It's time to break out of the legal confines that govern human resources practice, and try to establish consensual relations between employees and employers, according to a labor relations attorney.
In an April 7 speech to the Association of Healthcare Human Resources Administrators of Greater New York, attorney Stuart H. Brodyadvised executives to ignore their lawyers and do what's best for the organization. Worrying too much about defending against potential liability doesn't make the liability go away, and it deflects attention from the organization's real goal: enhanced productivity.
"Hospitals have loads of problem employees who hang on indefinitely," Brody said. "Performance appraisals are rampant and useless. And, of course, it's an environment that's very complex, breeding lots of human interaction, which can lead to sexual harassment."
A labor lawyer with Gibney, Anthony & Flaherty in New York, Brody said he has seen many instances in which conventional human resources practices "not only fail to increase productivity, in fact they drain productivity." The annual evaluation process, for example, eats up managers' time and yields a subjective, judgmental and often idiosyncratic report that employees find worthless and demoralizing.
"Lawyers advocate performance appraisals as a means of buttressing their defense to subsequent discipline," Brody said. Why not instead invite workers to participate in writing their own job descriptions based on the overall team's needs? That process of definition begins at hiring. It should not be unilateral, he said.
"I envision a hiring process in which the employer and employee outline what it is the employee is going to do, the new responsibilities they will undertake and the new skills they will acquire. It becomes a two-way street."
The hospital industry's procedures are governed by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, whose manual prescribes a formal employee evaluation. Brody believes a system of evolving consensus would pass muster with the JCAHO.-J. Duncan Moore Jr.