Doesn’t HR take care of workplace adjustments? What’s my role in this?

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HR does take care of this, it’s true. It’s the law and they understand that and write policies and procedures that take this into account. They most likely deliver some training on this topic too and include a number of opportunities for employees and future employees to share an adjustment need during the recruitment process. Organisations that are a little further ahead in this area also include timely reviews for employees who have workplace adjustments in place. But, as HR will tell you, this is not enough.

A number of your employees who could vastly benefit from them do not have any workplace adjustments in place. This could be because they are unaware they are entitled to an adjustment or it could be because they are unsure what adjustment may help them. For others, they may be worried about the impact that sharing an adjustment need might have on their future career. Yes, they are worried about discrimination. They are worried that they may be viewed differently within the workplace, that they may no longer progress to where their potential should take them or that they may even lose their job if they were to share a need. For others still, they do not want to look like they have any form of advantage over any other employee.

This is a big problem for your organisation. I won’t start with the legal ramifications here or the potential costs associated with getting this wrong (we’ll come to that in a bit).

As a quick thought experiment let’s consider how well your organisation would function if one common adjustment was banned in the workplace. People are allowed to keep this adjustment in their personal lives but they are not allowed to use it in any work capacity. Not during an interview process or any other work related task. The common adjustment we are going to remove is the use of glasses, contact lenses, laser eye treatment or any other form of correction for short- or long-sightedness. This may be a harder thought experiment if your vision is 20-20 but given my myopia it feels like a great place to start.

This is not about the advantage for those with good vision or the disadvantage to those with near- or long-sightedness. I want you to think about the tasks your team needs to complete on a day-to-day basis. Which team members, who do great work now, would be severely hampered in their work? Which team members, due to their more severe myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism or presbyopia, would be unable to work at all? What would happen to your high-performing workplace? What talent would you lose? What would happen to your organisation if 40% of your current star employees, those employees who wear glasses or contacts, are no longer able to use any form of eye correction?

Now consider that one of your competitors does allow glasses, contacts and laser correction in the workplace, would you be able to compete with them? With the performance of their teams? With the talent they can accrue and harness?

Workplace adjustments are not optional if you want an organisation that performs at its best, accrues the greatest talent and harnesses their potential. There are no ifs, buts or maybes. If you don’t have an effective workplace adjustments process you don’t have a fully effective organisation. You are leaving performance on the table. Performance that your competitors are happily taking. Your loss, their gain.