Strategies for a Successful Absence Management Program

Early in my career, I worked as an operations manager for a company specializing in absence management administration. What made my position unique is that I oversaw employees whose day-to-day responsibilities included understanding and managing leaves of absence for other employers.

My challenge was that while my employees knew when they needed to report a leave or follow a process, they were also well-versed in federal and state leave regulations and could take advantage of taking time off as soon as any performance issues appeared on the horizon. Our company policies and processes at the time were quite broad and not well defined, which made performance management conversations around time off policies difficult and time-consuming.

Whether your organization is made up of fifty employees, or 50,000, one thing is quite certain; your need for a successful absence management program will always be one of your top organizational priorities.

Here are some tips for creating a successful absence management program:

1. Define the Approach – First, determine whether it is best to have an in-house managed absence program or to utilize a vendor. Consider the costs of each solution and the employee experience. Some vendors cannot support variable cultural differences or the needs of your employee population.

If you are looking to administer the program in-house, make sure you consider the types of software solutions that best meet your needs, the size and skills of the team needed to provide support, and how integrations will work with other internal systems, such as payroll, HRIS, and benefit platforms.

To ensure your business can effectively and efficiently manage absences, equip your Human Resources department with the right absence management software. Take time to research the best fit for your leave team and employees.

2. Consider Compliance – Do you have an in-house legal compliance expert? Are they always up to date on changing regulations? It is critical that compliance updates are at the top of your list, from making sure the changes are made timely to reducing manual effort.

3. Develop Clear Policies – Once you’ve considered how your program will look and feel, it is important to review your existing policies. Successful programs are rooted in the consistency of administration, which in turn will lead to less human error and lower rate of escalations. Its important to review your policies and focus on the following:

    • Is the language clear for all employees to understand?
    • Does it spell out what process to follow?
    • Does it adequately explain who is eligible, why, and for how long?
    • If supporting documentation is required, does the policy define what is needed and the time frame in which the paperwork needs to be provided?
    • Are consequences spelled out? What happens if an employee fails to follow the process?

These are just some of the important components of a well-defined policy. Check to see if the basics of ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘when’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ are covered in the information that you’re providing.

4. Training Methodology – Once your program is defined and policies have been updated, consider rolling out appropriate training across your employee population. The training should not be limited only to your Human Resources teams but should include front-line managers and employees. It is important that those individuals understand their roles and responsibilities within the absence management process and that the right tools and resources are available for them to access.

As your organization grows and changes, regular training becomes an integral part of the overall success of your absence program.

5. Annual Program Review – Just because a program is established does not mean that there are no improvement opportunities. Consider conducting an annual review of the program with the following areas of focus:

    • Review your policies to confirm nothing has changed or needs to be updated based on changing regulations or company culture.
    • Survey your managers and employees who have taken leave. Their feedback can prove invaluable in determining what changes should be applied.
    • Conduct audits to see if internal processes have been followed when a leave has been requested and to check if everyone understood their role and responsibilities.
    • Work with your vendor or technology provider to obtain statistics around your absence program performance. Look to see which of your policies are most utilized, the leave types taken, and the average number of days taken to help you see trends and patterns within your population and help drive other program utilization to reduce absenteeism or other internal costs.

An effective absence management program is vital for the health of your company and your employees. You have the power to create a program that minimizes the impact of absences and supports a productive work environment. Remember, the key to a successful absence program is flexibility and understanding the unique needs of your company and employees and the diligence it takes to continuously find ways to improve your policies, processes, and organizational training.

FINEOS Absence offers employers the ability to manage disability, leaves, and company-sponsored plans on a single platform.

Contact us to discuss your needs and schedule a demo.

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