Absenteeism ‘corrosive to employee engagement’

Absent shop worker

Staff that fail to turn up for work has long been a serious problem in local retailing, but a new survey suggests those effects could be even more wide-ranging than retailers think.

The poll of retail managers – ‘What Came First: Retail Absenteeism or Low Engagement?’ – by workforce management firm Kronos was designed to help better understand the negative effects that unplanned absences can have on areas as diverse as employee engagement, staff productivity, morale and stress, and how poor engagement can then lead to further absenteeism.

Some key findings included:

  • 63% of UK retail managers believe that poor employee engagement has a big impact on increasing employee absence
  • 55% of UK retailers see a direct correlation between poor employee engagement and increased staff turnover
  • 47% of global retailers see absenteeism as having a big impact on customer satisfaction, and 42% see it having an impact on store revenues
  • 62% of retailers recognise that a greater focus on work-life balance would have a positive impact on productivity

While four out of five retailers worldwide (78%) say employee engagement is important to organisational success, many are challenged by the corrosive impact that rampant unplanned absence has on staff productivity (58%), manager stress (55%), and team morale (46%). And it’s a vicious circle: more than half agree that poor employee engagement causes increased absenteeism.

Pauline Bennett, Retail Labour & Planning Manager at Sainsbury’s, said: “The impact of absenteeism can be felt at all levels – from individual store results to the corporate bottom line. Sainsbury’s is addressing the issue by analysing its root cause through labour analytics. We look at what factors can be driving unplanned absence – Is consistent understaffing leading managers to overwork employees? Do colleagues feel they lack flexibility in their schedules? – and work to address those factors one by one. With the ability to track absence patterns at each location, store managers can take swift action to reduce absenteeism, improve employee morale and meet the forecast.”