Engagement – not soft and fluffy

In their formal review, commissioned by the Government’s Business Information and Skills Department, “Engaging for Success; enhancing performance through employee engagement” Professor David Macleod and Nita Clarke showed clearly that high performing, competitive businesses benefited from engaged employees. Their review concluded that employee health and wellbeing were inextricably linked to good engagement.

Managing sickness absence is a key opportunity to either improve or destroy employee engagement – managed well and employees feel cared for, supported and show improved future engagement and commitment. Managed badly, sickness absence can result in the reverse – disengaged and demoralised employees who blame their employer for their woes and will struggle to return and deliver their best in the future. Moreover, it’s easy for a simple absence to snowball and become even more complex and costly. Once an employee’s performance suffers, grievance, conduct and performance processes can overlap and become hugely time consuming and costly to manage well.

Management capability is crucial here, well prepared and competent management behaviours to manage sickness effectively and sensitively are important. However, many managers reach their positions without test of people skills or direct people management experience.

Training may help, but is often time consuming, expensive and may have decayed in the intervening time before an employee absence arises. A further issue also arises when managers are caught unprepared and receive the unplanned call from their sick employee whilst in the midst of other tasks and without the supporting information that can help them offer effective support. This can be compounded if the call arrives in a public place and involves a sensitive reason for absence arising.

Empactis’ Absence Manager system has many subtleties, designed to enable a manager to improve every contact opportunity with ill employees. By ensuring that the manager is able to plan the contact, and has all the right information to offer effective support, and retain control, the approach is designed to improve employee engagement. The Empactis tool is designed to take a businesses preferred management processes and policies and automate workflows to ensure managers and other stakeholders can simply and easily do the right thing in a timely fashion. By tracking and recording these interventions errors can be reduced or recognised and additional help offered.

Most managers want to help their staff, few plan to be bad managers! By removing the need for managers to wade through 100-page HR policies when dealing with particular issues, it reduces the risk of employees feeling that they are being treated unfairly or inconsistently. With a watertight record of all communications and automatically-generated next actions, it’s far easier for managers to follow a recommended process – and check back on it later. The Empactis platform provides real time coaching and support, reducing time spent looking for resources needed and tracking manager performance to help identify those managers needing additional help.

Experts such as Macleod and others have shown clearly that employee engagement improves productivity, efficiency and quality. Missing an important opportunity to strengthen engagement is daft and whilst many look at sickness absence as a negative cost, using it to strengthen engagement can turn a problem in to a chance to improve business competitiveness – crucial in the challenging business conditions we face today.