Aug 8, 2018 1:11:00 PM

Hard data helps drive down employee absence

Employee absence eats into company profits. The problem isn’t just the direct costs of paying workers while they are off sick. When you add all the indirect costs, including lost production and paying for staff cover, absenteeism can consume as much as 15% of an organisation’s payroll, according to one study.

And things aren’t getting any better. In the UK, for example, a recent survey found that the average level of absence is now 6.6 days per employee per year – compared to 6.3 in 2016. Absence levels are even higher in the public sector (8.5 days per employee) and in larger organisations.

Finding a data-driven solution

Businesses cannot begin to reduce employee absence until they understand what’s causing it. That’s a real challenge because traditional employee engagement surveys don’t shed much light on why some people are so unhappy at work that they throw regular “sickies”.

But it’s now possible to unpick the reasons for absenteeism and reduce it dramatically. That’s what a major restaurant chain in Finland discovered while trying to tackle a completely different problem – low customer satisfaction at one of its outlets. The company brought in HR consultant and academic Marko Kesti to find out what the issues were in this restaurant and to suggest improvements.

Professor Kesti and a team at VibeCatch, the firm he co-founded, had spent many years researching the factors that drive both employee engagement and financial performance. Using data from this research, they developed the Quality of Work Life (QWL) Index, a model now helping many companies analyse employee feedback, and predict productivity and profitability. “To our knowledge, this is the only publicly released model that has been peer reviewed and accepted, and measures the right things – those that can predict profitability and productivity,” says Juha Huttunen, CEO of VibeCatch.

How it works

The online VibeCatch QWL survey, which is based on the Index, consists of just 15 questions. So it’s quick and easy to complete. It’s the data behind the QWL Index and the automatic analysis of employee feedback that makes this survey unique.  

Building on previous studies, research by Professor Kesti and his team has shown that the quality of working life is influenced by three key factors: goals and creativity, social cohesion and identity, and physical and emotional safety. The first two factors are known to have a positive effect on the quality of working life. Clear goals that unleash employees’ creativity are likely to promote excellent performance, while strong social cohesion – team spirit, in other words – generates positive energy, along with high productivity. A low level of physical and emotional safety, on the other hand, creates a hostile working environment full of dissatisfied employees who are unlikely to perform at their best.

The VibeCatch QWL survey measures these three quality of work life factors across five areas: leadership, line management, culture, skills and processes.  An online tool from VibeCatch then analyses the results, identifying strengths and development areas and – crucially - recommending actions to address any issues and increase productivity. 

ROI on Quality of Work Life

ROI on Quality of Work LifeUsing this approach, the restaurant chain was able to pinpoint the cause of the problems at its most poorly performing branch. Staff at this restaurant felt that nobody cared about them, so they in turn didn’t care about their work, and would call in sick at the slightest provocation. But by measuring employee engagement, making improvements, taking more measurements and making yet more improvements, the company achieved startling results. Not only did the under-performing restaurant climb from number 57 in the company’s customer satisfaction ranking to number eight, it also saw sick leave fall by 75%. Not many HR projects deliver such massive payback.

To find out how your company can also reduce sickness absence levels and achieve significant savings, contact VibeCatch on 

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Posted by Juha Huttunen

Juha Huttunen
Juha is a Co-founder and the CEO of VibeCatch. A serial entrepreneur, technology enthusiast and geek with 15+ years of experience in startups, sales, leadership and growing business. To Juha, measuring improvements in performance and putting them in quantifiable and monetary terms is VibeCatch’s greatest strength.

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