As human resources professionals, the backbone that surrounds of much of the work that you do is the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. You are all familiar with your duty to accommodate and what that means for your employers. Accommodation is deeply ingrained in the human resources profession and is part of something we do every day, yet it is often perceived negatively. In fact, the possibility of accommodation is most often met with fear and dread. It is perceived as added work, can be expensive, is often complex and confusing and quite honestly it is just something that many human resources professionals would like to avoid whenever possible. However, it is not optional. Legislated by the federal government, the duty to accommodate is required from all organizations, so long as it does not create undue hardship to your organization. Due to the legislated nature of the concept, accommodation is here to stay. Isn’t it about time to get with the program and adjust the attitude and perception toward it? Wouldn’t it be great if professionals felt excited and upbeat about potential accommodation requests for employees within your organization?
Part of the problem is the language that is typically used when speaking about accommodation. The duty to accommodate in its nature implies an obligatory task that organizations must complete. Instead of referring to accommodation as a duty, look at it as an opportunity. Where accommodating one specific employee, there may be opportunity to positively impact a larger number of employees. Accommodation no longer is your organization’s duty, but your organization’s opportunity.
As human resource professionals, you should be inspiring a corporate culture that creates the desire to accommodate and one where management is encouraged to participate. When active participants, management can help you come up with creative and interesting accommodation solutions that work for your organization as well as your employees. Accommodation should be adopted into your organizational culture. Instead of looking at it as your obligation, look at it as something you want to do and include it a part of your organizational value proposition. This will encourage managers to keep accommodation top of mind as a positive aspect of your culture that helps to retain current employees and recruit new professionals who share the same values. When it is built in and always at the forefront of your organization’s values and communications, your managers are going to be more engaged and involved in the task of accommodating. In doing that, all employees can participate in furthering the opportunity of accommodation within your organization.
Employees want to feel supported not only on their best days, but also on their bad days. Even star performers are vulnerable to stress and down periods in their personal lives. With the pressures of life ever increasing, employees are bringing more of that stress into work every day. When your organization provides a workplace that employees feel cared for, supported and appreciated, it will result in stronger employee loyalty and better retention metrics. If your organization excels at accommodating and is successful at embracing it as part of your culture, your employment brand will also see a significant boost among external stakeholders and members of the public. If your current employees view you as a caring employer that supports their team and doesn’t make an onerous task of accommodation, word will spread quickly. They will tell their friends and family who will tell their friends and family, and in turn you will have a number of candidates knocking down your door who really want to come work for you because they appreciate the value you place on supporting employees.
Accommodation shouldn’t be such a dreaded task in the HR field. A shift in attitude for human resources professionals from negative to a more positive viewpoint, along with a change in the language being used to talk about it, will go a long way to move your organizational culture to an accommodating, welcoming place for all employees. This will aid in increasing your organization’s value proposition without having to invest a lot of capital in doing so. Accommodation isn’t going anywhere, so it is about time that human resources professionals get on board and start getting excited about the opportunity!
For support in managing employee accommodation, or developing a culture that embraces accommodation as an opportunity for employee and business success, contact Salopek & Associates to speak with a consultant on our team specialized in this area.
This article was originally featured in the HRIA Essentials December newsletter. Check it out for more great articles on Diversity in the Workplace.