The Effects of Absenteeism & Turnover on Labor Productivity for Electrical Contractors

Labor costs for electrical contractors can reach 40 percent to 60 percent of total construction costs. With that much invested, contractors need a workforce that is both stable and productive. Our research has found two common problems that reduce productivity: absenteeism and turnover. While that is not surprising, the construction industry pays little attention to these problems. That might be because contractors believe that these problems just come with the territory. But once contractors understand why the problems occur, they can make some changes that will decrease absenteeism and turnover, and that should lead to an increase in productivity. That is why ELECTRI International–The Foundation for Electrical Construction, Inc. (ELECTRI International) decided to do this study. Our team reviewed existing research on these problems in the construction and other industries. We then created surveys to collect two types of information:

  • Qualitative information to find out why the problems exist
  • Quantitative information to find out how bad the problems are


For our qualitative research, we asked both managers and electricians for their input. Most managers believed they could do little about the problems. But when electricians listed reasons for absenteeism and turnover, they named two that management can do something about: injuries and unsafe working conditions. Electricians gave the following additional reasons for absenteeism and turnover:

  • Poor management
  • Length and size of jobs
  • Travel distance to the work site


The surveys also listed the following as ways to reduce absenteeism and turnover:

  • Better management
  • More recognition by management
  • Incentive programs
  • A 4-day, 40-hour workweek
  • Availability of overtime


For our quantitative research, we created another survey to gather information on electrical construction projects. We analyzed this information on two levels:

  • Macroanalysis (an entire project)
  • Microanalysis (specific tasks)


For the macro analysis, we gathered information on 35 completed projects. For the microanalysis, we gathered information each month on five ongoing projects. We then used statistical analysis to learn the effect of absenteeism or turnover on productivity. As the last step in this research project, we asked for examples of best management practices. Those examples (see chapter 7) will help contractors increase productivity in their companies.



Awad Hanna


University of Wisconsin

Publication Date:

February 2006

Format & Size:

Soft cover; x and 75 pages

Index Number:


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