‘Ultimately, attention is the key word,’ Ingrid Gödecke, HR consultant at Sdu

Nationwide, a sharp rise in absenteeism can be observed, and in practice we see from Panthion that health and safety services often intervene too late.

We have written several articles about this before. This time we would like to give the floor to Ingrid Gödecke, HR consultant at Sdu. The company is known as the service provider for professionals working with laws and regulations. The French family business Lefebvre Sarrut (of which Sdu is part) is the European market leader in this field. With the smart use of content, data and technology, they develop innovative solutions that optimize work processes. The group’s mission is to make knowledge available for a fairer, more efficient and sustainable society.

From Panthions’ perspective, the company is an example of how to deal with job happiness, employee satisfaction and absenteeism prevention. In this article, we look at how Sdu takes care of their (sick) employees in practice, as well as how they are able to achieve structurally low absenteeism through preventive programs.

Structurally low absenteeism

Ingrid: “I don’t recognize the national increase in absenteeism so much at Sdu, we have had a low absenteeism rate for years: it fluctuates around 4%. This is partly due to the use of an intensive protocol around sick leave management. The specially designed procedures have a preventive effect. In practice, this means that we actively deal with signals that indicate, for example, a mental imbalance. When colleagues get into trouble, whether due to issues in their private life or here at work, we get there early to prevent worse. We talk to these colleagues to prevent someone from dropping out for a long time.

Deliberately small teams

‘Of course, even at Sdu people sometimes report sick, even for long periods of time. Sometimes it has to do with a medical, physical diagnosis. Then the situation is clear, because such a diagnosis is objective and cannot be influenced by us as an employer. We then try to support in every way possible. We do the same with psychological complaints, of course; there is no difference in that for us as an employer in terms of the intensity of counseling. It makes a difference that Sdu has 320 employees, which is easy for us to oversee and so we can provide support where needed. In addition, the teams are intentionally small in size. Within our company, partly as a result, there are relatively many team leaders, and they know their colleagues very well, both professionally and privately. When there are signs that someone is not doing well, a cup of coffee together is just like that.

‘By signals that things are not going well, I mean, for example, that people are coming in late a little more often or doing their work a little less well. We give people plenty of room in this to solve bottlenecks together, for example if there are private issues. If the complaints are work-related, then we look at how we can solve the cause of the arising complaints together.’

Preventive talks with company doctor

‘If someone is in danger of dropping out, after we have already taken the initiative to have conversations and that still does not lead to the desired result, we schedule preventive conversations with the company doctor. Or we have more intensive conversations internally. Sometimes we can give valuable tips to the colleague in question. These are things that people haven’t thought of themselves, such as making an appointment with the family doctor. In short, there are all kinds of helpful interventions possible to keep someone on board.

Panthion as a professional partner

‘Panthion takes care of the second track routes for us. That plays a role when people are ill for long periods of time. Such a process starts about 9 months after the onset of sick leave and then in situations where there is no clarity (yet) as to whether people can return to their own work in the not-too-distant future. The law “Poortwachter” then dictates that as an employer you have to look out for other work, both inside and outside your own organization,” Ingrid said. This part, which requires special expertise, we have very deliberately outsourced, because in terms of both time and content knowledge you don’t just do it on the side.

Permanent supervisor gives security to our people

‘It is very nice that we have outsourced this part, because although we know exactly what work is available within Sdu, we have insufficient insight into the opportunities outside of it. At Panthion, they do have that knowledge. I came to them, and this is now several years ago, through an employment specialist I had been doing business with for years. I was looking for a second track expert and she recommended Panthion to me. Pretty soon after we started working together, I noticed that they have things going well there. They keep their appointments, are easily accessible, communicate quickly and clearly about what they do and don’t do, and deliver their progress reports on time. Moreover, the lines of communication are short: if something is not going well, they raise the alarm in time to consult. Furthermore, and this is very important to us as a client, in the form of a permanent supervisor, they provide the security that our people need when they enter into a second track program. We hear the same from our own colleagues who find him empathetic and warm. And precisely that safety, that attention, is indispensable if you are not mentally comfortable in your own skin and want or need to look for a new role within Sdu or elsewhere.’

“The work of our counselor at Panthion is broad: among other things, he or she engages with our colleague, establishes an interest profile, talks about (sometimes undiscovered) competencies and talents, reviews his or her resume with our colleague, helps to write job applications, and practices conducting job interviews if necessary,” continues Ingrid.

Coach your executives as well

‘We also coach our managers internally, because it can still be quite difficult to have a conversation with that colleague who is clearly not comfortable in his or her own skin, but says himself that he or she is doing fine. In my experience, the most important skills are listening, probing, but especially sincere attention therein. When, as a supervisor, you indicate that you are concerned and that you are happy to participate in providing solutions, the sense of shame that sometimes prevails among the colleague usually quickly falls away.’

Tips for other organizations

‘Make sure you are actively doing early warning. Catch signals of absence, both mental and physical. Look closely at how much (or how little!) energy someone exudes, because that often says more than a thousand words. But mistakes made at work as a result of impaired concentration, just a little less external grooming or suddenly standing aside at lunch are also signs that someone is not doing so well. And furthermore, I can only recommend a party like Panthion, because in addition to the fact that they carry out trajectories for us, they also act as a professional sparring partner for those situations that have to do with absence management in the broadest sense.

It’s all about attention

‘Ultimately, attention is the key word. So engage with your people, know what they are going through, both business and personal. Also, actively watch how someone walks through the office and sits there during meetings. And when in doubt, have a cup of coffee together. Also, consciously choose your homework policy. At Sdu we use the 50% rule, but in practice the majority of our people work much more than half their working hours in the office. Because that’s where it starts: with physically looking each other in the eye and showing genuine interest in the other,” Ingrid concludes.

Also getting started with a professional partner for HR and career issues by your side? Take contact at info@panthion.nl or call 085 401 8200.

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