A leading academic today called for the introduction of policies to address the troublesome issues of absenteeism and declining productivity.
Senior Lecturer in Management Studies at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Dr Dion Greenidge told office professionals this morning that the level of voluntary absenteeism was taking a toll of local businesses and workers would be more productive if there were national frameworks in place to address the root causes of the problem.
Dr Greenidge said the authorities had taken some steps toward this goal but they were far from enough.
“Yes, we recently did our Employment Rights Act and we updated and revisited our Occupational Health and Safety Act and so on. Very well. But we have not gone the mile. I still think we are behind the ball game in relation to where a number of developed and some developing countries are when it comes to looking at these issues in organizations,” he said in an address at the Barbados Association of Office Professionals Administrative Professionals’ Day seminar at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
Citing previously released figures to emphasize the point, the university lecturer pointed to a study conducted between 2004 and 2007, which found that 25 local companies had lost approximately $3 million in a six-month period.
It was not immediately clear how many man-hours were being lost due to the practice of employees regularly staying away from work, but in an address at a similar event in 2013 when he first released the survey results, Dr Greenidge said then that the rate of absenteeism ranged from 3.6 per cent to 8.1 per cent.
In his speech this morning the UWI lecturer suggested that workers wished to be productive but often lacked the motivation.
He explained that contributing factors ranged from the weather to a feeling of injustice, with work-related stress, workplace culture, poor management and leadership styles, inadequate communication structures and dissatisfaction with the performance of other workers, all informing the employees’ decision to skip work.
“We need to look at the issue on a broader context . . . so that interventions can be put in place to deal with those real issues that impact on employees . . . .They are being unproductive for varying reasons, not because they don’t want to be productive. And that is the important thing to understand. So there needs to be a policy move towards looking at the psychosocial environment,” he explained.
Dr Greenidge warned that unless policies were implemented there would be no progress. He encouraged businesses to help employees manage work-related stress and he called on human resource departments to ensure that the work environment was conducive to productivity.
“So do your practices allow for HR flexibility? Are we into developing our employees? And is HR involved therefore in linking to what I call the organizational strategic plan?” he asked.
The senior lecturer also stressed the need for a national wellness policy and a healthy work organization framework to help drive productivity.
“We need a creation of productivity measurement systems industry or organization-based which look at key performance indicators . . . that provide practical and useful information,” he added.
“We need to undertake a high performance work and HR relationship best practice survey at least twice yearly to at least understand what is happening in our organizations in Barbados, so we can influence leadership practices . . . . It is not that we don’t have good competent people in these positions but maybe they need management development,” Greenidge recommended.