Getting your employees to work, on time, every time can be a challenge.

No matter what type of company you have, chances are you’ve dealt with late employees upon occasion.

According to a U.S.-nationwide survey by CareerBuilder, 16 percent of workers admitted that they arrived late to work once a week. While having occasional late employee may not seem like a big deal, over time chronic lateness can add up, costing the company a significant amount of money. Absenteeism costs companies billions of dollars each year in lost wages, productivity, excess management time, and poor quality of work. Additionally, chronic absenteeism can lead to frustration and a drop in morale for employees who may have to pick up the slack.

No matter what size of company you have, at some point, you will be faced with the challenge of your employees arriving late. This can be frustrating since many companies rely on their workforce being on the clock, and ready to work by a specific time.

If you are looking for some helpful, practical ways to help get your employees to work on time, here are some ideas for improving on-time attendance.

Establish Expectations Early On
First things first, establish your expectations early on. Make sure new hires understand that on-time attendance is required of them. Consider having your employees sign an employment contract that outlines your expectations. This helps to establish that they agree to on-time attendance. If an employee does show up late, make sure you take the time to talk with them –and find out why; don’t just let it slide or assume that it won’t happen again.

Talk With Your Employees
Things happen; people get sick, cars break down, and sometimes traffic jams can prevent even the most diligent employee from arriving on time. If your worker, who is usually on time, happens to be late one day, don’t jump to conclusions or start plotting ways to punish them, instead –talk to them. Take a few minutes to find out why they were late. If they have a solid reason, consider giving them a break.

Offer Incentives
Some companies offer positive reinforcements to motivate employees to show up on time. Incentives can include cash bonuses, gift certificates, extra vacation days, or being able to leave early on certain days. To make an incentive program work, you’ll want to ensure that you choose meaningful rewards that your workers are actually interested in. You’ll also want to provide clear objectives for them to follow so they have something specific to strive for. For example, you could say that workers with 100% on-time attendance for 30 days will receive a $50 bonus, but make sure they understand that there are no exceptions.

Don’t Play Favorites
As with everything in the workplace, it’s important to always treat your team fairly. If one employee is regularly coming in late, and other workers see that they’re consistently allowed to get away with it, it could discourage them, or even influence them to come in late as well. This is one reason why it’s important to curb bad habits as soon as they start. Expect the same standard of timeliness from everyone; your employees will appreciate you for it.

Consider Adjusting Their Schedule
Finally, if you have an employee who is consistently late, consider talking with them to find out why. Maybe they have to drop their kids at school on Thursdays, and that’s why they’re always 15 minutes late on those days. If possible, you could consider adjusting their schedule to make life easier for them. While this obviously wouldn’t work for every company, or for shift work, if the start time isn’t an issue, it’s worth giving it some thought. Many companies also give their employees the freedom to work from home part-time, and with great results! In fact, working from home has been shown to drastically increase productivity and improve job satisfaction.

Consider Writing Them Up
Finally, if you have an employee who is regularly late, who doesn’t seem interested in finding a solution with you, you may have to consider giving them a final warning, before writing them up. No one wants to be the bad guy, but an employee who feels that they’re allowed to get away with being late, may genuinely feel that it doesn’t matter, or that you don’t care. Sometimes, further disciplinary action may be the only way to get the attention of a worker who otherwise doesn’t appreciate the gravity of the situation.

Employee tardiness is a problem that can have a snowball effect on your business. A late employee can cost the company time and money, and lead to a drop in workplace morale. Instead of ignoring late workers, or letting it slide, it’s important to be proactive and work toward solutions. This will encourage your team to be on time far more regularly, and will go a long way toward creating a more positive and productive workplace.