Three practical steps that companies can follow to reduce illegitimate sick leave

In my second blog post I want to talk about the implications that absenteeism of workers has on companies, and suggest three practical steps that companies can follow to avoid high rates of sick leave. According to Wikipedia sick leave is defined as “time off from work that workers can use to stay home to address their health and safety needs without losing pay”.

 

Unfortunately, the rules of sick leave are also misused. Imagine yourself being in a senior management position in a big multinational company. Would you ever get frustrated with workers who call in sick too often? Or would you be more concerned about sick people who do not stay at home, and spread illness to other colleagues?

P1

Sick leave for companies, whether it happens for legitimate or illegitimate reasons, constitute a major problem for many organizations. It imposes huge costs on companies every year, however, what do all of these sick days really cost a company?

 

First of all, sick days delay work that might cause projects to fall behind in schedule. In addition, they create stress for colleagues, who try to make up for a missing person. These colleagues might need to work overtime, hours that add to overtime bills paid by a company. In contrast, some workers do not receive sick pay and, hence, try to avoid missing work. If they come to work ill, they may pass their illness to their colleagues causing even more people to become sick. As we can see some people use sick pay policies to their advantage. I will suggest three practical steps that companies can follow to reduce illegitimate absenteeism.

 

When doing my research I stumbled upon a very interesting fact. According to the Telegraph “public sector workers are 60% more likely to take sick days than their private sector counterparts”. This statement really caught my curiosity and I started to think about the reasons for this fact. Eventually, I came up with three fundamental actions, which in my opinion every company should follow to reduce absenteeism (and to increase performance).

 

Firstly, companies should try to increase job satisfaction.

P2

Of course this is a lot easier said than done and the question really is what actions companies can take to achieve this. I believe that there are many ways in which job satisfaction can be reached; such as being appreciated for your work, having a great relationship with your colleagues, or enjoying a great work-life balance.

However, I want to focus on one specific point, which I personally believe to be the most important one. A great job should be fun and if you are working your tail off without deriving any enjoyment something is most probably wrong. One defining mark of a fun culture is that the fun comes from everywhere. The key is to set the boundaries of what is permissible as broadly as possible. One company that manages this very well is Google. In 2010 two Google engineers launched an internal site called Memegen, which lets Googlers create memes. One of the pictures of former CEO Eric Schmidt can be seen below.

P3

Secondly, companies have to ensure that employees feel like they are working for a purpose.

 

P4

There are many people that enter the office, drop their briefcase with a thud that sounds like prison cell doors closing behind them, and wonder what it might be like to enjoy what they do rather than just moving papers around on their desk. Therefore, it is extremely important that companies bring more meaning to each and everyone’s career. However, giving each employee a purpose is very difficult because usually for most companies the ultimate goal boils down to profit maximization. Hence, I encourage companies to promote social work, which employees can do next to doing their “real work”. For example, next to the many chemicals that BASF is producing, it recently started producing mosquito nets for African countries. In addition, companies should incentivize their employees and give out rewards (e.g. top 5% performing employees).

The third action that I encourage companies to pursue is the promotion of work engagement.

P5  

 

As I was the expert of the day about this topic, I know that especially promoting task variety and task significance is important to foster work engagement. Providing employees with different tasks, and making them understand the significance of their job for the organization are simple actions that companies can follow, which have significant positive consequences on work engagement and consequently also on sick leave (and job performance).

 

All in all I found the discussion about sick leave we had in class very interesting. Therefore, I conducted some research and personally came up with three practical steps that companies should follow to reduce illegitimate sick leave: job satisfaction, working for a purpose, and work engagement.

 

 

Links and references:

 

http://www.engageforsuccess.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/wellbeing-and-engagement-04June2014-Final.pdf

 

http://www.beanmanaged.com/doc/pdf/arnoldbakker/articles/articles_arnold_bakker_189.pdf

 

http://www.fiskarsgroup.com/careers/investing-people/employee-engagement-and-wellbeing

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/jobs/hr-news/9266687/Public-sector-workers-more-likely-to-take-sickies.html

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sick_leave

 

Schmidt, E.; Rosenberg, J. (2014). How Google Works.

 

Interesting TEDx Talk about work engagement and work-life balance:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OkzozrUEHY

Integration of cultural diversity into an organization’s corporate culture

In this blog, I would like to share my perspective and thoughts on how to integrate cultural diversity into a company’s corporate culture as I found the discussion about the incident at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel intellectually stimulating.

 

Many people, when considering a job, are primarily concerned with their role and responsibilities, the company’s track record, compensation, and the industry. Further down on that list, probably between length of commute and quality of coffee in the kitchen, comes culture. Smart creatives, though, place culture at the top of the list. To be effective, they need to care about the place they work. This is why, when starting a new company or organization, corporate culture is the most important thing to consider.

 

Most companies’ culture just happens; no one plans it. That can work, but it means leaving a critical component of your success to chance. Once established, company culture is very difficult to change, because early on in a company’s life a self-selection tendency sets in.

 

When it comes to implementing a certain corporate culture, there are many aspects to be considered. One of them is cultural diversity, which is the aspect I am going to focus on in this blog.

 

Thinking about corporate culture and cultural background one question directly pops into my mind: Which culture is superior? To illustrate what I mean, I want to share one experience that I made in my internship at BMW in Mexico last summer. The sales department, which I worked for, had weekly scheduled meetings on Mondays at 2:00 p.m. For my first meeting I arrived five minutes early to ensure not running late. To my surprise, my colleagues started arriving at around 2:10 p.m. Clearly, in this case the Mexican culture had overruled the (German-centered) corporate culture. However, after finishing my internship I concluded that, actually, the corporate culture was stronger and all employees followed the same “rules” and “guidelines” and communicated with each other in the same way, no matter if speaking with a Mexican, German, or American. It seems like in the majority of successful companies corporate culture overrules cultural background and vice versa. For example, Eric Schmidt described in the “Entrepreneurial Thought Leader Speaker Series” at Stanford University in 2002 how important it is for employees at Google “to be able to work within the {organization’s} culture” (video link: http://ecorner.stanford.edu/authorMaterialInfo.html?mid=1090).

 

However, why is corporate culture superior in most successful companies? My explanation to this phenomenon sounds like this: People who believe in the same things the company does, will be drawn to work there, while people who do not, will not and as smart (intellectually and culturally), passionate, and soft-skilled employees are the most valuable assets to a company, corporate culture should be superior in my point of view. The answer to this question leads to the next question. How can organizations ensure that cultural background/diversity is “correctly” fitted into the corporate culture? I am going to present three possible solutions to this question.

 

  1. Companies should establish principles to embody elements that employees from all cultural backgrounds can recognize, understand, and to which they may legitimately aspire. The result is, usually, a set of corporate sayings that are full of “delighted” customers, “maximized” shareholder value, “innovative” employees, and “great” teamwork. The difference, though, between successful companies and unsuccessful ones is weather employees believe the words or not.

 

  1. International companies should teach employees about cultural intelligence. The ability to adapt effectively across cultures is something that can be taught. Companies could offer weekly or monthly crash courses to develop an understanding of emotions and moods, with which one will be better able to make sense of colleagues’ behavior. They should be taught about emotional labor/dissonance, surface acting, displayed vs. felt emotions, and local habits.

 

  1. Companies should make it a priority to invest the time and energy to ensure they get the best possible people who possess a certain minimum level of cultural intelligence. One indicator for cultural intelligence, for example, might be international experience. This not only prevents culturally rooted arguments but will also enhance teamwork. Additionally, a workforce of great people not only does great work, it attracts more great people (The herd effect). Especially very successful companies follow the third piece of advice. For instance, McKinsey claims to recruit smart, passionate, and dedicated people with international experience. Hence, even consultants coming from a culture where speaking up is seldom have no problem abiding to the mission “uphold the obligation to dissent”, as it is stated in McKinsey’s value statement.

 

What this blog post tries to highlight is the importance of “correctly” fitting cultural backgrounds/diversity into an organization’s culture in order for (multinational) companies to be successful. I have proposed three guidelines that companies could follow to successfully integrate cultural background into their corporate culture.

 

Word count: 798 (excluding video link, links, and references)

 

 

Links and References:

 

Schmidt, E.; Rosenberg, J. (2014). How Google Works.

 

http://www.jstor.org/stable/4165021?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

 

http://hnlr.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/271-278.pdf

 

http://www.mckinsey.com/about_us/what_we_do/our_values