HR Management & Compliance, Talent

The Vicious Cycle of Absenteeism and Employee Engagement

Even for very large companies, absenteeism among employees can be a big deal. But, for smaller organizations, where there are fewer people in a given position—perhaps only one person in a certain position—absenteeism can have a significant impact on productivity and customer service.


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The type of business will also have an impact on the extent to which absenteeism impacts organizational performance.

Retail Firms Hit Hard by Absenteeism

Absenteeism is one of the most toxic elements in many organizations, particularly those in relatively low-skilled fields where it is most common, such as retail and customer service.
Kronos recently conducted its second Global Retail Absence Survey in which it surveyed 800 retail managers across Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Based on those responses, Kronos found that:

  • 58% of respondents believe unplanned absenteeism has a negative impact on staff productivity.
  • 55% believe it has a negative impact on managers’ stress.
  • 46% believe it has a negative impact on team morale.

“And it’s a vicious cycle,” argues Kronos. “More than half [of the survey respondents] agree that poor employee engagement causes increased absenteeism.”
Kronos reports that 63% of retail managers in the United Kingdom, 63% in the United States, and 61% in Germany feel that poor employee engagement has a big impact on unplanned employee absences. And that shouldn’t be surprising.
In customer-facing occupations, unexpectedly having a lower ratio of staff to customers means a busier, more stressful day in what can already seem like a very high-stress job when dealing with customers.

A Focus on Employee Engagement

There is a clear tie between low employee engagement and absenteeism, or turnover. What’s true in general is no less true for the retail industry in particular. “More than half of retailers worldwide (52 percent) see a direct correlation between poor employee engagement and increased staff turnover,” according to Kronos. That turnover again results in remaining staff having to pick up the slack when the company ends up shorthanded.
Unplanned absences can be a major disruption to retailers and other industries, but managers aren’t completely helpless. There are strategies they can employ to mitigate the negative impacts. We’ll discuss these in a follow-up post.

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