Hear a little bit more of a buzz around the office today? Detecting a touch more excitement beyond the usual Friday good vibes? Well, there's good reason for that since we're only a couple days away from what is consistently the single most-watched broadcast event of the year — the Super Bowl. In fact, with all the watch parties, emotional investment, and general staying-up-late that comes along with the big game, more than a few people might just feel they need some extra time to recover. And that aftermath is what HR will have to deal with come Monday morning.

The reality is the numbers don't lie. The Workforce Institute at Kronos and The Harris Poll released their annual Super Bowl Fever Survey earlier this week, and it paints a clear picture of how the event will impact unplanned absences for organizations across the US. The survey estimates that 17.5 million employees may not go to work the Monday after the Super Bowl, with 4.7 million of those employees saying they plan to use a sick day even though they won't actually be ill.

Comparing against the previous years' surveys, this is the highest estimated absence ever recorded. And with 2020 being stacked with other major pop culture and current events like the Summer Olympics and the 2020 presidential election, it's only the beginning. So how does HR keep up with unplanned absences now that pop culture events like the Super Bowl are having a bigger impact than ever before? We've got three tips:

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1. Don't fight the passion — embrace it

Leveraging employees' interest in different events occurring throughout the year can be a great way for HR to build a strong employee experience and company culture. You can do this through both company policies and employee self-service options.

Think about what options your organization might have around pop culture events. What kinds of reminders about your time-off request and scheduling rules can you and the managers at your company send ahead of events you suspect will cause a spike in unplanned absences? Can you offer something like a later start time or flex hours the day after the Super Bowl or other similar high-interest weekend activities? What about the possibility of booking unpaid leave up to a certain number of hours the day after an event? The point is there are some creative ways to make employees feel they have flexibility while also keeping your productivity on track.

From a technology perspective, something that can have a huge positive impact by both reducing HR's administrative workload and the employee experience is employee self-service. If your employees can go to one place from any device to independently accomplish tasks like managing their contact info, swapping shifts with other qualified team members, and putting in time-off requests, they'll feel like they have options when things like the Super Bowl or the finale of a popular show like Game of Thrones roll around.

Make sure the self-service option you choose has an intuitive user experience for things like scheduling. That way employees will feel they can get to anything they need on their own. This will help HR get out of the middle of processes related to absence without adding a different kind of administrative work in the form of explaining the solution to employees.

2. Be clear and proactive with absence policy communication

This one may sound obvious, but it's worth saying anyway — you'll avoid issues with unplanned absences if you ensure that your employees know the rules about time and attendance at your company and have options for easily following them. Like I mentioned earlier, you should proactively take the opportunity ahead of big events to reiterate those rules. With the right technology, you can even push out notifications to your organization so people see the information in the HCM system they're accessing anyway.

Automating your time rules is hugely important here, too. When you and the rest of your HR team have to spend a ton of time manually making sure that your standard time and attendance processes are working and that the right rules are applied to the right employee types, there's no way you're going to have the bandwidth to quickly deal with something unexpected like unplanned absences. When you embed rules for things like timesheet creation, accrual rates, overtime thresholds, and pay rates for different employee types into a single HCM system, it makes sure those rules get applied correctly without you having to constantly monitor it. Plus, this kind of automation builds trust with employees because it reduces the opportunity for human error around things like, say, whether or not they accrued enough vacation time to take the Monday after the Super Bowl off or if they've been scheduled fairly.

3. Get ahead of unplanned absence trends

After you've got some process automation under your belt, you'll be able to start thinking ahead when it comes to unplanned absence. Of course, this will take more than just marking down the year's biggest TV broadcasts on your calendar. But the good news is you can build off the treasure trove of data those automated time and attendance processes in your HCM system are generating.

One quick step you can take here is building a predictive employee reliability score. You can use data points relevant to your organization's processes to do this — think of metrics like missed punches, time card exceptions, late shifts, overtime, etc. — and weight which of those attributes matter most and least in calculating how reliable different team members are. Then you'll be able to track that reliability level over time and see who's likely to be at risk for unplanned absences.

And that's just what you can do by yourself with the right HCM data. When you add something like artificial intelligence (AI) into the mix, the possibilities become even greater. An AI can help you manage unplanned absences proactively in several different ways. First, it can track your organization's scheduling needs, looking at factors like what qualifications are needed for different shifts, seasonal volume trends, and typical shift patterns to help you plan your workload needs ahead of time, identify schedule gaps, and meet scheduling fairness standards. It also helps from the employee's perspective too, as it will automatically recommend the right people to take shifts during a shift swap and adapt to their typical scheduling preferences.

AI can also surface anomalies in your time, attendance, and scheduling activities so you can reduce suspicious behavior. Things like retroactive changes to schedules that were already in place and high volumes of time card edits will come to you as automatic alerts, meaning you'll be in the know if there's a likelihood that someone potentially gaming the system (maybe even so they can see the big game). This will help you enforce your policies effectively and encourage the proper channels for taking time off around big events.

Conclusion: Make sure you're scoring touchdowns against unplanned absence

Alongside their Super Bowl survey results, the Workforce Institute is also predicting that several other big pop culture events could cause a stir in terms of absence in 2020. So the time is now to make sure you've got a game plan around unplanned absences.

If you want to learn more about any of the tips in this article and push your HR strategy to the next level, take a look at our HCM Buyer's Guide. Consider it your playbook for picking the right HCM system to lead your team to victory.

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Published: Friday, January 31, 2020