Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Exceptions and exception handling from the HR perspective 8: addressing special needs 2

Posted in HR and personnel by Timothy Platt on June 6, 2014

This is my eighth 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, postings 201 and following for Part 5-7.)

I began discussing special needs employees, and I add special needs customers too, in Part 7 of this series, there outlining a policy and practice progression that ran from no animals allowed, to service animals allowed as per legal mandate, to the offering of a well behaved pets allowed policy. And I ended that part of this overall discussion by noting that whatever policy and practice is pursued it has to in some way accommodate both people who need and want these animals in their workplace, and those who find problems from that (e.g. employees who have severe allergy problems when exposed to shed dog fur or dander.) So even when meeting legally mandated inclusion requirements for allowing service dogs into a workplace, accommodation needs to be made for those who would find this problematical for them. And that brings me to the very end of Part 7 where I wrote that I would:

• Operationally discuss an approach to how exception identification and resolution can lead to refining and improving basic standard business policy and practices for workplace accommodation.

As a matter of basic principle, that is all about:

• Thinking through and understanding where an accommodation here would be legally required, and if so what that mandated requirement would entail,
• Thinking through and understanding where an accommodation would be optional and supported as a means of enacting a more positive and responsive corporate culture, and what that would entail,
• Understanding where an accommodation of either type could reasonably be expected to have ripple effect consequences and even adverse ones – there citing dog allergy problems and the degradation in workplace quality for employees who suffer from them if they suddenly find their work areas make them ill because of dogs now allowed in,
• Thinking through how best to resolve potential conflicts of need here while meeting legal and other relevant requirements as they enter into this. That becomes a cost/benefits issue and needs to be addressed in due diligence terms,
• And thinking through the details of how to standardize and operationalize decisions made here, so as to avoid the minefield trap of finding that your business is cluttered with inconsistent and incompatible special ad hoc exceptions, degrading the relevance or enforceability of whatever standard terms of employment practices that you would wish to follow.
• And what I write of here is, and I add has to be seen as a dynamic, ongoing process as new needs and opportunities arise and then change or fade away,
• And as the workplace and employability landscape and how they are managed, have to change and evolve too if they are to stay competitively relevant.

It can be way too easy for a business to develop a set of terms of employment rules when young and small, and simply keep following them and without any considered review as to their current value or meaning, and even as that business scales up and even as legal mandates and competitive value creating options and opportunities arise with new options emerging in their industry and among their competitors and become mainstreamed.

To pick up on an increasingly non-special needs example here, I have written in earlier installments of this series and in other posting series to this blog about telecommuting and its support in a business, and in that context note how many businesses still disallow that as an employee option and even when its benefits would greatly outweigh any potential real risks – simply because the business’ leadership has never done that and find it too novel.

• A business’ terms of employment constitute a defining aspect of what they offer their employees and their desired new hires,
• And how effectively they develop and maintain their terms of employment can go a long way towards keeping their workplace competitively attractive and supportive, and can be a core element to keeping the business as a whole competitive.

I stepped back from just considering special needs accommodations there or the expansion of those options and employee rights, as discussion of special needs per se raises significantly farther reaching issues that apply equally to essentially any types of terms of employment issues that might arise. And this brings me to a point in this overall series-wide discussion where I would reconsider the full range of such issues and options again but in light of my ongoing discussion up to here. So I will take a second look review of the issues that I have been discussing up to here in my next series installment. And as a foretaste to that note that I will be discussing the role of Human Resources and its leadership in setting and implementing overall business strategy. 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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