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How to deal with the Melbourne Cup sickies

Monday, 5 November 2012 | By Martin Nally

feature-flemington-90Gen Y love lifestyle. It is their anchor. That is the one thing they will not let go of under any circumstances.


They integrate work into their lifestyle. They do not balance work and life. Fun and being seen is where it’s at.


And where better to be seen than the Melbourne Cup? The annual horse racing showpiece highlights a key challenge for new employers who have to grapple with unauthorised absenteeism among staff, especially younger workers.


So why not devise a way of striking first? Businesses, especially start-ups, need to implement a sick leave policy before absenteeism becomes a problem.


I would say you should start the way you mean to go on. We're about to witness the biggest sick day(s) in Victoria's history – the Monday before Melbourne Cup and the Wednesday after Cup day.


If you don't address that on a proactive basis, you get what you can expect. Employers should be saying "Let's have some flexibility".


Flexibility is the new order. Demonstrate to people why you need coverage on a particular day, but say you're more than happy for people to take another day off.


Small businesses have to do something about it because the absence of one or two people has a big effect on the business. Organisations need to embrace transparency and openness.


We need to understand the lifestyle anchor as well. Set up a new standard. Re-write your policy.


Any policy should be outlined in writing but needs to remain uncomplicated. Employers should ask staff for input to the development of a policy.


If you prescribe what happens, you'll get what you get. If you consult your staff, you might be surprised.


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Ask who needs to take off the Friday or Monday around Cup Day. Advise your staff you are willing to roster days off and still achieve coverage – let them know you are up for a little give and take.


Let people know you are up for a series of days off before and after weekends. If you are proactive and flexible you will avoid the surprises.


Another way of dealing with the inevitable is allowing people to self-roster around deadlines and meetings so that you are covered and they feel empowered.


Create an incentive, so that if absenteeism is low during the silly season you will provide some sort of benefit.


Allow the staff to have some say, because the barbecue or movie tickets you thought were great may not cut it, depending upon your demographic.


In that way, you are striking at the heart of the problem, not just reacting to someone taking a sickie.


Look to the cause, not the outcome and you may surprise yourself.


SMEs often claim they cannot undertake certain practices such as devising people strategies, but they are often more nimble than larger companies, so they really can.


Try dealing directly and openly and you will achieve the outcomes you desire. And did I mention the lifestyle anchor thing?


Understand your audience and what drives them. Seek input before the sickies. This will drive your business in the long run.


Martin Nally is the founder and MD of hranywhere - a Human Resources Service Company, offering people solutions to business. HRA represents the new generation of HR, focussing on providing the people support that businesses need. Prior to this, Martin has worked at Coles Myer Ltd, the Mayne Group and Kraft Foods, where he held a number of GM and senior HR roles.