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Dear ReWorker,

We have a small business with only four employees. We need our employees to be on time because our clients come to us. If our staff doesn't arrive at the designated time, we often have clients waiting for them out in the parking lot.

We introduced a vacation policy for the first time, and employees can now earn paid time off by clocking in on time. Each pay period of timeliness gets them half a paid day, which means they can earn 12 paid days off each year, just by clocking in on time. But we heard someone say, 'Well, if I'm late once during a pay cycle, I won't earn paid time off , so why should I show up on time for the rest of the period?' I'm at a loss as to what to do next.

Sincerely,

Tired of Tardiness

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Dear Tired of Tardiness,

You think you've been battling a tardiness problem, but what you're actually facing is a disbelief problem. Your employees don't believe that it is important to be on time, so they aren't. The carrot you handed out—the vacation—is just an indication that you are begging them to do the job they should do anyway. (Although, I think you should definitely be offering vacation.)

So, my advice? Make them believe you. How?

Sit down with each member of your existing team and say, "You need to be on time. We've tolerated late arrivals in the past, but that is changing. Starting next week, the new policy will be: a formal warning for the first lateness, a one day suspension without pay for the second lateness and if you're tardy a third time, your employment will be terminated. However, if you're on time for three months in a row, we'll erase one lateness from your file."

Then present the employee with two printed copies of the new policy, and ask them to sign both. Keep one for your files, and send the other one home with them.

They will not like this. Not one bit. Someone will likely test you out, and here's the critical part: You must follow through. You need to give them the unpaid suspension day, and you might need to fire an employee who pushes a third day, so start searching for new employees before you embark on this process. If you do not do this, your problem will continue because your employees won't believe you.

Now, I'm not normally this strict, but because your employees' behavior has a direct effect on clients, you need to make rectifying the issue a priority.

One more tip, though: When hiring new employees, consider the salary and benefits that you offer. Usually, a better salary and benefits package (like the vacation you started offering) will attract higher-caliber employees. If your current employees rise to the challenge, make sure you increase their salaries as well.

This will be painful for a while, but ultimately, you'll have a better staff, and your clients will appreciate it.

Your ReWorker,

Suzanne Lucas, Evil HR Lady

Photo: Creative Commons