Short-Term Absence Research Proposal

Pages: 10 (2761 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Careers

Absence

Short-Term Absences in a Logistics Setting: Identified Implications and a Proposal for Further Research

Maintaining optimal efficiency and productivity is one of the key aspects of human resources management when it comes to daily operational activities. Encouraging workers through appropriate incentives and ensuring adequate yet cost-effective staffing levels are kept consistently available and engaged are fundamental tasks in any organization, yet carrying out these tasks is often fraught with more complexities and difficulties than would be perceived through an initial surface inspection. Dealing with problems in staffing levels and employee engagement requires a deep understanding of the many issues that can affect employee engagement; simple morale issues, health concerns, and a variety of other problems can all impact the availability and the productivity of any given worker and of workforces as a whole.

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The following literature review and research proposal addresses the issue of short-term absences in a transport company that has traditionally experienced better-than-average (according to industry comparisons) rates of absence amongst its white-collar workers, but with the depot workforce now experiencing higher-than-normal rates of absenteeism. An identification of several potential explanations for the issue can be found in recent literature, which also provides insight into the research methods and findings that have been developed in similar inquiries in prior years. Using the information obtained in this literature review, a plan for further investigating the problems experienced in this specific transport company is developed that aims to both understand and alleviate the absenteeism increase.

Academic and Organizational Relevance

TOPIC: Research Proposal on Short-Term Absence Assignment

The importance of understanding problems in absenteeism is self-evident in both academic and practical (i.e. organizational) perspectives, as absences -- even and perhaps especially short-term absences -- have a direct and significant impact on productivity and serve as direct reflections of other more subtle human resources issues (Mathis & Jackson, 2011). From an academic perspective, understanding absenteeism helps lead to an understanding of employee morale and retention concerns, the manner in which health issues and organizational health policies can impact productivity, specific work-site and interpersonal relationship issues that can often arise, and a host of other issues that require an abstract and academic understanding before the full practicalities of a situation can be addressed (Mathis & Jackson, 2011; Kleynhans, 2006). Research into the mechanisms behind absenteeism generally and short-term absences in particular have identified a range of psychological, medical, and other issues that can be studied from a variety of perspectives (Mathis & Jackson, 2011; Kleynhans, 2006; Cunradi et al., 2005; Sanders & Nauta, 2004; Andren, 2001; Serxner et al., 2001; etc.). Identifying the specific issues at the transport company that is experiencing problems in this case will help to refine other academic inquiries through the additional knowledge provided in terms of methodology and results.

The importance of this literature review and the proposed/recommended research is even more apparent from an organizational perspective, as the results of the research will provide direct and specific information to the transport company regarding the cause of their recent increase in short-term absences and while the literature review will both help in the creation and facilitation of this research while also providing potential solutions for any problems the direct research identifies. That is, the literature review will provide the practical knowledge necessary to design and carry out an effective research plan and will also identify the manner in which specific issues of absenteeism were resolved, while the research itself will identify the concrete problems apparent in the transport company and allow for the selection of a previously identified course (or courses) of action. This cements the connection between the academic and the organizational goals and benefits of such research, as well, making it clear that previous academic pursuits are not only useful in and of themselves, but that they bear an intrinsic ad mutually-supportive relationship with organizational goals.

Literature Review

Research into absenteeism has occurred at a relatively steady pace over the past decade, however inquiries that specifically aim to address short-term absences are somewhat more infrequent. Nevertheless, various studies have been conducted in a wide range of settings and environments -- and utilizing a diversity of approaches -- that can be used to provide foundational knowledge for the research required in this case. Of primary interest is identifying the underlying causes short-term absenteeism, and especially of noticed increases of short-term absences within a given organization or workforce population, followed by a discovery of the solutions that have been developed in response to these individual causes of short-term absences. Current literature provides insight into both of these areas.

One single-collection point study of transit workers in San Francisco, considered to be a high-stress occupation, found that especially amongst male blue-collar workers short-term absence was found to have separate and significant levels of correlation with the amount of stress experienced at work, alcohol use (specifically bouts of heavy drinking), and external (i.e. non-work related) life events (Cunradi et al., 2001). As this research was conducted using a simple self-reported survey of the transit workers themselves its results cannot be deemed to be entirely valid nor does the research offer any means of addressing these problems, however the direct link between work-related stress and absenteeism does provide useful insight into the case at hand, suggesting that an increased stress level at the transport company's depots could be responsible for the observed increase in short-term absenteeism (Cunradi et al., 2001). If such a problem is identified, there are many approaches to alleviating the increased stress level, from addressing any organizational changes that might have occurred to providing occupational counseling and/or training to employees.

A retrospective cohort study was conducted on different teams within a specific organization, and this research showed that short-term absenteeism is influenced by social factors in addition to the more concretely identifiable organizational and external impacts previously identified (Sanders & Nauta, 2004). Interestingly, teams with a greater level of homogeneity in terms of gender were found to be more socially cohesive and to exhibit lower rates of short-term absenteeism (Sanders & Nauta, 2004). Similarly, higher numbers of full-time employees on a given team were associated with lower levels of short-term absences for members of that team, which is counter-intuitive to many modes of thinking and the incentives provided by many part-time vs. full-time payment schemes (Sanders & Nauta, 2004). In light of the case at hand, the identification of these problems would serve as their own solution: the research suggests that providing full-time employment opportunities and creating teams that are more gender-homogenous will help to alleviate any short-term absence issues generated by a lack of these factors in the first place (Sanders & Nauta, 2004).

One of the more reliable studies conducted in the area of short-term absenteeism related to health issues found that disability and short-term illnesses were significantly reduced by the implementation of a comprehensive worksite health promotion program (Serxner et al., 2001). These findings are not especially surprising in light of other, similar evidence, and yet many businesses still fail to recognize the importance of preventative care and the boost to productivity that can be achieved by ensuring the short- and long-term health of employees (Serxner et al., 2001). While it is doubtful that a sudden change in health policy or workforce health outcomes is responsible for the observed increase in absenteeism at the transport company in question, especially as the company typically experiences a lower-than-average rate of short-term absences, this research does provide a means of addressing short-term absence problems generally and might be worth considering when solutions are explored.

The economic incentives involved in short-term absence rates were explored in Sweden's overall population during a period when the country's employment laws underwent two different reforms, showing that there is indeed a correlation between monetary compensation for absent days and the rate and length of employees' short-term absences (Andren, 2001). The same study also found, however, that employees who were generally in poorer health were not impacted by the lower rate of remuneration for short-term absences that were established following the second set of reforms, while those employees who were in better health were observed to shorten lengths of absence and have more infrequent short-term absences following this change than had previous reforms, which had abolished a previous unpaid day of absence (Andren, 2001). Again, it is unlikely that a change in compensation levels is the root cause of the change in short-term absence rates observed, but an alteration to compensation schemes could provide at least a partial solution to the observed problem regardless.

In contrast to Sanders and Nauta's (2004) findings, Arai and Thoursie (2005) found that temporary contracts were workers showed a negative correlation with short-term absenteeism -- workers with temporary contracts (and thus less certain occupational futures) were less likely to have frequent short-term absences than were their secure-contract counterparts. This is not in direct refutation of Sanders and Nauta (2004), who examined full-time vs. part-time workers rather than temporary vs. standard-contract employees, however it does raise questions regarding the relationship between job security, job importance, and… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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