Employee tardiness is not a new concept. Being a couple of minutes late occasionally can be fine but routine lateness for longer than that can affect other staff members. In the US, 20% of employees are consistently late. Workers need to collaborate and respect one another to achieve better results.

Tardiness, however, can be seen as a sign of disrespect. Employers will need to determine whether employee tardiness is impacting the work environment in any way. In a lot of situations, being late could be acceptable if work is still getting done on time and the employee is complying with the rest of the company policies. In some other scenarios, it could have some negative consequences which means companies need to find ways to prevent tardiness.

Consequences of tardiness

Both the company and its staff will feel the consequences of employee tardiness. Depending on the size of the business and its operations, the extent of the severity can differ. The main consequences usually are:

  • Low employee morale
  • Domino effect
  • Output quality decreases

Low employee morale

When employees see that their colleague is constantly late, it can cause resentment to build towards them. This resentment is sourced from the increased workload they have to deal with due to their tardiness. They are likely to suffer from higher stress due to more tasks they have to deal with. In the long-term, productivity is expected to drop as employees are burnt out with making up for the lost time their colleague does not work.

Being 30 minutes late on one day with a reasonable explanation might be nothing but being chronically late every day can result in missed meetings and notes, which means forcing others to do double the work by notifying the person who was late. Employees do not want to stay in an environment where discipline is ignored, so turnover may rise as more staff look for better working conditions and colleagues.

Domino effect

The domino effect applies to tardiness and other types of misconduct as well. If employees see that another individual is getting away with being late on a daily basis, they might follow. If employers are not enforcing their policies, employees will disregard them as well.

Compliance needs to be led by example, meaning that employers need to take action and give consequences to those who refuse to listen. Otherwise, the rest of the workers will have an excuse to act the same. If that person is not being punished, then why should they? The domino effect can then extend to more serious crimes such as theft and asset misappropriation, as individuals will try to see how hard they can push without being caught.

Output quality decreases

If employee tardiness is at a high level, it is likely to affect the quality of their work and the work of their team. An employee that does not keep up with their tasks can cause others to fall behind, which will result in a worse product or service to customers. Customers will then be less likely to purchase something from the business or work with it again in the future, as it will build a reputation for not meeting expectations. If deadlines are missed and customers are not satisfied with what is delivered to them, trust in loyal customers is likely to decrease. This will, in return, reduce the business’s customer base and sales in the long term.

This may seem like the worst-case scenario, but it can happen in many cases, whether the domino effect takes place or not. If the employee responsible for interacting with the customers does not deliver on their promises, is late to client meetings and does not complete their work on time, then that alone can ruin a company’s reputation. There are cases where customers recognise that the employee being late is not the organisation’s fault and are willing to give the company a second chance, but should it get to that?

Employers have to prevent tardiness

Employers and managers should identify tardiness early so they are able to respond to it as soon as possible. Identifying tardiness early can also minimise the impact it will have on the business and its growth. Just like any other risk, early identification can guide a more effective resolution. Strategies to prevent tardiness include:

  • Create a tardiness policy
  • Communication is key
  • Set goals
  • Acknowledge improvements
  • Document and maintain records

Create a tardiness policy

Every company must have a policy that explains what tardiness means. Does it mean being a few minutes late to work or being late to meetings even if you are at work? It should also include how many minutes counts as late. Employers tend to forget that individuals can be late to meetings even if they are present at the workplace. They might manage their time badly or forget about it. Tardiness does not necessarily mean they do not show up to work on time.

By defining tardiness, the business can then define what makes lateness excused. It should clarify what kind of notice employees need to give and after how many times it may classify as misconduct. If there are strict working hours, then those should be included in the policy as well as the disciplinary action that will follow if employees do not comply.
Once a policy is created, enforcing it is the most crucial step. If employees see that you are taking your workplace expectations seriously, then they will too.

Examples of disciplinary action include:

  • Warnings (verbal and written)
  • Suspension
  • Demotion
  • Dismissal

Communication is key

As a manager, you should check in with employees if you realise they are chronically late. Employees may have a good reason for their tardiness; they might have caretaker responsibilities or children. The manager can work out a flexible working schedule for the employee if possible, change meeting schedules to later in the day and show employees how to set up reminders. They might also guide employees to complete a time management course.

Managers should inform employees of the consequences that could occur if they continue to be late without giving an appropriate reason. They should make it clear that employees are responsible for completing their work and only them.

Set goals

For employees to improve their tardiness, they need to develop punctuality. Punctuality does not happen overnight. Setting goals with individuals can help them get back on track. Goals such as not being late for a week and learning how to use reminders to plan their day can help start small.

Acknowledge improvements

If your employees are willing to improve, then you can play a role in their plan by acknowledging their efforts. Any steps are important for achieving the overall goal and employer trust in the individual can encourage them to keep trying.

Beyond acknowledging improvements, keeping employees motivated is also essential. Making work a friendly place to be can reduce any negative feelings employees may have and deter any tension. Employees may not want to show up on time to avoid a certain meeting or avoid seeing certain people. By clearing up any issues, staff will be happier and more likely to come to work on time.

Document and maintain records

When talking with employees, making decisions and taking action, it is necessary to record all information as it can help keep track of movements, protect the company and assist in future cases of tardiness. Managers will be able to look back and see what worked or what did not work in the past and decide what to do going forward. Lack of documentation can create confusion on whether an issue has already been dealt with, if an employee has been investigated for tardiness in the past or whether warnings have already been given.

Monitor tardiness

Businesses should look for ways to monitor tardiness. Clock-in systems, attendance software and confirmation of identity can assist the company in identifying individuals who are late and if payroll fraud is taking place in their organisation. Employees may be lodging fake timesheets and in larger companies, it can be hard to determine if a friend is registering another person as present when they are not. The software can point out if related types of fraud are taking place so the business can deal with two issues at once.

A few things to remember

As with most situations, being proactive is important. Working on a problem early can make the process slightly easier for employers to address. They have more time to prepare and more time to respond. Investigating employee tardiness can take a long time, especially if there are other types of fraud happening simultaneously.

Our clients trust us to help their investigators in cases like these. Polonious is trusted with making each investigation more efficient and effective. Our system can be integrated with different software that will assist the investigation team in collecting data and keeping track of them. All information is centralised, stored in one place that can be accessed from anywhere, anytime. Do you want to investigate tardiness quickly and with minimal costs? Reach out!