HR | Atlantic - Positive Change at Work

Perceptions of HR

Dec 23, 2012


The Novermber 5th  issue of the Canadian HRReporter noted that employees with mental health issues see their co-workers and immediate supervisors to be most supportive and unions and HR to be least supportive.  While it is great news that mental health issues in the workplace are being supported by those closest to the issue, there clearly remains opportunities for HR to be seen in a more supportive light.  Part of the challenge of course, is that while co-workers and supervisors can focus on the individual, unions and HR are also accountable for the managing the impacts of mental health challenges on the organization at the macro level.  If accommodations are needed that may impact other employees, their seniority or advancement opportunities, HR and Unions sometimes find themselves in the tense balance between individual accommodation and group/organizational consequences.  As a result, HR sometimes finds itself in the ‘gatekeeper’ role rather than the facilitator role.

The Canadian HRReporter quoted Mike Schwartz, Executive Director of the Great-West Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace, who observed that an employee has a closer relationship with their immediate boss so they may be more likely to seek support there or that there may be a reality that HR is not as engaged as it should be.  Given the multiple roles HR plays (representing senior leadership, supporting management, and enforcing agreements and policies) it can be difficult for employees needing accommodations for mental health challenges to see HR as a support.  While the realities of organizational needs cannot be ignored, they can be communicated clearly so that employees understand what options are available rather than guessing.  If HR has ready access to information regarding the competencies required for positions and functions, vacancies or needs in all the functions performed across the organization, the accommodations already in use, the ability to share this information with the employee (and Union, where applicable) can help place the accommodation discussion on a collaborative footing where all parties are bringing their information and needs to the table, rather than seeing HR as an obstacle to be overcome.

There are tools and databases that are value priced and easy to use that can help HR and senior management have access to this type of information.  TalOp’s Function Mapping is a promising approach for accommodation management because it looks at functions performed rather than ‘jobs’ or ‘positions’.  This enables an organization to truly engage in identifying if rebundling of functions might be possible in order to create a successful accommodation option.  TalOp’s Quality of Work Life Benchmarking Study also offers an opportunity for organizations to do preventive work by assessing the risk levels in the organization for strain, stress and burnout and identifying the most likely root-causes of these risks.  This is an exciting opportunity for organizations to have quantitative data upon which to problem-solve, prioritize and make decisions.

Having a clearly painted picture as a result of a QWL study will ensure the organization can become more involved and provides an organization with the ability to continually monitor and evaluate workplace risks. Implementing tools like TalOp’s Function Mapping or QWL study will not only help HR and supervisors be an informed resource, but it will also demonstrate to employees that HR and supervisors really do care and want to take action that will make a difference.

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