Paid Sick Days Are Bad for You, Bad for Your EmployeesPosted 09/10/2004
By Bob Cooper
Now, here's where a lot of shop owners get into trouble. They'll put together a compensation program based on what their predecessors have done rather than what they should be doing, which is thinking through the entire process. To put it another way, they fall into that age-old trap of following the examples of all the wrong people.
Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about. If you're like most shop owners, you probably think paid sick days are a good idea, because that's what our industry has done for decades. But I disagree. Paid sick days are not only bad for your employees, but they're bad for you, too.
Before you jump to any conclusions, consider this: The first step in putting together any kind of compensation program is to never forget the cardinal rule when it comes to training puppies, raising children and managing - "The behavior we get is the behavior we reward."
If we apply that rule to sick days, it stands to reason that what we'll be doing is rewarding people for calling in sick. Now that does not make much sense. But what does make sense is accepting the fact that people do get sick, no matter how good their health may be. We also have to accept the fact that sometimes an employee needs time off for personal reasons, and without question, if they do get sick, it would be nice if we could offer them some form of a financial safety net. If I have your agreement so far, you're probably asking yourself, "How can we reach all three of those goals?" If that thought is going through your mind, here's your answer:
The first thing you need to do is look for ways to reward people for staying healthy, and the way you do that is by offering all of your people what I like to call "well days," instead of "sick days." (The behavior we get is the behavior we reward, remember.) Have a meeting and tell all of your people that they're going to be entitled to three "well days" per year. If they're ill, they can take the day off, and they'll be paid the predetermined amount of money for that day (for the purpose of this article, let's say that amount is $200).
If they need a day off to pick up family members coming in from out of town, meet with teachers at school or take care of any other personal matter, they can use one of their well days. All that you require is that they let you know as far in advance as possible if they're going to use a well day for any personal needs.
By now, you're probably asking yourself how you win! Here's your answer: What you'll have is less absenteeism, and happier people, at the same time! Not only do they now know you understand that they, too, have personal needs, but they also know that at the end of the year what you'll do is buy back any unused well days for their face value! And if they haven't used any of their well days, you'll pay them double the face value for all three!
For example, if Larry only used one day (worth $200) and at the end of the year he had two days left, he could redeem them for a total of $400. And Mike, who didn't miss a single day throughout the entire year, gets a check for $1,200, which is all three of his well days at double their face value.
What this means for you is that when the day comes when one of your guys or gals rolls over in bed and thinks about calling in sick, they'll also realize that decision is going to cost them $200. And as the year reaches a close, they'll start to realize there's a good chance they won't be using any of their sick days! If they decide to take one at that point, they'll forfeit the bonus they would have received for not using any of the days.
Consider giving this idea a try. Never forget that when it comes to managing people, the behavior we get is the behavior we reward. What we need to do is let them know we respect the fact that they have personal needs. We need to put them in a position where they're not going to be telling us the white lie that they're sick to have the day off, and we need to do what your competitors never will do! Reward your people for being productive, and staying healthy - both at the same time! Well days can help you reach that goal.
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