As HR professionals, we often need to decide about situations, where to apply a policy or to make an exception to it. For many of us, it is almost a daily task. To make that call, we need to have some guidelines and a basis to follow. Otherwise, our decisions can seem very random and can hurt the employees and the organization as a whole. We should be fair and consistent. And it is not always easy. Sometimes these requests come from individuals with who we work with and they let us know their expectations in very clear terms. And more often the business leaders tell us what they would like our decisions to be. With all these influences surrounding us, we still need to be ethical, fair, and consistent. So how do we do that?
Decision-making is integral to the human resource roles in current times. HR used to be a more contributory function in the past, where it will follow the decisions set by the organization leadership. Decisions we make as HR professionals will touch all people processes. It can be a decision at any stage of an employee’s life cycle. Like hiring, performance management, compensation, and exit.
As HR professionals we rely on external data as well as internal feedback and insights, to enable faster and better decision making. For example, as we are navigating the challenges thrown at us by the pandemic, we are relying on Government and Health Services orders and guidelines and ensuring we also hear our employees’ requirements.
HR is generally responsible for defining company policies and guidelines. These provide us a framework within which we operate. And we face questions from employees asking about different scenarios. We refer to the policies and guidelines and respond to the questions, make a decision if an exception is required. When policies are administered the exceptions are always handled on a case-to-case basis. And personal biases, favoritism can play a big role in making these exceptions, unless there is a check on those. That is where HR can play a vital role to make sure the decisions are objective and follow a decision-making matrix. Even when we are making an exception, it should be based on some consistent criteria. For example, currently, many organizations are faced with the question of whether to implement mandatory vaccinations for COVID-19. Though it would be a mandatory requirement we have to keep room for making exemptions from that requirement for those who cannot have the vaccine due to a health restriction. The organization should have room for that exemption in its policies. They need to provide a clear guideline to employees as to what will be expected to be considered for such exemptions. The organization will ask employees to provide a physician’s note confirming the restriction to vaccination. The purpose of the mandatory vaccination policy is to keep the workplace safe. Considering that while making the exemptions to the requirement of the vaccination, such employees might have extra steps to take to ensure the safety of themselves and others at the workplace.
In making an exception, we need to make sure we are not deviating away from the basic premises of the policy or violating other policies and guidelines. Another common example is when we are asked to make an exception to hire a candidate through an internal reference. We still need to make sure the candidate meets the basic requirements of the backcheck /security check, and by hiring them we are not putting other employees and the organization at risk. We also need to make sure the same rules of exceptions will be applied so we are consistent and not random. The fewer exceptions we make is better. These are exceptions and rules. Every policy decision we make will touch the lives of the employees directly or indirectly. Our role requires us to make sure the workplace decisions are fair and consistent.
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