How to Keep Absenteeism Low and Attendance High
Posted by Michael S. on March 10, 2017 in Manufacturer Focus

As a manager in the manufacturing industry, I dealt with a variety of issues during a normal work day—issues related to product quality, machine breakdown, customer concerns, product development, marketing, and many more. I tried to put processes in place to reduce unplanned issues so I could focus on improving the bottom line of the business.


We developed mechanical, technical, and engineering solutions to stop issues from recurring or to reduce the impact or frequency. “Make it go away—or better” is one of the things we used to say.


Employee attendance and absenteeism issues aren’t as easy to fix. We can’t just put an engineering or mechanical solution in place.


Before I get into absenteeism and attendance, I want to start by saying I understand issues come up in people’s lives that can prevent them from coming to work or make it necessary to leave work unexpectedly. We are all human, and we all have things outside work that impact us. With that said, let’s get down to business.


To make sure we’re on the same page, let’s define both attendance and absenteeism. Attendance can be defined as “the act of attending.” Absenteeism is “frequent or habitual absence.”


Here are a few tips on how you can keep attendance high and absenteeism low.


  • Document your attendance policy in your employee handbook and review it with all new employees:
    • Clearly state your expectations
    • Document corrective action procedures
    • Explain FMLA (family medical leave act)
    • Define vacation guidelines (employee-managed time off)
    • Explain failure to report (no show, no call)
    • Define medical and personal leave requirements
    • Include notification requirements
    • Add a reward system for people with perfect attendance
  • Manage consistently from department to department (ensure all managers follow policies and treat issues the same way)
  • Address attendance and absenteeism issues quickly


Just having a policy or procedure in place doesn’t ensure compliance. If it did, law enforcement officers wouldn’t need to sit by the side of the highway with radar guns. If you want employees to follow the policy, you must address deviations from policy quickly, sincerely, and consistently across all pay levels and areas of the company.


When I took over the management of a machining department several years ago, I noticed that we had a good deal of unapproved absences.


As a numbers guys, I started to track the hours we had lost and the impact of those hours. During the first month, the weekly average was 353 lost hours or about 7.35% of total labor hours(4,800 total labor hours).


I also tracked the equipment that had to be shut down and additional setups that were needed, as well as the overtime necessary to make up for lost time due to unplanned absences.


We had a shop rate of $90, which resulted in a weekly loss of $31,770. After factoring in setup changes ($4,765) and OT ($9,000), my average weekly lost cost was more than $45,000.


When I reviewed the numbers during weekly communication meetings with my team, employees were shocked at how much the missed work was costing our department. And the costs are not just monetary. Here are some additional impacts of absenteeism you can discuss with your team.


  • Impact to coworkers:
    • They might have to stop what they are doing and switch machines
    • Teamwork could suffer
    • Morale may be lowered
    • Planned vacation time may need to be canceled or limited
  • Impact to customers:
    • Internal departments may run behind
    • Shipments to external customers might be reduced or delayed


When you address attendance issues with an individual, explain how important he or she is to your organization and the impact of absences on coworkers and the organization. Discuss what others had to do to offset the lost time.


A good policy, open communication, and heart-to-heart talks with offenders won’t completely eliminate unplanned absences, but I’ve found that it can definitely help reduce it. During my years in the machine shop, I was able to reduce my average weekly lost attendance hours to less than 88, which was about a 75% reduction from where we started.

Michael S. is our Manufacturing guru
I have over 30 years experience in a broad range of manufacturing areas. Starting with an apprenticeship in Germany I’ve worked my way through a variety of positions within the manufacturing field. I got my start as a Tool and Die maker. I next became a supervisor of a class A tool room, then manager of a machining department. I was exposed to lean manufacturing in the mid 90s and adapted the lean philosophy. Loving and teaching the lean approach, I moved on to become a Continuous Improvement manager which led to a job as a manufacturing manager. I joined Acuity in 2015 as their manufacturing expert. I hope to evolve how manufacturers deal with and think about insurance companies, as well as be a resource to my fellow employees – enabling them to better understand the unique needs of manufacturers.

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