Technology and Absence Management: Integrated Absence Management Begins With Data

Posted by Shahlla Karmali on Aug 27, 2019 9:12:59 AM

Our parent company, Presagia, is once again contributing a column to each 2019 issue of @Work Magazine, a publication by the Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC). If you haven't had a chance to check out this excellent group, we highly recommend that you do! DMEC provides best practices for our complex industry and @Work is one of many excellent resources that we always stay on top of! 

This year's column, Technology and Absence Management, focuses on the technology that can help support a strong leave and accommodation management strategy. In celebration, we've created a blog series that will showcase each of the columns!

The following is the July column, which explores the benefits of integrated absence management and the types of data and systems employers can integrate to gain a holistic picture of their employees.

Leave of absence manager integrates their absence management systems to gain a holistic picture of their employees

More often than not, absence data related to leave, accommodation, and disability isn’t used effectively because it is siloed away in different areas of an organization. This inaccessibility of data prevents a holistic approach to absence management that can increase employee satisfaction and productivity, improve reporting, and save costs due to quicker return to work, among other things.

Across all facets of business, we’re seeing greater levels of integration. Yet, in the absence management world, the integrated absence management (IAM) program is often elusive. The primary goal of the IAM program is to paint a broad picture of your employees with data. This enables effective decision-making based on compliant best-practices, and also helps streamline processes and communications for greater efficiency.

For example, some employees exhaust their Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave entitlement and are still unable to return to work. They may need “leave as a reasonable accommodation” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or a more in-depth interactive accommodation process. Using data to review employee absence trends can identify employees at risk who should be referred to additional interventions like an employee assistance program (EAP). If you insource leave and outsource disability, you can look to your disability vendor to help approve FMLA leaves that run concurrently with a disability plan.

Less than a decade ago, many of these programs were managed with paper and spreadsheets, but the picture is very different today. Whether you insource or outsource, systems exist to store the vast wealth of absence data in a more usable, manageable, and reportable format. Tying these systems together is essential to your IAM strategy.

As a starting point to better integration, map out which systems hold your data. This should at a minimum include your leave, disability, and accommodation systems, human resource information system, payroll, and timekeeping systems. Almost all systems at this point can interface using simple file feeds that run automatically at regular intervals: daily, weekly, after payroll, etc. You may have also heard of Application Programming Interfaces, which are slowly gaining momentum in the absence management world because they offer real-time integration. While not widespread yet, they are something to keep an eye on for the future.

You should also engage stakeholders from each program and system to identify opportunities for integration. Consider how programs can support each other to drive greater returns, such as triggering an accommodation for an employee on leave to reduce lost time and the associated costs. Identify opportunities for efficiency gains that can save you time and money, such as entering an intermittent absence into your timekeeping system and having it automatically sent to your leave system to deduct entitlement. Or, sending leave status information to your payroll system to determine what and when to pay employees. Going a step further, identify dashboards that pull data from multiple systems to give you a broad look at absence trends organization-wide.

From here, you need to prioritize. Integration is no easy task; engage your technical teams to help you determine which integrations are the most important, and the level of difficulty of each. As you slowly begin to integrate your programs, you’ll gain a more holistic picture of your employees that allows you to get better returns from each program. At the end of the day, this allows you to make the shift from a reactive approach to absence management to a proactive one.

Read The Other Blog Posts In This Series: 

A Robust Absence Management System

Using Technology to Strengthen Consistency in Absence Management

Technology & Mental Health in the Workplace

Topics: integrated absence and disability management, Leave Management, Absence Management

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