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Employees are integral to the success of a business. They may be responsible for the design and development of products, or they could be on the front lines of customer service. Those same employees often help determine how a business is perceived in the marketplace. Consider how some of the most recognized companies have earned their reputations. They may sell quality products, but it’s their people skills that frequently win them accolades. Remarkable companies are easy to contact, and their employees are well-trained in offering excellent customer care.
Top-performing companies also have HR strategies that are aligned with business operations. Their company culture supports talent growth and development, and they place an emphasis on employee job satisfaction. When company leaders create a work environment that encourages staff feedback, the input they receive can be invaluable in motivating employees and increasing employee retention.
Establishing policies and procedures that benefit both the business and its employees is an essential component. While business interests must be protected, employees need to feel they’re a valued part of the company. Clearly, communicating those policies — including policies on recently highlighted issues, such as workplace harassment — can help avoid future misunderstandings and legal action.
The following experts can assist businesses with guidance in various areas of HR, from establishing policies to interpreting employment law and providing employee benefits.
Q: Are employers becoming their employees’ psychologist?
A: Employees are experiencing increased levels of work-life stress, whether they’re going through a divorce, struggling with their teenager, or caring for an aging parent. These challenges, when added to the stresses of work, can have many repercussions, including serious work performance problems.
As an empathetic manager, you want to help, but you can inadvertently become an unlicensed psychologist. To better address these impactful challenges without the added liability, provide your employees with a robust and comprehensive, value-driven EAP — one that resolves more than 90 percent of issues without referring employees to their employer’s self-funded health care plan. With a dedicated, advance-degreed manager, it becomes an extension of your HR department. Be mindful, however — not all EAPs provide the same services or results.
Kent Sharkey, President and CEO
Human Resource Management Solutions
900 Tower Dr., Suite 600
Troy, MI 48098
Q: This spring, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision titled Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis. It concerned whether companies could require their employees to pursue employment claims through individual arbitration proceedings. How does this decision affect arbitration agreements?
A: The Supreme Court’s decision in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis confirmed that class and collective action waivers in arbitration agreements are enforceable. Before the Court issued this decision, there were questions about whether employers could require employees to waive their rights to bring wage and hour cases collectively. Often, wage and hour claims (those involving how someone is paid and whether they were entitled to overtime) are more lucrative and/or easier to manage when brought by a group of employees. While the damages (e.g., unpaid overtime) may not amount to much money for an individual, when calculated for the group, the damages can be substantial and worth pursuing.
The Court’s decision in Epic Systems confirmed that employers may require employees to arbitrate their employment claims, including those related to wage and hour matters, on an individual basis. Given this decision, employers should review their employment policies and agreements, including arbitration agreements, to determine if they adequately reflect their interests. Employees should also be diligent about reviewing employment policies and agreements before signing them.
Kerr, Russell and Weber, PLC
Katherine F. Cser
500 Woodward Ave., Ste. 2500
Detroit, MI 48226
Q: If Michigan voters decide in November to legalize marijuana for recreational use, will employers be able to reject job applicants or fire employees who test positive for marijuana?
A: The short answer is yes. Job applicants and employees who test positive for marijuana won’t be protected from adverse employment actions if recreational marijuana use is legalized in Michigan.
Since drug tests can detect marijuana in a person’s system days after use, employers should update their workplace drug policies to clarify the consequences of a positive drug test for marijuana, whether the positive test result is due to legal medical or recreational use. This proactive step may help thwart arguments from an employee that he/she legally used marijuana over the weekend, for example, but wasn’t “under the influence” while at work and, therefore, did not violate the employer’s policy.
Marijuana remains a Schedule 1 controlled substance under federal law (defined as drugs, substances, or chemicals with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse).
Howard & Howard Attorneys, PLLC
Brian A. Kreucher, Attorney
Management Side Labor & Employment Law
450 W. Fourth St.
Royal Oak, MI 48067
Q: On Sept. 5, 2018, Michigan’s state Legislature passed the Earned Sick Time Act. Is this law going to become effective, as written, in March 2019? And what do employers need to do to prepare?
A: Michigan was the first state in the Midwest to pass a sick leave law. However, there are some unique aspects to what Michigan did, and the “passage” of the law isn’t as final as it may sound.
By passing the Earned Sick Time Act ballot proposal (similar to the adoption of a new minimum wage ballot proposal), the legislators removed it from the November general election ballot. That way, they retain the ability to amend the law with a simple majority vote, as opposed to the three-fourths vote required to amend a ballot initiative after it’s passed by voters.
It’s highly likely that the act, as written, will be amended and the as-written applicable dates (i.e., employers are currently required to notify employees of their leave rights by April 1, 2019, or their date of hire, whichever is later) will be changed. Given the anticipated revisions to the act, it’s recommended that employers wait until after the November 2018 election and final revisions to the act are announced before implementing policies and procedures to ensure legal compliance.
Plunkett Cooney, PC
38505 Woodward Ave., Ste. 100
Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304
Q: How important is it that HR is aligned with business operations?
A: Human Resources is central to the development and implementation of strategies that support and deliver needed resources to assist in the overall success of the business strategy. Meeting with management teams to ensure there’s an understanding of a strategic plan is a critical function of HR. At Northwood University, there are many conversations between senior leadership and the HR team to discuss strategy, in order to ensure both HR and the university’s business objectives are aligned and will meet the needs of the organization’s strategic plan.
HR needs to assess strengths and weaknesses to support a company’s business strategy related to such areas as capabilities/activities, funding, and timing. What, if any, gaps are there in HR to meet the outcomes of the aligned HR and business strategies? A thorough evaluation within HR will be needed to evaluate each area of the strategic plan and determine how HR will meet those needs.
Human Resources Director
Title IX Coordinator
4000 Whiting Dr.
Midland, MI 48640
Q: How do you drive culture in an acquisition-oriented organization?
A: In a highly acquisitive organization, driving a common culture can be very challenging. You must find balance between embracing and appreciating historical cultures in legacy organizations and pulling the newly expanded team together around a common purpose. This focus unites teams and begins to build synergistic cultures.
Culture provides the foundation for how employees make decisions, prioritize initiatives, collaborate, problem-solve, and lead. Purposefully driving a culture is one of the most important efforts of any executive team.
So, how do you drive culture? Here are some ideas:
- Engage the leadership team to draft clear Mission, Vision, and Value statements reflecting the core beliefs of the organization.
- Gather feedback on these drafts from all levels.
- Translate these statements into clear behaviors supporting core beliefs, and identify behaviors that don’t support them.
- Select a cultural tool to assess the current state of the culture to measure future progress.
- Empower a group of employees to have face-to-face conversations with their peers and team members to better understand what’s not aligned with core beliefs.
- Help the organization connect the dots between actions and core beliefs.
Communications should consistently reinforce why certain things are being done, and how they relate to core beliefs. Explaining these alignments will significantly help the organization embrace the importance of culture.
Chief HR Officer, EVP
2301 W. Big Beaver Rd., Ste. 525
Troy, MI 48084
Q: My most productive employee gave notice. How can I encourage her to stay without offering higher pay, which our company can’t afford?
A: Most employers are seeing a huge increase in employee turnover. Labor Department data shows that in April 2018, twice the number of employees quit their jobs than were laid off. A 2016 survey found that 60 percent of employees will accept lower salary in exchange for better benefits — and not just the traditional health, dental, and vision. Companies should consider offering fitness memberships, flexible work schedules, or work-from-home options.
Finally, ask why she’s leaving. You’d be surprised how many employers let top talent leave without asking why. Perhaps it’s overwork, lack of challenges, or a bad boss (50 percent leave for this reason). You might be able to find a mutually acceptable plan to keep her on.
Remember to ask your staff for regular feedback about their jobs, which is invaluable to designing better retention strategies.
Manager, HR Outsourcing Team
39300 W. 12 Mile Rd., Ste. 100
Farmington Hills, MI 48331
Q: What is Strategic Staffing Solutions doing in the area of workforce development in Detroit?
A: Since its founding, Strategic Staffing Solutions has remained passionate about workforce development throughout its 28 locations globally. In Detroit, several S3 team members, including CEO Cynthia Pasky, work closely with Mayor Mike Duggan’s Workforce Development Board. This board was developed in late 2015 to provide educational and technical training opportunities for all Detroiters, including those that have historically been marginalized — such as veterans, single mothers, returning citizens, and the disabled. The board has a north-star goal of putting 100,000 Detroiters to work in quality jobs that provide a good income and improve lives.
S3 has also played an instrumental role in reopening schools like Randolph Career and Technical Center in Detroit to provide entry-level job training for high school students and adult education in the skilled trades.
Strategic Staffing Solutions
Detroit Operations Manager
645 Griswold, Ste. 2900
Detroit, MI 48226
Q: What should HR be doing to address the #MeToo movement?
A: Given the increased focus on sexual harassment issues, HR must be proactive. Key strategies that HR departments should employ now are:
- Robust Anti-harassment Training. A five-minute review of the anti-harassment policy when someone is newly hired, or during rote online training, is no longer sufficient. Consider regular, inperson training for all employees, to discuss the importance of respect in the workplace. This training must make clear that harassment is prohibited.
- Updated Anti-harassment Policies. Make sure your policy prohibits all forms of unlawful harassment, not just sexual harassment; provides multiple avenues and individuals to whom employees can report harassment; and explicitly states that retaliation for making a complaint or participating in an investigation is strictly prohibited.
- Prompt, Thorough Investigations. When an employee raises a concern, or HR hears of a potential issue, a prompt, fair investigation is essential. HR should ensure appropriate action is taken, and be certain all steps are well-documented.
Elizabeth Wells Skaggs
Labor and Employment Law
333 Bridge St. NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504