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Be equipped to respond to unscheduled absence

Good managers inspire their employee to perform at their best out of respect, not out of obligation. They are forthright but exercise a high degree of empathy and consideration for their whole team as well as the individuals within it.

Our research indicates employees want the following three themes from their workplace:

  • A culture where they feel they fit in, are appreciated, and are proud of what the organisation stands for or does.
  • A work environment where they are free to work and perform, do what they are good at and develop their skills
  • Leaders who communicate. Inspire confidence and keep up-to-date with current affairs

Know your team’s capabilities and motivations and focus on what employees are able to contribute

Seek to understand the backgrounds, motivations and interests of your team members. This knowledge will help you train your employees more effectively and assess which type of training is most appropriate.

This may include:

  • Formal training
  • On the job training
  • Workplace projects
  • Mentoring
  • Going on secondment
  • Action learning
  • Being part of a community of practice or network
  • Acting at higher duties

Learning a new skill or refining skills of an employee is always engaging and assists the agency to become more productive and develop a well-rounded group of professionals.The lack of clearly understood expectations is the source of much strife in relationships, the cause of most conflicts and the beginning of poor organisational performance.

Understanding what motivates your team and what the capabilities are will assist you in knowing what your team is able to deliver, where the strengths and weaknesses are and assist in tasking appropriately, be transparent about what can be accomplished.

Be skilled at having conversations

To have meaningful conversations that build engagement, here are five tips to try:

  1. Establish a trusting relationship. This is the cornerstone for all that follows. Trust is both the fuel for and the output of the conversations. It can be as simple as asking employees: “What would you like to know about me that would help us work better together?”
  2. Agree on mutual expectations. You can raise the conversation by focusing on mutual aspirations. For example, by saying: "Tell me about what you are seeking to achieve and why, and what expectations you have of me in helping you to achieve it."
  3. Show genuine appreciation and use appreciative inquiry to understand and build on strengths.
  4. Challenge unhelpful behaviour. Negative behaviour needs to be addressed promptly. By focusing on the behaviour itself and the impact it has on others as opposed to the person, you can reduce the "threat" felt by the person and increase the likelihood of your feedback being effective— learn more here .
  5. Talk about building for the future. Learn about where the employee wants to be in 1-to-2 years. This will enable you to work out how you can meet the employee's needs and retain valuable talent in the organisation.

Where employees are working remotely or even when everyone just seems 'too busy' to have a chat, make use of technology. Call, text or skype employees and check to see how they're going.

Provide additional support and communicate arrangements sensitively

Positive and regular contact with your employee why they are absent is crucial. It helps them feel valued and prevents them from feeling isolated. Weekly contact with employees is recommended for illnesses lasting several weeks or more. However, each case will be slightly different, so the frequency of contact should be discussed and agreed with the employee. Consider what your workplace can offer to better support the individual's circumstances.

Things to consider may include:

  • Offering a phased return to work plan, based on the individual's reported capabilities
  • Amending the individual's duties while on a phased return to work
  • Arranging regular one-on-one conversations to discuss progress, support and any problems
  • Identifying an alternative suitable role, if required

For longer absences, consider taking an active case management approach. This may involve you as the employee's manager, human resources, occupational health specialist/therapist, your employee and (where appropriate) the GP or other medical professionals all working together to actively manage the absence.

Last reviewed: 
27 August 2019