Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Exceptions and exception handling from the HR perspective 6: a more formally systematic discussion of this approach

Posted in HR and personnel by Timothy Platt on April 28, 2014

This is my sixth installment in a series on recognizing, understanding and thinking about exceptions, and about exception handing in a Human Resources context (see HR and Personnel, postings 197 and following for Parts 1-4 and HR and Personnel – 2, posting 201 for Part 5.)

I focused in Part 5 on in-house employees and on how separate, special terms of employment can arise when working with them. And I wrote there about how:

• Ad hoc in this can and does lead to long-term risk management vulnerabilities for a business
• And particularly when that business has what are ostensibly set and required terms of employment,
• But where their personnel policies come to be seen as being honored more in the breech than in their practice, from accumulation of hiring and employment exceptions and special arrangements.

I stated at the end of Part 5 that my goal for this series installment is to at least begin to more formally outline how these challenges can be addressed, and with flexibility and agility needed to bring in and retain the best people, and under terms that support their performing to their peak effectiveness for the business, and in the face of a rapidly changing economy and jobs markets. And I at least began this posting’s discussion at the very end of that installment when I noted how this can be systematically accomplished by moving away from a simple one-off, employee-by-employee approach to a more formally and systematically organized prototyping approach. That is what I will discuss here, with the basics. And I present this approach with a very simple underlying assumption: if you treat your employees fairly and in ways that give your business a reputation for being a really great place to work, you will attract the best when you hire and you will be better able to retain them. That said:

• When you negotiate possible terms of employment with a current or potential employee always seek to reach a mutually agreeable resolution, as one sided victories in this always lead to dissatisfaction and long-term failure and for both sides.
• And always start out assuming that circumstances and needs replicate – no hiring or terms of employment circumstance is ever entirely unique, and any resolution that you reach in one case, and certainly any novel approach that you arrive at, should be considered as a starting point for future negotiations too and with others.
• How sustainable is a new or novel agreement in this one instance, and how sustainable and competitively effective would it be if it were to be more widely offered as a way that employees could work with your business by? Is it scalable for covering more employment agreements, and if not how would it have to be adjusted in order to become so, and even as a more mainstreamed pattern of terms of employment for a significant segment of the business’ workforce?

Prototyping is all about scalability and building processes and systems that can be effectively replicated as carefully understood and due diligence-verified options in a business. And at the same time that prototypes are clearly thought through and for their immediate here and now applications and for their potential for scalability, they are set up to be flexible and as first approximations that could be modified and improved upon – and then mainstreamed if and as appropriate as improved versions. In this context, see Management and strategy by prototype – 1: starting a new series and its Part 2 continuation: developing a conceptual model.

• When a new approach is being tried out, it should be explicitly done so as a test trial to see if it is long-term sustainable and for both employer and employee, and as an explicit prototype – not as a more openly available option that others should automatically expect to be available in whole or part for them too.
• And it should be initially improvised and implemented as such and be subject to change if it does not work out upon review that includes both the employees it is offered to, their direct managers, and Human Resources.
• Then if and when it passes review, it would become a more standard option, with specific terms and conditions laid out as to when it would be made available contingent on business and individual employee needs and requirements and their mutual agreement to it.
• To pick up on an already largely familiar term of employment here that can still be quite novel for employing businesses, consider job sharing agreements. Terms and conditions would be settled upon where this would be allowed, with those requirements flexible and subject to change to meet the needs of individual situations, but as a considered process. But basically, if an employee, or in this case two employees can realistically meet their work goals and perform a overall job to expected standards, then this option could be on the table. But if circumstances change, where for example one of the employees involved finds this was not working for them, a way would be sought to bring them back into a more standard work position with more standard terms of employment, and effort would be made to accommodate the needs of the second employee, now job sharing but without a work partner. This example highlights how terms of employment discussions and negotiations can go smoothly but they can also have rough edges that have to be addressed too, where managers have to actively manage and lead and where they sometimes have to make difficult decisions.
• In this case, however a job sharing problem would work out, need for change in it would not be seen or documented as reflecting badly on anyone involved and certainly by the hiring business or its HR evaluations, and even if mutually satisfactory new resolutions could not be found for all concerned as a next step alternative. This last point is crucial – terms of employment negotiations and the outcomes of their prototyping should be set up and managed to be as safe as possible for all concerned. And where ever possible, alternatives should be discussed from the start in case a prototype agreement does not work out.

I am going to explicitly consider special needs in my next series installment where that can include both legally mandated and special business-developed terms of employment accommodations. Meanwhile, you can find this posting and series at HR and Personnel – 2, and earlier installments to this series as well as other related material at HR and Personnel.


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