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The Effects of Absenteeism on Construction Productivity Valerie D.

Woodard BSA 518-M450 Business Research and Application February 10, 2009 Michael Miner

Absenteeism & Construction 2

Productivity in construction frequently suffers as a result of high levels of absenteeism and turnover. Owners, contractors, and workers are interested in resolving this problem. Some causes of absenteeism are uncontrollable. The major causes, however, are controllable. Causes such as excessive work load, poor supervision, and unsafe working conditions can be frequent reasons for absenteeism (Lingard, Brown, Bradley, Bailey, & Townsend, 2007). Absenteeism increases when the workforce grows and decreases with a reduction in the number of employees and this directly impacts productivity (Lingard et al., 2007). This research team will analyze the problem of construction projects not being completed on time. Does absenteeism effect the completion of construction projects in a timely manner? The purpose of this paper is to describe and provide examples of the uses of observation and experimentation in relation to absenteeism. It will also analyze a case study for validity, reliability, measurement, attitude scales and questionnaire design as it relates to absenteeism in the construction industry. Observation According to Zikmund (2003), observation is the process of recording the behavioral patterns of people, objects, and occurrences as they are witnessed. The value of observation is that it permits researchers to study people in their native environment in order to understand things from their perspective (Zikmund, p.235) Observation requires the researcher to spend time in the considerable field with the possibility of adopting various roles in order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the people being studied. However, questioning or communicating with the individuals under investigation does not need to occur (p.235). A variety of techniques can be used to collect the data with this method. When researching

Absenteeism & Construction 3 absenteeism, the possible observation examples to be used are: physical actions, such as work patterns, spatial relations or locations, or temporal patterns, are jobs being completed (p.235). Physical actions when researching absenteeism can be described as the workers movement patterns on the worksite in construction (Zikmund, p.235). This physical behavior can be studied by observing individual productivity when the compositions of work assignments change. By grouping individuals in teams, researchers can define the teams productivity level when all members are present and record changes that occur when someone is absence (Harbaugh &Van Den Nouweland, 2005). Spatial relations and temporal patterns are factors to be considered when conducting an observational study. Are workers more effective on job sites with direct supervision versus offsite locations with minimal or no supervision? Job sites with supervision could yield a higher productivity level because of the proximity of supervisor to worker and the workers desire to complete the task assigned (Harbaugh & Van Den Nouweland, 2005). Also, does the implementation of an absenteeism policy have any effect on the absentee rate? Experimentation Experimental research allows the researcher to control the research situation so that causal relationships among variables may be evaluated (Zikmund, 2003, p.257). Effects of absenteeism on productivity can be analyzed in a situation where an employer can learn something about the individual workers job performance by observing what happens during his absence from work (Harbaugh & Van Den Nouweland, 2005). Team production is essential to productivity in construction; therefore, any changes in personnel can adversely affect the output and completion of assigned tasks. Changes in the team composition with a control group and a trial group can be measured and analyzed in regards to total project output (Harbaugh & Van Den Nouweland, 2005). Scheduled absences as well as unscheduled absences can be reviewed. Vacation time

Absenteeism & Construction 4 selected by the employee can be analyzed by the employer for its effect on productivity. Every employee would like to believe that his job could not be completed without him. The employer can use both vacation behavior and observations on output to determine wages for workers (Harbaugh & Van Den Nouweland, 2005). Further Analysis of Case Study The case study titled Demonstrating Worker Quality through Strategic Absenteeism by Harbaugh and Van Den Nouweland can be further analyzed for other forms of measurement and scaling concepts. Validity Validity is the ability of a measure to measure what it is supposed to measure (Zikmund, 2003, p.302). Construct validity is established by the degree to which a measure confirms a network of related hypotheses generated from a theory based on the concepts (Zikmund, p.303). In this particular case study, the researchers designed a research model to capture information regarding absenteeism by employees. The hypotheses generated gathered information on team composition, changes in that composition, how vacation time and sick days relate to productivity and how these changes effect absenteeism (Harbaugh & Van Den Nouweland, 2005). Reliability Reliability is the degree to which measures are free from error and therefore yield consistent results (Zikmund, p.300). For this study, the researchers help employers develop strategic methods to assess individual workers. The observation and recording of individual workers in regard to their productivity was used to establish two worker types- a high type worker and a low type worker. This initial method was repeated with slight changes in the workers tasks and team assignments in order to assure the results were free from error and to

Absenteeism & Construction 5 establish benchmarks. (Harbaugh & Van Den Nouweland, 2005). Measurement Several different scales of measurement were used in this case study. Initially, the employer uses both observed changes in output and the strategies of the employees to form beliefs about a given workers type. Worker A is classified as a high-type worker or a worker who produces at a high rate. Worker B is classified as a low-type worker or a worker who produces an output much lower than his counterpart (Harbaugh & Van Den Nouweland, 2005). The ranking (ordinal scale) of these workers is used in conjunction with other scales; such as the actual measurement of productivity output for the high type worker versus the output of a low type worker. The scales used for this measurement are interval in relation to time (amount of time to complete the job), and ratio in relation to output (the actual measurement of the job completion) (Zikmund, 2003, p.297). Attitude scales The behavioral component of attitude scales is effective in this case study. Many of the observational methods gathered information for the employer. When presenting this information, the researchers became interested in the reactions of the employer. The behavioral component of an attitude involves the behavioral expectations of an individual toward an attitudinal object (Zikmund, 2003, p.320). The researchers results pertaining to worker types when presented to the employer invoked reactions concerning pay increases for high achiever and concern for those who did not achieve this level (Harbaugh & Van Den Nouweland, 2005).

Questionnaire design

Absenteeism & Construction 6 In this particular case study, the questionnaire design was not used. However, this research team could benefit from the data collected with a questionnaire design. Gathering information in regards to absenteeism from employees, employers and human resource departments can be essential in detecting the correlation between productivity and absenteeism. Conclusion Absenteeism affects the productivity of many companies. This case study has provided insight into certain methods for consideration when researching this area. The techniques of observation and experimentation were successful in gathering much needed data for this project. Observation was primary for establishing worker types and productivity outputs. Experimentation granted researchers with measureable information to investigate absenteeism, productivity levels, vacations or structured leaves. Several different methods of measurement were used to ensure the studys validity and reliability. The results of this case study provided the employer and many others with strategies for reducing absenteeism and increasing productivity.


Absenteeism & Construction 7 Harbaugh. W. T. & Van Den Nouweland, A. (2005). Demonstrating Worker Quality Through Strategic Absenteeism. International Game Theory Review., Vol. 7, No. 2, p.189-209. Retrieved February 4, 2009 from Academic Source Complete. Lingard, H., Brown, K., Bradley, L., Bailey, C., Townsend, K. (2007, October). Improving Employees Work-Life Balance in the Construction Industry: Project Alliance Case Study. Journal of Construction Engineering and Management. Vol. 133. No. 10. Retrieved February 4, 2009 from Academic Source Complete. Zikmund, W. G. (2003). Business Research Methods with Info Trac (7th ed.). Mason, OH: Thomson/South-Western Publishing.