If you don’t have many employees, handling absences is likely pretty straightforward. It’s an inconvenience, to be sure, and excessive absenteeism can have a staggering cost, but the administrative side of managing call-offs is simple in that you only have to keep track of who, what, and when. Photo by Tiger Lily from Pexels As long as you’re […]

If you don’t have many employees, handling absences is likely pretty straightforward. It’s an inconvenience, to be sure, and excessive absenteeism can have a staggering cost, but the administrative side of managing call-offs is simple in that you only have to keep track of who, what, and when.

Workers talking in warehouse

Photo by Tiger Lily from Pexels

As long as you’re aware of each employee’s attendance record and can hold them accountable, you are in good shape.

But as your organization grows and you bring on more employees, handling call-outs becomes more challenging.

Attendance incidents used to be few and far between. Now there are several on every shift. Employees are calling off, running late, leaving early. Productivity is suffering. Managers are too bogged down with data entry and maintaining staffing levels to study the data or work on solutions. Disputes are arising; records are incomplete.

All of a sudden, attendance is a significant problem.

It’s Time to Standardize and Centralize Your Call-Off Process

When things reach this point, it’s time for a new system. Now is the time to standardize your employee call-off process. With the right plan in place, handling employee call-outs and managing employee attendance will be as simple as it was in the beginning.

This brief guide will outline how to go about establishing a dedicated call-off hotline and attendance tracking system that will streamline your processes, automate routine functions, and provide the data and convenience you need to address attendance issues at your organization proactively.

Step 1: Establish a Dedicated Call-Off Line

Professional woman on phone in brick wall office

Photo by Marcus Aurelius from Pexels

First things first: There should only be one way for employees to call off work. Centralizing this communication channel is the first step toward achieving control over your attendance workflow.

There are numerous ways to achieve this, from establishing a dedicated in-house phone number or voicemail box to even assigning the calls directly to a member of your staff. Those solutions aren’t without downsides, however. Voicemail doesn’t allow you to respond to schedule changes quickly enough. A single staff member also can’t take calls 24 hours a day.

If you’re running a 24/7 operation, you need a 24/7 solution for fielding attendance calls from your workforce. Even if you aren’t running a 24/7 operation, call-outs can happen at any time, and you must have someone available to process the report.

Employee call-off hotlines provide a cost-effective solution. These third-party solutions offer a dedicated phone number for your employees to utilize when they need to call off work or take time off for any other reason.

This service will provide your organization with a unique phone number that employees can call at any time to report an absence. The system will obtain all of the relevant information about the event and notify everyone who needs to know.

Establishing a hotline covers the “intake” portion of your absence management system.

Related Reading: What is an Employee Call-Off Hotline?

Step 2: Update the Pertinent Attendance Policies and Call-In Procedures

Once the intake side of your call-in system is ready to go, the next step is establishing the related policies and procedures. This process can be easy or involved depending on where you are with your existing attendance policies.

More likely than not, you already have an attendance policy of some kind. Start here. You will want to review your policies and ensure that they are clear and account for the new call-in process.

Specifically, employees need to know your expectations and how to use the new hotline.

  • When should they call in?
  • How much notice is required?
  • What will happen if they violate the policy?
  • How do they know where they stand?

Your policy should spell all of these things out.

Items to address here include:

  • Attendance Policy: An attendance policy is a document that tells employees how the company will address various issues such as tardiness, no-shows, early outs, no call-no shows, and different types of leave. They often outline a progressive discipline policy for attendance infractions as well. (Source and Example Template: Betterteam)
  • Reporting/Call-In Policy: Timely attendance is a critical aspect of every position. To plan for routine absences and arrange adequate cover for unscheduled absences, employees must ensure supervisors and managers know their whereabouts. This procedure details the expectations for requesting leave and notifying the company of an absence—“calling in”—both scheduled and unscheduled. (Source and Example: Labor Law Center)

These could be separate policies or parts of the same document. The key is to address both components.

Step 3: Configure the New Call-Off System to Adhere to and Support Your Attendance Policies and Workforce Needs (Scripting, Notifications, Automation, & More)

Checkmark on post-it note

Photo by Malte Luk from Pexels

Setting up a system to handle employee call-ins should make everyone’s life easier. It should be easier for employees, supervisors, HR, and executive management alike.

Making things easier begins with configuring your new call-off hotline to adhere to and support your attendance policies.

For example, there should be a standardized script to collect pertinent information from employees on each call. If your call-in policy states that employees need to report a certain amount of time in advance, then calls should be recorded and timestamped for recordkeeping purposes. If you have different departments and locations, the script should account for that. If you use an ID number to identify employees, you should integrate and sync that database so that the information is always up to date and accessible.

There are numerous options and considerations here, including:

  • Setting up system notifications and determining who should receive what. The system should automatically notify relevant parties whenever there is a call-off or attendance occurrence that impacts them. For example, supervisors should be alerted whenever someone on their team calls off for a shift.
  • Automating the point-tracking process. Here at CMS, we can customize your call-off hotline to update employee attendance records whenever they call in. Eliminating the need for a supervisor to tabulate or enter data manually saves a tremendous amount of time. You can eliminate spreadsheets and ensure that your point-tracking system is applied consistently across the board.
  • Building in attendance warnings, policy documents, and other communications. Suppose employees are supposed to receive a notification when they reach a certain number of points. The system is tracking their points. In that case, it makes sense that the system should automatically trigger these templated communications. The system could also commend employees for periods of perfect attendance.
  • Account for shift backfill or work assignment procedures (e.g., do you want to send a mass notification whenever there is an available shift?)
  • Integrations with existing HRIS, payroll, and timekeeping systems (reducing redundant data entry and ensuring call-off data is synced with other software)
  • Configuring attendance reporting and dashboard access. Will you give employees access to the system or just managers? What reports do you need? Make sure you have all of the data you need at your fingertips.

The key is to leverage the technology to automate as much as possible. Using a fully-featured call-off vendor like CMS will ensure all of these tools are at your disposal.

Related Reading: Employee Attendance Automation

Step 4: Educate and Inform Users of the New System (Roll Out)

Rolling out the new system involves educating all of the impacted people and ensuring they have the information they need to follow the new policies.

You should prepare separate communications and documentation for each role.

Employees should receive the hotline number, current attendance policies, information on how to access the portal (if applicable), details on the notifications they should expect to receive, and other pertinent details.

Supervisors should know how to access attendance data and be aware of the management tools available in the new software, including the ability to add records, send notifications, and run reports manually.

Provide people with the tools and information they need to be successful with the new setup.

Step 5: Leverage Attendance Data and Tools to Improve Your Operation

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Photo by Lukas from Pexels

Your new call-off system is comprehensive and does a lot more than record attendance infractions. Once your company is up and running with the new system, be sure to take full advantage of the data and functionality now at your disposal.

Available data will likely include:

  • Historical attendance data for individual employees, departments, shifts, and facilities
  • Current point allocation
  • Notification and warning history
  • Reasons for call-offs, types of infractions
  • Incidents by day and time

How can you put this data to use?

  • Forecasting attendance
  • Gauging the effectiveness of attendance policies, warnings, and incentives and making adjustments to improve performance
  • Spotting pattern abuse and identifying potential problems before they spiral out of control
  • Trend analysis
  • And more!

There will be a lot of data at your disposal. Make it work for you!


Handling employee call-outs can be overwhelming without the right system.

Standardizing and centralizing your call-in process begins with a call-off hotline. From there, you need to revisit your attendance policies and configure the new system to do what you want. Once you’re up and running, it’s just a matter of rolling out the new system and putting the data to work for the good of your organization.

And there you have it! We’ve gone from call-off chaos to attendance zen in 5 easy steps.

Do you have any tips or feedback on implementing a call-off system at your organization? We would love to hear from you in the comments!

Learn More About Call-Off Hotlines from CMS

Does your organization need a better system for managing employee call-outs, attendance reporting, and HR automation? Our industry-leading call-off hotline and attendance tracking solutions can help you streamline processes and save money. Contact us to learn more.

By Last Updated: May 28, 2021Categories: Blog8.3 min read