7 ways to improve the reliability of your workforce

1. Make your policy clear from day one.

This might seem an obvious one, but we’re not just talking about writing it in to a contract. An employee needs to know the boundaries from the very start of their employment, otherwise there may be confusion regarding their boundaries and entitlements. By laying out exactly what you expect from them regarding time off, lunch hours, lateness, cancelling shifts and other attendance issues then, when this policy is broken, you will know it is not due to a misunderstanding.

2. Keep good records.

Don’t just record when someone is late, you need to record why they were late and how late they were. More often then not it will be a good excuse; public transport or childcare issues. However, if someone is late regularly due to public transport, then they should be leaving earlier. The same goes for absentees. Obviously you should not pry into medical issues of your employees, but if someone is ill often, and without a pattern, for single days at a time, then it could be suspicious.

3. Don’t over-scrutinise.

You do not want to alienate good workers by interrogating them about absences. This can create tension and suspicion, and it can make the employee feel uncomfortable. It is also not fair to pry into private lives, which may be difficult. This goes with the good record keeping. You should be able to tell the ones who have genuine excuses from those who are taking the mickey relatively easily. With those who you suspect are unreliable and are being disruptive, do not jump to conclusions. Offer them a chance to defend themselves calmly and without being accusatory. It may be that they are generally sorry. It could all be a misunderstanding. It could also be something that requires discipline.

4. Offer flexible working.

Some people are going to struggle to do the normal 9-to-5. Many modern businesses now offer the ability to work flexibly, which can include remote working, to make sure that they get maximum output from the employee. When you factor in childcare and medical issues, sometimes employees need help to work their contracted hours. To keep them happy and to get the most out of them, you should offer flexible hours and the ability to work from home when necessary, as 87% of professionals say flexible working hours would help lower their stress levels.

5. Be realistic with what you expect from employees.

Harvard Business Review recently wrote a book about how burnout is more down to the company than the person suffering from it. They estimate that it costs the US economy around $160billion a year, and it is all preventable. Make sure your expectations, as well as the employee’s workload, is actually doable. Burnout is the reason why people are leaving the teaching profession in their droves because the workload is just too unrealistic. Yet, by fixing expectation levels, you will decrease absentees and increase the quality of work, as well as the quality of life for your employees.

6. Provide regular feedback and reward good work.

Incentives have proved to increase productivity across many different disciplines. After setting achievable targets and informing employees exactly what is expected of them, it is only right that they receive recognition for their hard work, otherwise they may begin to harbor resentment. Incentives can come in many forms; bonuses, gifts, parties, raises, but be sure not to patronise. A can of Coke to say thank you at the end of a hard year is not going to cut it. Similarly, if an employee is not meeting their targets it’s crucial to work with them to try and get there, and not to chastise. Regular feedback and development meetings can get a slow-starter going.

7. Create an enjoyable working environment.

Happy employees take one tenth of the sick days that unhappy employees take. It’s not altogether surprising, and also not that difficult to achieve. Nurturing a happy workplace means all of the above, plus open workspaces, sufficient breaks, entertainment, free food from time to time and weeding out any toxicity and infighting. You are never going to please everyone, but the rewards for, at the very least, having the mindset to keep your employees happy will result in significantly higher levels of reliability, as well as staff retention. Plus, who wants their employees to be unhappy?

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