The very foundation of what HR professionals do is ensure that our organizations avoid risk and stay compliant to not only the policies that are established for the company but to Federal regulations and the laws of our particular States.
Staying in the know requires constant reading, research, and most importantly listening. Outside of joining and subscribing to professional organizations both locally and nationally to receive legislative updates and changes, talking directly to employees and anyone else in the organization that specializes in a particular issue serves us well.
For example, we have a wonderful employee in my company that has a disability and walks with a cane. I’m told stories about different buildings on our campus in which he’s worked and how inconvenient it has been in the past to work in some of them due to his physical condition. The examples that he gives are things that I’d never think of because I do not have any physical limitations, but hearing how accommodations aren’t always made makes me appreciate the dedication they have and the struggle our employees with disabilities go through daily.
So in the last week, my eyes have been opened to things that need to be changed even in my immediate environment, not just to say we did it, not for aesthetics, but because changes were necessary for our employees to be able to do their jobs. I made some calls and set up appointments for ADA walkthroughs, so we could see what could be done better based on what I was told. The look on my coworker’s face was priceless when he saw action, and it gave me a new perspective on what our profession is all about.
While we as HR are fighting for placement at certain tables, some of our employees are fighting for comfort in organizations that are legally required to reasonably accommodate. I’ve learned that compliance is not only about rules and requirements, it’s also about decency, advocacy and respect for current and potential employees and clients. The cost of loosing great employees and clients or missing out on new ones is far greater than the cost of making a few minor changes to our facilities.
Staying compliant with ADA and any other regulation means that we are always in the role of student…continuously learning and knowing what is happening in and outside of our industry. What we learned 10 years ago is no longer enough and can’t be relied on solely to service our industries in the most efficient and legal way. The learning never stops because change is constant. Our employees never stop needing advocates when they’re voices go ignored or unheard.
HR professionals have to move beyond being robotic people that just happen to show up to work in the HR department. The Human element of what we do is about proactively bringing strategy and compliance together to create and maintain a better environment for all of those that do business with and for our organizations.