Erik on the SucessFactors blog crunches some numbers:
For a global financial service company with about 2 Billion Euros of labor cost and 35K employees there is an average cost per employee of 57K Euros. With 6% absent for sick leave that would mean that 2100 employees are absent at a cost of 120M Euro per year. If that sick leave could be reduced to 5% this company would have 350 more people working while directly saving 20M Euro. This example though showing significant cost savings is only looking at the direct cost of this absence, and not at the more strategic impact of lost business opportunities, or the individual human costs. Though there are arguments for fixing systematic problems caused by over generous sick pay, there is really nothing organizations can do about it in the short term… or is there?
To find the answer I turned to one of SuccessFactors Research Thought Leaders Ken Scarlett who has been researching this, and the conversation left us with some very real solutions.
Aggregately speaking, the higher the Engagement level (as measured by an engagement index) the lower the sick leave rates, and there is no better way to predict the likelihood of abusing sick leave than by the responses to the questions “Do you look forward to coming to work?” and/or “Do you feel you work is important to others?” Ken’s research shows that the group who answered negatively to those questions has the highest propensity to max out/abuse sick leave. With the specific questions above, you can actually create a highly accurate forecast within 10% margin of error.
In any country and any industry your job as a leader is to increase the likelihood that your people answer the question “Do you look forward to coming to work?” positively.Unfortunately while many leaders understand this question they think the answers can be changed by changing the external factors (which is why I understand a Professor in my MBA used to call HR folks the "Managers of Carpets and Curtains"), whereas the basic linkage of a great work and a great boss would be the only way people look forward to coming to work. The definition of great work would depend on a person's innate talents and strengths and this is why even chronic over-achievers can feel burned out and without passion in their work.hr