Even though your passion as an HR representative is advocating for employees, you may not have the daily face time you need to identify employees in need of assistance early on, or know enough about an individual employee’s job duties to help with a return-to-work or stay-at-work plan.
That’s why it is important for you to enlist and prepare your company’s managers to be your eyes and ears, and identify issues that may arise with your employees. Here’s your road map on how to get your managers up to speed.
Fueling up: help your managers understand the employee accommodations process
An important component of engaging your company’s leadership is having them understand the process and the fundamentals of working with your disability carrier. This includes educating them on:
- The importance of helping manage employee absence and disability, and how return-to-work and stay-at-work assistance can help with employee health and productivity
- The role of the disability consultant, and how they can connect employees with the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or wellness program assistance, develops return-to-work or stay-at-work plans, identifies potential accommodations and coordinates communication between HR, managers and the employee
- Your role in working with the disability consultant, including assisting managers in complex cases and coordinating other logistics
On the open road: educate them on their responsibilities
Your company’s managers can help you and the disability consultant in three main ways:
1. Identify an employee who needs help. Managers should let you know if an employee is:
- Struggling to perform job duties
- Complaining of pain
- Missing work often
- Showing up late
- Exhibiting a sudden decline in job performance
- Asking for accommodations that are more complex
Managers may be afraid to reach out to an employee unnecessarily. Advise them to be pragmatic and factual when reaching out to an employee. One of the most common ways to bring up a conversation with an employee is by relating the concern back to their job performance, such as, “I’ve noticed you’ve been late to work recently. Is everything OK? I’d like to offer help if I can.”
2. Collaborate with HR and consultants. Because managers have a keen understanding of an employee’s day-to-day work and team dynamics, they are a crucial component in making employee accommodations successful. One of the main ways a manager can help collaborate is by identifying transitional duty tasks for a return-to-work or stay-at-work plan.
You also may want to remind your managers that an employee doesn’t need to be at 100% to be productive on the job. Modifying tasks for someone currently at work or a gradual transition for someone coming back to work can help with their overall recovery and productivity. As a manager working together with HR, the disability consultant, the employee and his or her physician, you can help identify transitional duties, such as graduated or reduced work hours, modified work tasks or temporary job responsibilities.
Ongoing maintenance: support = success
Because a manager will have more face time with an employee upon his or her return or after an accommodation is put in place, their support can make all the difference and ensure the employee’s return or accommodation is successful. Best practices for managers include:
- Communicating clear performance expectations to the employee, especially if there are new transitional tasks involved
- Focusing on what the employee can do, rather than what they can’t do
- Keeping in contact with HR and the disability consultant to assess this transition and report on the employee’s progress
- Making sure the employee is following any work restrictions ordered by his or her doctor
It’s teamwork that makes the dream work for employee accommodations, so start building a proactive partnership with your managers today. Ideally, this will lead to more productive employees and lower costs associated with lost productivity and disability.