The Employers' Association
  An E-newsletter for TEA Members
TopAugust 3, 2017 Volume 37, Issue 11
In This Issue
Upcoming Programs

Be sure to register early to receive early bird pricing for these program.


   8 - MIOSHA General 
       Industry Ten Hour+
15 - Turning Confrontation
       into Conversation
16 - HR Policy Writing &
       Handbook Development
18 - CPR Re-certification &
       First Aid
18 - Bloodborne Pathogens
22  - Make Change Work
       - NEW
23 - Leading a Team, 'Like a
       Boss' - NEW
24 - Workplace Inclusion for
25 - Employee Engagement:
       How to Motivate Your
29 - Effective
       Communication Skills
29 - Communication Skills
       Certificate begins
30 - Fundamentals of FMLA

Click on dates for more details & registration.

View the full July - December 2017 schedule on our website here or print the quarterly training flyer here.

If you are interested in a program not currently scheduled, email  Penny  to be added to our future registration list.
Summer/Fall Communication Skills Certificate Series

Gain a comprehensive understanding of the communication process.

Communication Skills
First class
begins 8/29/17


Each course focuses on a particular area of communication that, when combined with other courses, gives the student a wealth of information on communication and a wide range of techniques and skills necessary to be an effective communicator.

How it Works:

Complete three (3) half day communication skills seminars of your choice, in addition to the one (1) required seminar, within 12 months to earn the Communication Skills Certificate.

Any of the Communication Skills seminars can be taken alone without enrolling in the certificate program.

New Round Table for Members

Inclusion & Diversity
Round Table

This Round Table is a benefit to Association members interested in enhancing their organizational work done regarding workplace Inclusion & Diversity (i.e. generational, personality, socio-economics, racial, language, abilities, etc.).  It will meet monthly (except for July) to network and discuss emerging business trends in I&D as well as current concerns for Round Table participants.

More details

First meeting will meet on August 10, 2017 from 7:30 - 9:00 a.m.

Interested?  Contact Jason to attend your first meeting at no charge!

President Dave Smith
From the President - Mid-Summer Observations
by David Smith, CEO & President

One would have to recognize that what once was will never again be - that our doing things the way they had always been done will not generate long-term prosperity - when reflecting on the past several years of strong (hectic) growth.  In passing its halfway point, 2017 has revealed some interesting highs and lows that warrant consideration.

While the reasons for our costly healthcare structure and lack of available talent have been analyzed, interpreted, detailed and discussed by numerous experts, it seems that "blame" is always lain at the feet of an ambiguous "someone else."  The issues we face from accelerated healthcare cost (AND skyrocketing insurance premiums) are staggering - particularly to companies and organizations unable to pass the added costs on to an increasingly frugal customer base.  Combined with an inability to attract, retain or even identify the talent needed to operate - and questions about the continued strength of the economy and concerns about global political positions, American business probably has a plethora of excuses that COULD be used to explain away their current frustrations.  It would seem, however, that the failure to accept personal responsibility for actions taken while in a leadership position - and for even thinking about blaming our current state of affairs on someone or something else - is troubling.  Employees making mistakes or failing to meet established expectations often receive corrective action that may result in termination if positive change is not demonstrated.  It seems that Leadership should spend more time identifying root causes and developing solutions than it does establishing blame - more time accepting accountability for a lack of vision than transferring the "fix" to others.  Workers need to see the role model that refuses to say "It's not my fault!" but rather states "I will fix it (with your help)."  When we see the "buck passing" and "blame games" that justify our reality, why are we surprised when our employees are suspicious of leadership and fail to take responsibility for their actions?

Small to mid-sized companies are expanding and increasing productivity by making more (and better) things of a higher quality using more automation and less people.  Since efficiency is up, expanded opportunities will not likely return our workforce to previous levels - and the work that is available requires (and will continue to require) different skills than did the previous workforce.  New companies are entering our region BUT employees able to do available work are coming with the company from outside of our current workforce - or tapping into a talent pool already stretched thin by the strength of West Michigan business.  This discrepancy creates new challenges for our "workforce developers" but our economic growth will be stifled unless we take steps to coordinate the needs of "job producers" with the abilities our workers possess (or skills they can receive ONLY IF the educational support sector can continue to strengthen their communications with those needing workers and their ability to serve those seeking work).

The automotive sector has led the charge for the past several years - with responsive, innovative suppliers assuming much new business and adding many new employees.  Our furniture industry has assumed a more "global" footprint (international companies having a local presence rather than local companies serving the world) but new products and the adaptation of existing products to emerging markets is helping that sector remain strong.  The service-sector is growing yet many non-profits depending on Federal, State or private foundation funding are concerned.  Resources are disappearing due to a shift in individual donor interest, a lack of "public" monies and a growing number of new organizations being established to fill needs that are already being served or attempting to replace organizations that have lost their relevance - often because they "chase dollars" rather than "fulfilling their mission." (We thank you for your continued support of The Employers' Association's mission - to provide practical HR Solutions that promote operational excellence - and the relationship we have shared with West Michigan business since 1939.)  Our economy is solid but there are signs of softening that, if we do not act now, may lead to big economic swings during the next one or two years.

In terms of "rewarding employees," most companies have moved away from "across the board" pay adjustments during the past several years, providing increases based on performance and contributions to the "bottom line" or adjustments to jobs that are being paid "below market" in order to attract and retain highly qualified talent.  As the economy remains strong, companies have come to accept (though not embrace) higher turnover as workers seek "greener pastures" elsewhere - some saying they expect at least one quarter to one half of their workforce to actively seek other employment (while hoping that less than 5 - 8% actually leave).  The Employers' Association is helping many progressive organizations update policies, practices and compensation systems to insure internal equity, external competitiveness and reasonable consistency in the way employees are treated.  Others, however, are moving cautiously into the future relying upon outdated infrastructure, policies and practices - on a course to be "left behind" in the race towards a brighter future - as they continue to do the same things they have always done (and expect to experience different results).

On a more global level, while energy costs are relatively low, we cannot rely upon "outside resources" if we wish to remain a strong and independent world leader.  Oil alone cannot serve all of our future needs (and the importance of this industry within the United States should not be minimized) BUT how can we expect alternative energy sources to emerge when we place in their paths insurmountable roadblocks?  How can we harness the wind's energy when everyone wants turbines placed in someone else's backyard?  How can nuclear energy grow when it takes nearly ten years to approve and build a new power plant - which nobody wants in their neighborhood?  Renewable energy sources are part of the solution - yet wood-burning furnaces have been restricted in many communities because they create too much pollution.  Coal has always been a relatively inexpensive source of energy yet we are shutting our mines down and telling our miners "thank you for your service but your product creates too much environmental risk" (yet foreign use of coal and wood add to a global problem that we cannot control).  It seems we want to create an "electrical alternative" without an available infrastructure - shutting down (rather than modifying) current technology in favor of a future solution we are not prepared to implement.

Long-term success always has (and always will) come to ethical people having strong values who produce excellent products and/or provide exceptional service at a competitive price.  Within any sustained period of growth (OR during a slow-down initiated by political or economic conditions), things do not make a difference - people do.  Individual ideas, expectations, dreams and actions make the engine of economy run - often upon a sea of technology that allows the "boat to float."  The "whole" can only be as strong as its collective parts - can move forward only when individuals assume responsibility for the actions they take to make their dreams become reality.  The summer is more than half over.  Do not let summer pass without accomplishing the goals you set while snow was still on the ground - without taking personal responsibility to "fix" the things that hold you back and to seek help to resolve those things in your way which you cannot control (while CONSTANTLY moving forward by taking INTENTIONAL ACTION and assuming - rather than assigning - realistic blame).  Seasons pass BUT our dreams and ideas can become an undeniable reality ONLY when we act upon them.  The year AND the summer are more than half gone.  Focus on the future as we strive to achieve rather than allowing the past to (explicitly or implicitly) hold us back.

Visit our BLOG ( Dave's Deliberations) to view  recent posts.
Welcome New Members

The new members listed below represent employers within the West Michigan area who have joined the ranks of those committed to strong, positive employee/employer relations. It is a pleasure to welcome these new members into our family.

*EC Group
2018 Skilled Trades Training Funds Information Sessions

The Skilled Trades Training Funds (STTF) program provides competitive awards for training that leads to increased employee productivity and retention. And a thriving Michigan economy.

The grant process is competitive and funds are allocated quickly, so a complete and accurate application is critical. Several STTF information sessions are scheduled throughout the region to help you submit successful applications. 
See Schedule.
The Customer is Always Your First Priority
by Ron Scott, SPHR, Director of Member Engagement

The Employer's Associations of America (of which TEA is a part) just finished its annual staff networking conference in beautiful St. Louis, Missouri.  More than 60 professionals from 38 Associations across the country came together to share ideas and learn from each other.  What we learned is that no matter where you work and what you do, the Customer (our Members) must ALWAYS be our first priority.

In Human Resources, our customers are the team members that we work alongside, advocate and plan for each day we go to work.  Human Resources is uniquely positioned to serve and represent the team at every level.  In order to fulfill this critical responsibility, Human Resource Managers must stay focused on the following things:
  1. ServiceLike it or not, the role of the HR department is to provide services for employees. Staffing, payroll, benefit administration (along with employee relations, compliance, advocacy, discipline and consistency) are but a few.
  2. Resource: The HR Department MUST be a valuable resource of information for each division and department within the organization.
  3. Protector: The HR department should be on top of benefits, liabilities and responsibilities of employees insurance, legal documents and short and long term disability issues.
  4. Strategic Planner: The HR Department should work with each division and department head to assess, plan and evaluate their current status as compared to their future goals. The HR department should have access to a number of different assessments to use for decision making AND be an important part of succession planning (and organizational development).
  5. Creative Thinkerthe HR Department may be the one department that sees the broader view of what is happening in the organization and is willing (and expected) to share new ideas with other departments.
HR MUST ALWAYS remember that the first priority is the customer (team member) and their needs.  If you are in HR and you are thinking about yourself, your department and the needs of your team, take a step back to review the 5 steps noted above.  If you take these responsibilities seriously, you may find that more fulfillment can be found in serving the needs of others than could ever be discovered by taking care of yourself.

Jason Reep, Maggie McPhee & Ron Scott tour Busch Stadium during the EAA conference in St. Louis, MA.

Information Services Update
by Maggie McPhee, SHRM-CP, PHR, Director of  Information Services

Summer tends to seem quiet for the Information Services area of TEA, but behind the scenes activity is buzzing!


Ron, Jason and I recently attended a national Employer's Association conference in St. Louis, MO. It was a motivating, educational experience meeting new folks and renewing old friendships from around the country - folks who provide services all very similar to what we do here at TEA. These affiliations provide us with the network to reach out to when you, the members, need any sort of information from other parts of the country - they are invaluable contacts.

Day one of the conference was spent touring St. Louis focused on leadership-based learning. Our tour guides took us to seven different spots where we learned the history of that location/building and the leadership traits and creativity of the people who were behind the success of building it. Some of the key concepts we learned (or were reminded of) include the following:
  • Deliver where people can hear it
  • You CAN change
  • Care about others more than yourself
  • How are we pre-disposing potential customers to us
  • No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking (Voltaire)
  • How do you "show me" for every service/product
  • Never say "no" - even when you can't say yes, is there an option you missed
  • You can learn more about a person in an hour of play than a lifetime of work (Plato)
  • We are always attracted to the best "story" - the best "story" always wins
  • It's not the number of things, it's the memorable things we do - leave your mark
  • A picture is worth a thousand words - what is your best story
  • You do not have to kill the competition, you just have to kill their confidence
  • We are all creative geniuses (Picasso) 

This summer we are offering a "Sizzling Summer Special" - a handbook review with a "mini" HR audit - for $650. Contact Maggie today to take advantage of this offer before it expires on August 25.


We recently sent out the results from a small metrics survey on Absenteeism and Turnover and are compiling the local Pay Trends Survey data to be released within the next week.


The HR Round Tables have taken the month of July off but will be back up and running in August. These dynamic groups meet monthly (except July) and brainstorm on some of HR's more unique yet common issues.

HRG, your SHRM chapter has also taken a hiatus for the summer. We will soon be planning to set the course for the 2017/18 season. Please let Maggie or an HRG Board member know if you have any great ideas on topics or speakers.


It is almost time for the annual TEA Wage & Salary survey questionnaire to be released (early September). We look forward to record breaking participation levels due to the difficulty that our members are having attracting and retaining exceptional talent as we put this benchmark survey of competitive pay practices together. Our comprehensive wage and salary survey remains one of the most valued services we provide to membership (at no cost to participating members).

If we can be of any service to you or your staff please do not hesitate to contact us. We are here to SERVE and SUPPORT you - give us a call to let us know how we are doing.

Engaging Millennials
by Jason Reep , SPHR, Director of Learning & Inclusion

Younger employees are a diverse group.  They have as much variation within the group as previous generations.  They differ among themselves in race, where they were born and/or raised, their religious/spiritual beliefs, their socio-economics, their physical abilities, etc.  Attempting to paint them as one homogeneous group will always fail and leave those who do it frustrated (much as each generation trying to do the same to "the next group" has discovered).  We can, though, make some generalizations about this (and any other) group.  Using data, trends for the majority of group members (but never everyone) can be identified.  This only becomes helpful when these generalizations are used to guide the ongoing learning and find how best to motivate individuals and engage their full potential.  The moment they become "rules" they have lost their usefulness and we have moved into the mental laziness of stereotyping.  With this in mind, we can explore what can be done to better engage this large group of younger employees (and possibly positively impact others).

Generally speaking, Millennials (roughly 35 years old and younger) are currently the largest generational group in the workforce (about 40%).  They are not yet over half of the workforce but will be in a few years as more of them continue to join the workforce and Baby Boomers retire.  Many organizations have considered catering to this "new" and growing group of workers in order to attract and retain talent but before attempting to "change everything," consider what impact the modifications may have on other employees.  What successful organizations are doing is looking for ways to engage BOTH their younger employees and their other employees (looking for win-win opportunities not win-lose decisions).

Younger employees have said they want feedback and want it frequently.  Many supervisors have interpreted this to mean that Millennials want to be told how great they are - all the time.  That is not the case.  What these employees have said is that they want direction and guidance to excel in their work - a road-map that allows them to use their abilities AND know where they can advance when they demonstrate excellence.  If they are doing something right, they want it acknowledged and if they need to do something differently they want to know what they should be doing instead (AND why they should be doing it differently).  They are not looking for their leaders to "blow smoke" but rather spend time providing specific direction and support without forgetting to recognize when they are doing a good job.  This is the same thing most employees want from their organization (specifically their leaders) but are often afraid or reluctant to seek.  The importance of feedback cannot be overstated.

Millennials also say they want to work somewhere they can be comfortable and have fun.  This does not necessarily mean having a break room with a ping-pong table in it (sometimes it might).  It really means working somewhere where people are friendly, care about each other, can laugh, and are connected (with each other and the larger community).  Younger workers make a determination fairly quickly whether they fit or not - it is important for organizations to get Millennials hooked up with a person or group in the organization as early as possible.  If there no connection in the first couple weeks, younger workers are more likely to leave, seeking an environment that better caters to this basic need of acceptance and inclusion.  In general, when any employees does not feel like they are a part of the organization, they become disengaged.  They either stay (but often "give" less than they could) or they take their skills and the training the organization has provided to help another company grow.

Some organizations have created Employee Resource Groups (Women's groups, Young Leaders, LGBT employee groups, Veteran groups, etc.) and these groups serve as both a resource to the organization and also a great connection for new employees - especially those who do not yet feel connected to the organization.  These employee groups can provide real data about the workplace.  Savvy organizations utilize these groups to help take the pulse of the organization.  Millennials are typically willing to participate in surveys to help better understand the current organizational culture as it relates to younger employees AND suggest ways to improve the work environment for everyone.

Organizations that have a lot of turnover are served well to talk with those that have decided to stay and not leave the organization.  There are reasons why they have stayed and it is helpful to know what is attractive to them.  These "stay interviews" are extremely useful to help understand what types of things work in an organization.  When leaders ask what they can do to better retain their younger employees we recommend talking with the Millennials who have chosen to stay in the organization for a period of time (for at least a year).  When looking at employee turnover (what is the average tenure of all employee groups that leave the organization), identify workers who are staying longer than the average of those leaving and ask them what keeps them (and what they need to remain happy and productive).  This exercise will likely benefit all employees and frequently identifies broad issues like workplace flexibility (most employees appreciate working in an organization that provides more flexibility - which is sometimes difficult to provide - but the conversations with employees are worth it because much can be learned and changes can likely be made).

Engaging Millennials is no more difficult (or easy) than engaging other employees.  The sheer number of Millennials in the workplace may make it overwhelming at times but after the hype has slowed it can provide an opportunity to increase the creativity in connecting with, attracting, and retaining Millennials (which can initiate changes within the workplace that benefit all employees).  To learn more about Millennials and each of the generations sign up for Managing Millennial Employees , Integrating Generational Values OR join the Inclusion & Diversity Round Table . Give Jason a call (616.698.1167) or contact him at for more information.

Warning Signs of a Great Employee Looking Elsewhere
by Rob Strate, SPHR, Director of HR Services

Most managers and HR professionals have had the unhappy experience of having a key member of the organization suddenly announce he/she is leaving for greener pastures.  In today's extremely "tight" labor market, this can have a devastating effect, not only in terms of turnover replacement costs, but also the impact the leaving has on fellow employees, customers, suppliers, and the community.  To counter the likelihood of surprise employee departures, business leaders often look for the traditional signs when someone is about to quit -  having lots of doctor appointments, showing up to work in a suit, etc.  According to new research, however, the signals that someone is about ready to jump ship are much more subtle.

A study conducted by researchers at Utah State University on voluntary turnover found employees often did show behavior changes in the months leading to their departures, but not necessarily the kind of behaviors we would tend to associate with someone who is thinking of walking out the door. The study highlighted 10 warning signs of an employee about to quit, as well as some warning signs employers commonly associate with job hoppers which are not necessarily an indication someone is thinking of leaving.  Here are the signs managers should look for to help save valuable contributors from becoming part of the organization's turnover statistics before it is too late:
  • Employees become more reserved and quiet.
  • Workers seem to "tune out" in meetings and stop offering constructive contributions.
  • Employees show an increased reluctance to commit to long-term projects.
  • Workers become less interested in opportunities to advance.
  • Staffers become less interested in pleasing their bosses and do not seem to care about how their performance will impact their next review (OR the organization in general).
  • Workers avoid social interactions with their superiors and other members of management.
  • Employees stop making suggestions for new processes.
  • Workers only do the bare minimum and no longer go above and beyond the call of duty.
  • Employees become less interested in participating in training and development programs, either for themselves or others.
  • Individual productivity goes down, and they seem aware but do not seem to care about the addressing the problem.
It is possible for one or two of these to apply to an employee who is not looking to leave but any of these "symptoms" should be addressed regardless of the reason they are being demonstrated - and the more of these signals that apply to a single individual, the more likely it is that the employee is thinking of jumping ship.

Something the Utah State University research team found that was unexpected were the behaviors that did NOT make the above list.  Examples are:
  • Workers having lots of doctor appointments.
  • Employees showing up in dressy business attire.
  • Staffers who start showing up late.
  • Employees failing to return phone calls and emails.
  • Workers taking lots of sick days.
  • Staffers punching out early (or taking long breaks).
  • Employees taking more vacation time.
The research team found that these behaviors were not unique to perspective job-hoppers, therefore they were not rated as highly as those on the previous list. These signs certainly are concerning, however, and should provide managers with conversation starters that will help reveal employee issues which can be discussed early on rather than escalating to the point where the job search process is well underway.

Among the most important pieces of advice offered by the researchers is for managers to focus on retaining star employees in the short-term. Typically, organizations handle a turnover problem with large scale interventions to improve departmental or firm-level commitment, job satisfaction, and job engagement. These strategies may work, but they take time to design and implement. Thinking in terms of the turnover risk of specific employees allows for the investment of time and resources into those employees who create the most value and are actually at risk of leaving. TEA can help provide Supervisors and Managers with the communication and leadership skills needed to identify and address potential employee attitude or performance issues before they become an impetus for them to leave the company.  Give us a call to learn how we can help you achieve (and maintain) operational excellence.

This newsletter is published at 5570 Executive Parkway SE, Grand Rapids, Michigan as a general information service to all members and offers data from many sources. It is not designed to render legal advice or opinion. Such advice may only be given when related to actual situations. Our staff can assist you in interpreting and applying this information to your needs.  For questions or replies to this newsletter, email .  
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