Absenteeism in any industry can be downright crippling.  According to a report cited by the Los Angeles Times, absenteeism can cost US businesses $84 Billion a year.  Many things make up one’s absenteeism – sickness, bereavement, depression, injuries and the occasional mental health break, to name a few.

My plant was in the process of closing where I was the Human Resources Manager.  I was one of three retained by our corporate office to work on special projects.  I was assigned the task of creating an absence management program that would bring absenteeism below 2% across our company, which was made up of about 28 facilities.  Not an easy task.

Although it is widely accepted today that having absenteeism below 2% is a world-class standard, it was a new concept at this particular time.  I assembled a team of HR Managers in my company who were interested in working on this virtual project with me, and called our first meeting.

Right from the start, I received push back about this 2% goal.  No one had heard of such an expectation before and the consensus was that I should go back and challenge it.

Uh, okay…NOT!  My job had just been saved and this was the first project given to me by our relatively new VP of HR, so I was really not interested in giving her any push back.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not afraid to take a stand when I feel it is warranted, and sometimes to my own undoing, but this was not one of those times in my book.

I shared with my virtual team that regardless of the goal given, our objective was to create a world-class absence management program, and I was confident that we would work to that end.  I knew there was no way we would be able to properly gage the results of our program since our timeline did not allow for a pilot, so the program we would come up with would have to be the answer to all of our absenteeism problems.

To make a long story short, our Absence Management Program met our goal across the board in its first year of implementation…Whew!  I’ll give you the low-down in a PowerPoint below.

Meanwhile back at home…

It was the end of the school year, and we were looking to see what scholarships my daughter would be receiving for college.  There was a local one that based upon her grades, along with meeting other criteria during her four years of high school, would practically pay for the remaining expenses.

When I went to confirm, the guidance counselor came back and said that my daughter had met all of the criteria, but one – presenteeism.  You’ve got to be kidding me!!!  Had I allowed her to miss some days? Yes—for things like sickness, a knee injury, mental health breaks, the occasional lazy day and of course for PMS.  She wasn’t staying home without my knowledge, mind you.  I had sent in notes for each and every absence, but what I did not realize was that the criteria for presenteeism in this scholarship did not differentiate between excused and unexcused absences.    If I could use a hashtag right here, it would be #MomFail

There was nothing to be done.  Her records were checked and rechecked.  The insult to injury came when we were told that she was the only student to have ever lost this scholarship for absenteeism. Thanks.

You see, I had not placed the same value on presenteeism for my kids as I had for my employees, and there was going to be a cost.  Thankfully, it was not in the billions and did not keep her from attending college, but it did serve as a well-learned lesson going forward.  She now rarely EVER misses a class.

Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, But the hand of the diligent makes rich.  Proverbs 10:4 NASB

Are you thinking about revamping your presenteeism/absence management policy?  Let me tell you what we did and what we came up with that enabled us to have company-wide world-class attendance in this PowerPoint below.

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Award-winning author Gina Duke is a wife, mom and the principal of a human resources firm specializing in recruiting, training and strategic planning for the automotive industry. Through her book, “Organizing Your Prayer Closet: A New and Life-Changing Way to Pray” (Abingdon Press), she imparts 1 Peter 4:7 with the gift of structured prayer journaling. You may also follow her on Twitter and Instagram @TheGinaDuke.  Connect with her on LinkedIn here.



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  1. Such a good point! I teach in a small Christian school. Every year we have one senior who misses an inordinate amount of days & risks his/her graduation. Thanks for sharing this post & for visiting me at Doorkeeper last week. Blessings!

  2. Wow, I didn’t know you could lose a scholarship for that either. Interesting. I agree though, absenteeism is something that needs to be addressed in both a business, academic and even church setting. The last job I worked at before having our daughter (that I still sometimes contract for) ended up hiring a company to revamp some of their relations with employees and it has resulted in better employees, a better hiring process, better employee satisfaction and fewer missed days. I appreciate your approach to this. Especially positive reinforcement! That is huge in business and in parenting!! 🙂

    1. Thanks, Kristi. HR is the other lane I like to drive in, but you are right about absenteeism in church; it’s a problem. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Given that we know that God works ALL things together for our good, I have to believe He will use this lesson in your daughter’s life for His good. The interesting thing is that while to some degree you can make people show up, you can’t always make them engage and do the work when they are there. Hopefully we live by the standard that whatever we do, we do it for the Lord. Thanks for the real life check!

  4. What a bummer. To lose a scholarship had to be frustrating. Absenteeism is a problem in many places for various reasons. It seems to me that we can all find a happy medium regarding absenteeism because there are times when people need to legitimately be out of work or school.

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