Absence Management

Want a more productive workforce? Discover absence management 2.0

5 min read

When it comes to productivity, what matters is not just whether people are sitting at their desks. It’s whether people are fully available to do their jobs, both physically and mentally.

Traditional absence management, with its focus on managing payroll and compliance, can only take you so far. To maintain a productive and consistent workforce, you need to understand and manage employee availability, not just attendance.

That means ensuring you and your employees are on the same page, no matter where they’re located. And it requires tackling the disruptions that cause all kinds of availability problems, from absenteeism to turnover.

In an era of hybrid and distributed work, absence management needs to evolve into availability management. What exactly does this mean? Let’s take a closer look.

Absence management and its limits

Absence management systems play a core role for today’s HR departments. They assist in managing paid leave, ensuring accurate payroll and benefits, keeping consistent records, and complying with employment laws.

All these activities are essential. But they only play a limited role in maintaining a high-performing workforce.

Here’s what absence management systems tend to leave out:

  • They focus on monitoring formal attendance. They can’t provide a more comprehensive view of how engaged and available your employees actually are.
  • They only track one symptom: absences. They don’t address the root causes of disruptions such as absenteeism, disengagement, and turnover. Beyond internal workforce issues, disruptions may include external threats like severe weather, power outages, and disasters.
  • They only track events that have already occurred. You don’t get proactive insights that you can use to anticipate problems and act ahead of time.

Today, hybrid and flexible work models are complicating the picture even further. The connection between on-site attendance and productivity has weakened. The distinction between work and personal time has also blurred, as a traditional 9-to-5 work schedule becomes less and less relevant for many employees.

In this evolving context, a person’s physical “absence” or “presence” is less relevant than ever. What matters is whether employees are fully available to work, even if they are far from any physical workplace and operating on their own schedules.

The next step: from attendance to availability

Availability is about people’s overall readiness to do their jobs, whether they are reporting to a physical workplace or working on a laptop at home.

Here’s how a focus on availability, not just attendance, changes the game:

  • Availability addresses a wider set of problems. Absences, turnover, and low engagement are often caused by the same issues, including both internal workforce problems (such as burnout) and external disruptions (such as weather and disasters). You can solve deeper challenges for your business by attacking all these problems together at their roots.
  • Availability includes mental engagement, not just physical presence. How motivated and energized are your employees, from day to day or over larger stretches of time? How likely are they to stay in their jobs? If you only look at absences (mainly because they are easy to track), you miss less visible factors that increase or reduce your workforce’s effectiveness.
  • Availability requires early detection and mitigation. To maximize availability, it isn’t enough to manage absences after the fact. You need to understand what disruptions and employee issues are building up and act quickly to address them. By monitoring advance signals of trouble, you can anticipate absences, turnover, burnout, and disengagement before they spread.
  • Availability is about employees’ perspectives, not just your own. Availability management involves dealing with issues that employees consider important for their own well-being, such as the need for flexible schedules or work-life balance. This fosters an internal culture where employees feel valued, find satisfaction in their jobs, and are committed to your organization’s success.

Overall, prioritizing availability leads to a more complete, nuanced, and actionable picture of how employees are struggling or thriving. As a result, you can go beyond simply tracking absences to solve the problems that cause them and build a stronger, more productive workforce.

A comprehensive approach to availability

How can you succeed in managing employees’ availability? For most employers, the challenge is not just organizational but technical. They need new systems that can handle a far wider range of data and get the right information to the right people at the right time.

Here are key principles of a comprehensive approach:

  • Take a unified view of employee availability. Treat absences, turnover, and disengagement as aspects of the same central challenge. Commit to addressing the underlying disruptions, both internal and external, that drive availability problems of all kinds.
  • Take proactive measures to maintain high engagement and productivity. By pulling continuous data from multiple sources, you can anticipate problems and act before they grow. That involves monitoring internal signals to look for trends that predict burnout and turnover. It also requires real-time detection of external threats that could cause absences to surge.
  • Collect the right data to understand why employees are absent. Look for insight into the underlying causes so you can target problems at the source. Absenteeism, for instance, is often due to employees’ unmet expectations for their work environment.
  • Build a complete picture from all the data available. That includes not only leave management and payroll data, but also data about potential and actual disruptions to your workforce. You need systems that can integrate all this information and show you where problems exist in real time.
  • Prioritize simplicity. Make it easy for managers to detect and solve problems every day. Eliminate complexity by bringing data and tools to decision makers, instead of forcing them to look for answers.

A unified solution such as Vantage Point can help you achieve these goals. With Vantage Point, you can minimize the impact of workforce disruptions on availability, streamlining your workflows and ensuring decision makers get the right data when they need it.

Such software doesn’t replace your absence management system. Instead, it integrates with all your HR systems to help you reduce unplanned absences, turnover, and more. In most cases, integrating with your existing HR or payroll system is as simple as clicking a button.

Build an available and productive workforce

Today, absence management is evolving to meet the demands of a flexible, hybrid work environment. Employers need to look beyond established ways of measuring “absences” and build a technical foundation to manage availability.

As part of this approach, you still need reliable systems to help you manage payroll, policy, and compliance. That’s where traditional absence management systems excel.

But that’s not all. By implementing a solution like Vantage Point, you can gain proactive insights into availability, monitor daily engagement, and solve the root causes of workforce disruptions.

Such an approach delivers benefits beyond just reducing absences. It can also help you minimize turnover, increase engagement, and boost productivity—even in a world where the boundaries of work keep shifting.