency, including:

  • recruiting and hiring flexible workers when needed to boost capacity in your workforce
  • maintaining and scheduling a contingent worker pool
  • optimising training to help your existing staff reach their full potential
  • providing insight into workers’ aspirations and expectations

Consider the following case study if you'd like to learn more about how we've helped our partners tackle staffing challenges. In this situation, we assisted a global logistics company that turned to us after high absenteeism led to missed deadlines and unsustainable overtime costs. 

This is an updated version of an article originally published on 19 March 2021.

about the author

Niall Broe

business development director

Niall is a highly skilled business development manager with 7 years in recruitment and 3 years dedicated to VMS/workforce management technology while developing successful growth strategies for companies. With a strong focus on creating long-lasting relationships with clients, Niall works closely with them to understand their unique needs and challenges. Utilising expertise in market research, competitive analysis, and strategic planning, Niall develops customised growth plans that align with clients' goals and objectives. Passionate about driving business success, Niall is committed to delivering exceptional service and results for clients to help them achieve their full potential.

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