The Evolution of Absence Management

Jim O'Halloran

Insights | October 17, 2020

This Isn't Your Aunt Evelyn’s Sub-Calling System.

When most people hear the term “absence management”, it’s about students. It’s been proven that chronic absenteeism is closely correlated with poor academic performance: kids who miss a lot of school need special support.

However, for school HR and business managers, absence management relates to the other side of the equation: it’s about employees. Traditionally, K12 absence management has been about finding substitutes to fill in when regular classroom teachers are away.

But today, there’s more to absence management than simply scheduling subs. This software category has evolved over three decades to provide a range of important capabilities which impact school district efficiency. Keeping an accurate record of employee absences and substitute assignments is critical for subsequent payroll processing.

Let’s take a closer look at how absence management software works — or should work — to support students’ academic achievement and efficient district workflows.

The Five Elements of Absence Management

1. Absence Reporting

Most K12 districts today are using some sort of absence management system to report future absences for a particular time and reason. This may be an all-in-one software solution or a combination of software and manual paperwork.

Typically, staff and teachers are able to register new absences using either a computer web interface or mobile app. Authorized administrators can also manually create “vacancies” which seek to fill special assignments with qualified workers in the district’s substitute pool.

2. Absence Review and Approval

K12 education is a people-intensive enterprise. Administrators and supervisors who are responsible for key school functions, from classroom instruction to facilities maintenance, need to ensure that sufficient staff are available at the right times and places to support student learning.

Once a specific absence is registered into a well-integrated system, supervisors can make better staffing decisions by quickly evaluating any conflicting absences already scheduled for that same time period. Modern software allows configuration of supervisory relationships and essential real-time routing of absence notifications on web and mobile apps.

3. Leave Tracking

Efficient leave tracking impacts future planning for both employees and admins. Employees want to monitor their own leave balances, while school districts must account for the large, aggregated value of leave entitlements in their budgets.

Well-designed absence management software should allow for multiple configuration details, for instance, different types of leave and units of measurement (days or hours) negotiated in labor agreements, or employees only able to see absence reasons relevant to their job type.

4. Substitute Management

Of course, scheduling qualified substitutes to replace absent teachers is the core function of any absence management system. To maximize “fill rates,” it’s mission-critical for districts to develop a strategy designed to engage their sub pools in the ways they prefer to communicate. Today’s subs working the gig economy want flexible, convenient, and efficient notifications of job opportunities – which means robocalls are OUT; apps and text messaging are IN.

5. Payroll Integration

At the end of the day, an efficient absence management system needs to perform a critical payroll function: capturing all of the irregular, grainy detail of substitute work history so that subs can be paid correctly. Payroll managers need clear, accurately-coded sub work detail that can be uploaded to their payroll software with a minimum of adjustments – without the potential for error involved in time-consuming manual data entry from substitute timesheets.

Today, a well-configured absence management system plays a much bigger role in K12 district HR and business operations — going way beyond the intent of the first absence management software products, which were originally designed to simply relieve overworked “sub callers” using automated telephone dialing equipment. In future blog posts, we’ll take a closer look at each of these five functional areas of the absence management process.

A Better Solution

At Red Rover, we are redefining K12 absence management software, picking up where others have left off, and collaborating with our clients every day to maintain full-strength instruction in their schools. We’ve combined two decades of experience, school districts’ software wish lists, and cutting-edge technology tools to launch Red Rover, the most modern and intuitive K12 absence management software solution.