At its core, the Workplace Possibilities℠ program aims to help identify employees in need of potential assistance, such as a workplace accommodation, early on. As we often discuss, this approach is good for all involved, not only because the employee gets the assistance he or she needs to help with their medical condition before it turns into a disability leave, but also because the program helps increase employee productivity.
As a Workplace Possibilities consultant, we encourage HR managers to report, or call in, these cases to start the stay-at-work or return-to-work accommodation as soon as possible. However, we know that as an HR manager you can’t be everywhere. That’s why it’s important to engage your organization’s management team, as the employee’s direct supervisor or manager is often the first person to recognize an employee’s need for assistance.
Your eyes and ears on the front lines
We know your management team has a lot on its plate already. But their unique perspective and day-to-day contact put them in the best position to identify an employee in need of assistance and inform you about the condition.
Managers often have daily face time with each employee and will be able to notice if an employee is struggling at work or not their usual self. This feeling that an employee is “off,” or not their usual self, can be one of the key signs an employee is in need of help.
The importance of proactive intervention
It can’t be stressed enough that this role — identifying employees who are in need of either stay-at-work or return-to-work assistance — is a crucial one. The earlier the employee is identified and referred to their disability carrier, the earlier he or she is connected with the accommodations and assistance they need. The best part of this proactive approach is that an employee can receive help before the point of taking a disability leave.
But that’s not all. This care and outreach from an employee’s manager helps with overall department/ organizational morale. Employees whose managers are invested in their care feel valued, and the positive outreach helps them maintain a positive connection to their workplace.
Helping employees helps managers, too
In my work as a disability consultant, I’ve found that managers often put up with an employee’s poor performance as a result of a disabling condition for years. Not only is that employee struggling for that amount of time, think of how much harder it is for a manager to meet his or her department’s goals when an employee isn’t able to focus, do their job — or worse — miss work all together. A proactive strategy that engages your management team can be instrumental in getting employees the help they need to be healthy and productive at work.
In my next two posts, I’ll provide a road map of how you and your management team can work together to create a partnership to identify employees in need of assistance and elevate the cases, as well as how to coach them through roadblocks they may face during an accommodation.