Building More: Incentivizing Employee Attendance

Building More: Incentivizing Employee Attendance

Words: Corey Adams 

Nothing in this business frustrates me more than employees showing up late or not at all. The more business owners I talk to, the more it sounds like an epidemic sweeping through. Our employees know we are strapped for help, and they can feel the power they have. Unfortunately, most use this power to show up when they want or just ghost us. They know they can get another job. Everyone is hiring. They view themselves much like the hired guns that once roamed the west—jumping from town to town looking for the highest bidder, knowing that someone will always pay more. In some regards, I do not blame them. Get it while you can. 

It feels like a full-time job on top of running the business. That does not help us, business owners, much. We fight and claw for every employee we can find. Now, we must fight and claw to keep them. The good news is there are options.

First, have a written employee handbook that clearly outlines expectations, job descriptions, and the discipline that will be handed down if not followed. Too many small businesses skip this part, sit around, and wonder how to handle a habitually tardy employee. The employee handbook is the answer to all of this. You do have to abide by the guidelines set forth. For every employee, every time, including yourself. 

A good handbook clause for tardiness and unexcused absences is three strikes, and you’re out policy. The employee gets two written warnings; then, on the third offense, they are dismissed. 

Ok, I hear you. “I can’t afford to fire any employees right now. I need more as it is!” That is fine but remember that you get more of what you tolerate. Tolerating bad employee behaviors will filter through a crew fast, ruining the morale and creating more of the behavior that you are tolerating. 

The handbook is a must, but some other creative things can be done to help promote an on-time workplace. Have you ever heard of attendance bonuses? Our sites are not much different than 2nd grade. Every day there is an informal roll call. It is not out load, but we all take note when someone is late or not there—every employee notices. 

An attendance bonus is a great way to incentivize just that, attendance. There are a couple of ways you can structure it as well. Monthly bonuses, or hourly bonuses. 

Monthly attendance bonuses. This style is exactly what it sounds like. If employee x shows up every day for a month on time, they get a fixed rate bonus, say $400. This is the easiest system to install, but I see some flaws in it. Long-term incentives fell harder to reach. If an employee has a bad 1st week, they will know that they must wait three more weeks before starting again. It will feel like an eternity to the employee and often not produce the results you are looking for. 

A great way to incentivize employees and attract new ones is with hourly attendance bonuses. This structure pays a person $x extra per hour, per pay period, for being on time and present. Look at it this way:

  • A new hire laborer comes in at $20 per hour. 
  • You have a benefits package that equates to roughly $5 per hour per man.
  • You add on an attendance bonus that is $2 per hour. 
  • Now that laborer has the potential to make $27 per hour.
  • When advertising for laborers, you can now advertise laborers starting at $27 per hour. Then lay it out to the applicants on how.

The best part of this system is that your entire crew knows that they make less if they show up late. Of course, you still have three strikes, and you are out of policy, but the extra $2 per hour is enough to motivate most employees. 

We are fighting more than ever to find and keep a workforce. It is time to ditch tradition and start thinking outside of the box to position our companies for continued success. 

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