Spring Cleaning – Making Your ERISA Compliance Sparkle

Author: Ann Marie Olszewski, Senior Account Manager, Marsh & McLennan Agency | Michigan

As the weather warms up, you’re probably thinking about starting fresh with a thorough spring cleaning. But look past your closets and windows to your ERISA compliance requirements! For many employers, the plan year renewed on January 1, so this may be the optimal time to address issues that escape your notice during busier times of the year.

The following is not a complete list, but may help you to get started with your compliance check:

  • Have you distributed Summary Plan Descriptions (SPDs) to plan participants? You should have an ERISA-compliant SPD for each of the benefit plans subject to ERISA. In most cases, the insurer (or plan administrator, for a self-funded benefit) will provide you with a booklet for participants. However, it may not satisfy all of the content requirements under ERISA. You can use a “wrap” document to fill in those gaps, and to provide additional pertinent details to participants.

Perhaps you are already distributing the SPDs to employees enrolled in the component benefit plans. But do you also provide SPDs to individuals covered under COBRA, or to children covered because of a court order? They are also plan participants, so they need access to the same written information.

  • Are the correct COBRA notifications being sent when necessary? Most employers outsource COBRA to a third-party administrator (TPA), so check with that organization on their practices. For example, the initial notice of COBRA rights should be sent to new plan participants, such as new hires who enroll for medical, dental and/or vision coverage. However, this notice should also be provided if an employee first elects coverage mid-year or during annual enrollment, or if a spouse is newly enrolled. If your TPA was not contracted to send this particular notice, then it will be your responsibility as the employer to make sure it is mailed out.

There are other COBRA-related notices, such as the election notice when a plan participant experiences a COBRA-qualifying event. Make sure your TPA is informed of such events in a timely fashion, and mails the notice within 14 days of such notification.

  • Are plan participants receiving the various required notices? To make it easier, it’s best to include the following notices with your new hire and annual enrollment materials, such as in a benefits guide received by all eligible employees:
    • Employer CHIPRA Notice. The employer must provide this notice annually to all employees, regardless of their enrollment or eligibility status. You can use the model notice created by the Department of Labor (DOL). (Please note: This notice is usually updated biannually, at the end of January and July.)
    • Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act (WHCRA) Notice. This must be provided to individuals enrolled in the group health plan. It should be distributed at enrollment, and then annually thereafter.
    • Notice to Employees of Marketplace Coverage Options. This should be provided to all new hires, regardless of whether they are eligible for benefits. You can use the model notice created by the DOL, but will have to add some information applicable to your medical plan.
    • Notice of Special Enrollment Rights. This must be given to employees at or before the time they become eligible to enroll in the group health plan.

  • Do plan participants receive a copy of the Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) for the medical plans available to them? You should provide SBCs for each available medical plan to employees who are enrolling for coverage for the first time, such as new hires. Otherwise, employees must receive an SBC for at least the medical plan in which they are currently enrolled, at the time of annual enrollment. If an employee requests an SBC during the year, a copy should be provided within seven working days.

  • Are you filing an annual Form 5500 for your ERISA health and welfare plan? Plans with 100 or more participants are required to file a Form 5500 by the end of the seventh month following the last day of the plan year. If you have not been filing, take advantage of the DOL’s Delinquent Filer Voluntary Compliance Program to reduce your risk for heavy penalties. Don’t wait for a DOL audit to comply, when the fines will be much higher.

Again, this is not an all-inclusive list of an employer’s requirements under ERISA. However, it is a good starting point, which will help to keep your plan clean and refreshed!

 Learn more about MMA Michigan:

Find out more & join the conversation on social media! #MMAinsights

Twitter: @mma_michigan

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/mma_michigan

Facebook: @marshmma

We look forward to hearing how we can help!

About Marsh & McLennan Agency – Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC, a subsidiary of Marsh, was established in 2008 to meet the needs of midsize businesses in the United States. MMA operates autonomously from Marsh to offer employee benefits, executive benefits, retirement, commercial property & casualty, and personal lines to clients across the United States.

Replace & Repeal

MMA Blog

The proposed legislation to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA) continues to dominate news coverage.  We thought you would appreciate a summary of MMA Michigan’s review and thoughts on the issue.

The proposed “repeal and replace” legislation is called the American Health Care Act (AHCA).  It has been passed by several committees and recently scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).  The CBO score showed the AHCA would increase the number of people without health insurance by 24 million by 2026, while slicing $337 billion off federal budget deficits over that time.

The AHCA still has a number of hurdles to cross before it can potentially be signed into law.  However, it is important to understand the basic provision included in the AHCA.  You’ll find a summary of the major provisions below:
You’ll find a summary of the major provisions below:

  • Employer mandate penalty goes to $0 as of 2016
  • Individual mandate penalty goes to $0 as of 2016
  • Premium tax credits on the public exchanges (as we know them today) go away as of 2020
  • Cost-sharing reductions on the public exchanges go away as of 2020
  • Individuals who get tax credits in error must repay ALL of it for 2018 & 2019 (today there is a cap on how much to repay)
  • Most taxes are repealed as of 2018
  • Cadillac tax stays alive but doesn’t start until 2025
  • New premium tax credits for individuals begin in 2020, based on age ($2,000 – $4,000), but not available for individuals with a modified adjusted gross income of $75,000 individual or $150,000 joint filers
  • Simplified reporting (on a W-2) coming, date TBD
  • H.S.A. contribution limits increased to match MOOP as of 2018
  • Repeals Medicaid expansion as of 2020
  • Non-Medicaid expansion states eligible for “safety net funding” 2018 – 2022
  • The small group & individual markets will be subject to  a continuous coverage provision as of 2019 (and for Marketplace special enrollment periods in 2018) – individuals with more than a 63 day gap in coverage in the prior 12 months will be subject to a 30% increase in premium for the next 12 months – this means certificates of creditable coverage will probably make a comeback
  • Small group & individual plans won’t have to conform to the Actuarial value / metal tiers as of 2020
  • Small group & individual plans age bands go to 5:1 (from 3:1) as of 2018

What is not included?  Taxation of health benefits.  Does this mean we are off the hook?  Not necessarily, it just means taxing benefits isn’t in this draft language.  We need to consider that both repeal & replace AND tax reform are both major priorities for the administration in 2017.

Are these provisions final?  Probably not.  It still has a long way to go before it could become law and anything can change.  The Senate parliamentarian needs to approve these provisions as acceptable under reconciliation.  Also, expect a lot of opposition, especially to repealing Medicaid expansion and the age determination for tax credits.

Until any changes are final, we will need to stay the course as the ACA is still the law of the land and compliance is required.  As this continues to unfold, we’ll be sure to be in touch with timely updates.  In the interim, we hope this is helpful.

MMA Michigan, as always, is on top of this issue. To speak with one of our experts, call (248)822-8000.

Learn more about MMA Michigan:
Health & Benefits | Troy                   Property & Casualty | Livonia
248-822-8000                                      734-525-2463

Find out more & join the conversation on social media! #MMAinsights

Twitter: @mma_michigan

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/mma_michigan

Facebook: @marshmma

We look forward to hearing how we can help!

About Marsh & McLennan Agency – Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC, a subsidiary of Marsh, was established in 2008 to meet the needs of midsize businesses in the United States. MMA operates autonomously from Marsh to offer employee benefits, executive benefits, retirement, commercial property & casualty, and personal lines to clients across the United States.

Happy, Healthy Employees Mean Better Business

How a full-service Employee Assistance Program
benefits your employees, their dependents and ultimately, your bottom line.

When people come to work feeling positive and stress-free, they’re at their most productive. That’s when they’re generating the best results for your business.

This is where you want your people to be, and where an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can help. By giving employees access to free and confidential services such as short-term counseling, financial and legal consultation, family support services, and online resources, employers assist their staff professionally and personally … so business can operate at its peak.

There are many choices when it comes to selecting an EAP. And just like any benefit selection, price does matter. But so does the mental and physical health of your employees, and the program’s impact on your organizational efficiency and medical spend.

Take a look at a typical embedded EAP (usually part of your Group Life or Disability Plan) and a full-service one to discover the difference for your organization:

Utilization: ensure you offer a program your employees use, are happy with and your organization can afford
A full-service EAP like the one available through New Directions has a utilization rate between 5 to 8 percent and can be used by the employee as well as the employee’s dependents. An embedded program generally has less than 1 percent utilization rate, and is limited to the employee only.  A full EAP ensures an employee’s life challenges are addressed with up to six free counseling sessions per issue for free. Ann embedded program may only cover crisis situations.

Support: prepare your supervisors with the tools they need to be successful and keep good people
To set an organization up for success, an effective EAP designates a liaison, and provides orientation and ongoing consultation. Full-service EAPs like New Directions’ recognize that supervisors are the heart of an organization’s success, so a formal program for performance issues, organizational training, a dedicated website and regular communication is available. These resources help guide managers through the challenges of the management experience. In contrast, embedded EAPs tend not to provide custom support, resulting in lower program engagement and satisfaction.

Inclusive services: provide the best, robust services in one program
If your employees experience a critical incident, you want a program that helps them get back to their regular routine as quickly as possible. And if you have a DOT/SAP challenge, be sure you’re conforming to regulations and ensuring safety. Organizational training and managing employee performance issues are also a priority, and something you want to do well. All of these services are included with the New Directions EAP, unlike embedded programs.

Access: ensure convenient and timely care is available for your employees
The need for support can happen anytime, to anyone. That’s why a full-service EAP connects people with care 24/7/365, includes dependents, and is available in-person, online or via phone. Plus, an appointment is generally available within three days or fewer. This is different from embedded programs, where only phone support may be available only during business hours, and appointments aren’t available until weeks after an issue is identified. 

Provider network: provide the best care for where you employees live, work, and play
With a full-service EAP like New Directions, a warm, supportive voice greets employees when they call. Each of these experts is ready to connect your employees with Master’s level, experienced specialists across the United States. This is unlike the recording you may get with an embedded program, which may only offer generalized clinical support with limited providers in key areas.

Promotion: keep the program top-of-mind so you receive the results of its use
Placing EAP materials in the hands of your employees is a key step in getting them to use the program and find success. With New Directions, you can co-brand promotional materials, receive custom communications based on your employees’ needs and gain access to a robust website. A limited program may not include any materials at all, making it difficult to find the helpline phone number or even let employees know it’s available.

Data: measure the success of the program so it stays a strong piece of your benefit portfolio
Each year, you consider which benefits make the most impact for your employees and the organization’s portfolio. To help, New Directions’ EAP provides quarterly utilization reports and consults with an account manager to see where the program is making the most difference. A review of high-risk cases lets you know where you can invest more effort in your employees’ health. A claims analysis shows you where the EAP helps reduce medical spend. Little to none of this is available with an embedded program.

Learn more about the New Directions EAP difference by visiting ndbh.com.

Founded in 1995, New Directions helps people live healthy, balanced lives.

The fast-growing health care company provides managed behavioral health services, employee assistance programs, student assistance programs, organizational consulting, and health coaching to large regional health plans, Fortune 100 companies, employers and labor groups. For more information, visit ndbh.com.


Planning For Retirement – Your New Daily Life

Plan Smart.png
Financial security is a key component of a happy retirement, but how you choose to spend your daily life throughout retirement is critical as well. Retirement can mean different things to different people. Some look forward to pursuing new interests, while others want time to relax. Whatever your future holds, one thing is certain – a secure retirement requires thought and careful planning, and it’s never too early to start.

As you begin to think about retirement, take the time to consider some important questions.

  • What issues, interests and causes are you passionate about?
  • Where and how do you want to contribute?
  • What will be your legacy?

Retirement can be a time to discover new and creative outlets and passions, and do the things you never had time to do while you were working. On the other hand, you may choose to work full-time, part- time, as a consultant, or on a volunteer basis. Many people work in retirement to keep their benefits, maintain a stream of income, or simply because they enjoy working. Retirement planning is a time to consider all options that will bring you fulfillment.

Many newly retired also embrace the opportunity to return to the classroom, to find new skills or discover new talents. After a time of learning and exploration, some experience a renewed desire to work and pursue new opportunities and challenges. Some start their own business, and others take on an “encore career” – one that makes good use of your well-developed skills and talents, and provides you with the opportunity to apply them in a new setting that has a social impact, or makes a difference. If, for example, you worked in the corporate world, you may want to use your skills in the non-profit world.

You might also consider a learning experience combined with the adventure of travel. One very popular option, Elderhostel ®, offers learning adventures that combine travel with an educational experience for older adults.

When you leave the working world and turn your attention toward family, friends and hobbies, the desire to contribute in a meaningful way becomes a priority. Volunteering is a great way for you to stay involved and make a contribution. The right volunteer experience can provide you with an opportunity to make new friends, gain recognition for your contributions and add more structure to your days.

This new phase of life should be seen as an adventure and a time to reinvent yourself. Planning and transitioning can take time, and involves testing out different pastimes, jobs and projects. Getting support from peers and loved ones in your life will take on a special significance as you begin to sort out all of your choices. The shift to retirement can be a welcome change of pace and yet it can be challenging to create enough structure to find a sense of satisfaction. Take a realistic look ahead and plan carefully to help achieve your retirement goals.

Helpful Websites


The AARP’s Web site has numerous articles, links, and calculators related to retirement finances, housing, health care, lifestyle, including civic engagement through volunteer opportunities and working in retirement.


Civic Ventures is dedicated to the active engagement of retirees. The Web site is home to several different programs that provide useful information about transitioning into the second half of life. You will find resources on lifelong learning, encore careers, opportunities for community involvement and the organizations that support these initiatives. There are several useful booklets available, including The Boomers’ Guide to Good Work: An introduction to jobs that make a difference.


Elderhostel is a not-for-profit organization offering educationally based travel packages specifically designed for people over 55. You may reach ElderHostel by calling 800-454-5768.


Something to Live For: Finding Your Way in the Second Half of Life

Richard Leider and David Shapiro

Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, July 2008

The Wall Street Journal Complete Retirement Guidebook: How to Plan It, Live It and Enjoy It

Glen Ruffenach and Kelly Greene

Publisher: Three Rivers Press, June 2007

For more information regarding Financial Education for your Employees contact:

Cherri Smith
MetLife – PlanSmart

Leased Employee Hurt on the Job… Am I covered?

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Leasing employees has become an increasingly popular option among medium and small businesses that are looking at innovative ways for handling personnel matters, including payroll and benefits, and overall reducing their costsThe main benefit of leasing employees is that the leasing firm frees the company from administrative responsibilities associated with human resources and workforce management, so you are able to focus your attention on your business and meeting your business goals.

Leasing agencies promise to reduce expenses in a variety of areas, such as single business tax, unemployment taxes, workers’ compensation premiums, health insurance premiums and administrative expenses in managing employees.  Although the savings can appear attractive, extreme caution must be used when considering this option and it’s imperative to understand the risks you may be taking.

What could happen if my leased worker is injured on the job?

  • The leased employee or their family could make a claim against you.
  • A claim can be made against you by the workers’ compensation insurance carrier that insures the leasing agency.
  • An insurance company who provides employee benefits to the leased worker could make a claim against you seeking to recover what they have paid.
  • A claim can be made against you by an automobile insurer attempting to recover medical bills that they paid for the leased employee if they were hurt while using the company vehicle.
  • The leased employee could make a claim against you under YOUR workers’ compensation policy on the basis that they were really employed by you.

Doesn’t my workers’ compensation policy cover this type of claim?

  • No, the leasing company provides workers’ compensation for the leased worker.

Because the leasing company is providing the payroll services, the injured employee is paid under the leasing company’s tax ID number.  Your workers’ compensation carrier would deny the claim because based on the tax ID number, the leased employee does not match your tax ID number, thus is not considered an employee of your company.

If my workers’ compensation carrier denies the claim, I can just submit the claim to my commercial general liability carrier because the injury occurred on my premises….RIGHT?

  • Your CGL carrier would deny the claim. The CGL policy specifically excludes injury to an “employee” and the policy defines an “employee” as including a leased worker.

What are some of the consequences if the leased employee or others make a claim against me?

  • You will have to pay significant legal fees to sort it all out, and most of the costs cannot be recovered even if you win the judgement.
  • If you fight the lawsuit and lose, you could face an uninsured judgement that is substantial and would be disastrous for your company.
  • When your workers’ compensation carrier realizes you have a leased employee due to the submitted claim, it will likely charge you for those employees as if they were your statutory employees. This would be calculated according to your workers’ compensation rate with those additional employees and added on to that premium. You can be audited for this going back as far as three years.

I still want to have leased employees.  How can I protect myself from these pitfalls?

Solution #1:  Name your entity as an Alternate Employer

Have the leasing agency add you as an alternate employer as an endorsement to its workers’ compensation policy.  This will allow the leasing agency’s workers’ compensation policy to apply to you, the alternate employer, as if you were an insured under the leasing agency policy.

The workers’ compensation insurer for the leasing agency will not ask your workers’ compensation carrier to share the loss if you are name as an alternate employer.  This should block your carrier from asking for any additional premium from you when your policy expires.

Solution #2: Your CGL policy can add an endorsement which would remove the leased employee exclusion

Request that your insurance carrier add a leased employee endorsement that removed the leased employee exclusion onto your commercial general liability policy.

The advantage of having this endorsement is that your commercial liability carrier will pay for the legal fees to sort this out and pay judgments against you, if any.

Recommendation: Require the leasing agency to provide you with the following proof:

  • A copy of the actual alternate employer endorsement adding your company as the alternate employer on their workers’ compensation policy.
  • A certificate of insurance providing evidence of the coverages required in the leasing agreement.
  • Evidence that they have put an administrative system in place that will ensure that they verify each year that the alternate employer endorsement form has been renewed.

Leasing employees may be the solution to some of your administrative and human resources responsibilities and the best fit for you and your business.  However, it is not a strategy without risk.  Do your research, understand the different types of alternative work relationships, your employment laws, and legal obligations to avoid the unnecessary exposures and expensive problems in the future.

Learn more about MMA Michigan:

Find out more & join the conversation on social media! #MMAinsights

Twitter: @mma_michigan

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/mma_michigan

Facebook: @marshmma

We look forward to hearing how we can help!

About Marsh & McLennan Agency – Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC, a subsidiary of Marsh, was established in 2008 to meet the needs of midsize businesses in the United States. MMA operates autonomously from Marsh to offer employee benefits, executive benefits, retirement, commercial property & casualty, and personal lines to clients across the United States.


Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

One of the biggest contributors of success in the workplace is the ability to recognize and manage one’s emotions known as emotional intelligence. It was first introduced to the world in 1964 and gained popularity in 1995. Studies have shown that individuals with high emotional intelligence have greater mental health, job performance and leadership skills. The ability to identify physical and emotional cues better positions employees to handle difficult situations with rational thought.

These are crucial skills for both leaders and employees of organizations. Emotional intelligence indicates a person has greater command of their intrapersonal skills including self-awareness and control over their emotions. It also signifies skills such as active listening, exhibiting empathy, assertiveness and the ability to resolve conflict. Employees who can express their needs and feelings in an assertive and respectful manner often have a higher productivity level in the workplace while cultivating an inclusive workplace with their peers.

Organizations that recognize the importance of an emotionally intelligent workforce understand the need to invest in their employees’ success. Emotional intelligence is important to every interaction in business. Low employee morale, conflict and even stress can limit business effectiveness; however developing a workforce with high emotional intelligence can improve teamwork and customer service within the organization.

The success of individuals translates into the success of the organization and enables everyone to work together for maximum effectiveness.

Ulliance, an international service company headquartered in Troy, provides programs and services to organizations’ staff to help them reduce behavioral healthcare costs while increasing productivity and retention. For more information about Ulliance’s Human Effectiveness Training, please visit www.ulliance.com or call 866-648-8326.

What You Need to Know About the Travel Ban

Christian S. Allen, Of Counsel, Dickinson Wright

As everybody has likely heard by now, President Trump issued another controversial Executive Order late last Friday, which made sweeping changes to several aspects of the US immigration system. There has been an unprecedented public response to the Order, and a lot of understandable confusion and concern for companies and individuals around the world. The Order was issued with almost no advance notice to the public, and also apparently without any consultation with the various government agencies responsible for enforcing the immigration laws. Those agencies were caught completely off-guard this past weekend, with no guidance from the White House about its intentions, nor any definitions for many vague terms used in the Order. It also became immediately clear that the Order was going to have a direct impact on several groups of people who were not supposed to be affected, as well as many other unintended consequences for lawful immigrants both inside and out of the US. By late Sunday night, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security was scrambling to minimize the unintended harms, and triggered a “national interest exemption” provision in the Order for certain individuals.

Over the past 4 – 5 days, many of the most pressing questions surrounding the surprise Order have been largely sorted out, and some formal guidance is now coming out of the relevant government agencies. If you are interested, the USCBP agency has created a website with some relatively non-partisan and accurate statistics about the Order (see: https://www.cbp.gov/border-security/protecting-nation-foreign-terrorist-entry-united-states). Hopefully, employees who were identified as potentially being directly affected by the Order were already proactively alerted last Friday evening. Here below are several additional things to consider, which could have an impact on companies and/or employees during the next few months, and which also may help to calm the fears of understandably nervous workers:

  • The Order only directly impacts employees who have some close connection to the seven countries specifically identified in the Order (e.g. they were born in one of those countries, are a dual-citizen with one of them, etc.). Citizens of any other countries, who have no ties to the seven countries listed in the Order, are safe and can continue to work and travel freely, as before.

  • US citizens holding a valid US passport are similarly still fine to continue to travel and reenter the US as before, even if they are also a dual-citizen of one of the seven countries listed in the Order.

  • On the other hand, all non-immigrant (temporary) and immigrant (permanent) US visas for citizens from the seven countries listed in the Order have been formally cancelled by the US Department of State last Friday evening. Anybody born in or a citizen of one of those countries, who is currently in the US can remain here, but should absolutely not travel without consulting with a competent immigration attorney first.

  • As a result of the DHS Secretary’s quick action on Sunday night, anybody who was born in or is a citizen of one of the seven countries listed in the Order, and who is currently a Lawful Permanent Resident of the US (i.e. holds a valid “greencard”), will most likely be able to continue to travel freely. However, because that is a discretionary action, we recommend consulting with at attorney first, before any such international travel occurs.

  • Any Lawful Permanent Residents reentering the US who are asked to voluntarily relinquish their status and greencard at the airport should refuse to do so. Permanent Residents cannot be denied entry to the US solely because of their refusal to relinquish their status. Only an immigration judge can order their status to be rescinded. If told at the airport that their status is somehow invalid, Permanent Residents should politely decline to sign any I-407 application form given to them, otherwise cooperate with the USCBP officers, and then contact their attorney immediately upon exiting the airport or border area.

  • Finally, the Order did also cancel a visa program which will likely impact all foreign national employees working temporarily in the US. For many years, US consulates and embassies abroad have waived in-person interviews for certain visa applicants who were well-known to the US government, and who had been previously, extensively vetted as part of an earlier visa application process. Unfortunately, all of those people will now have to schedule and appear for an in-person interview for each and every subsequent US visa application made at any US consulate or embassy, anywhere in the world. It’s virtually certain that this will increase visa processing and appointment wait times at most consulates and embassies. So, employees traveling abroad who need to apply for a new visa sticker in their passport in order to return to the US, should plan on longer processing delays at the consulate. Ultimately, visa approval rates should remain the same for employees with no connection to one of the seven countries in the new Order. However, the visa processing delays will likely cause travel plans to need to be changed or extended.

As the impacts of this Executive Order (or any others which the President signs) continue to develop, we will be sure to notify you of anything which may further impact you or your employees. In the meantime, as always, feel free to reach out to any of the Dickinson Wright Immigration Group attorneys for additional information and/or for specific questions or concerns.

Christian S. Allen
Of Counsel – Dickinson Wright
dickinson wright

New Year, New Opportunity For Success!!


The start of a New Year signifies new beginnings & opportunities for HR to begin from a clean slate. Many see resolutions as an opportunity to be and do better or differently than they have in the past.   Sadly, behavior change is often not as simple as stating an intention and resolutions are forgotten within days or weeks of setting them. Gratefully, with a little knowledge and thoughtful intention, you can resolve to accomplish great things this year AND be successful doing so by following a few key steps.

Think strategically – know your “why.”  The Human Resources field is full of fixers, doers and helpers.   As problem solvers, we’ll often jump right into what needs to be done without taking time to think through and clearly define the “why.” As the field of HR evolves and as your organization’s sustainability strategy evolves, resolve to be clear about why it makes sense to dedicate time and energy to various projects and initiatives before you dig in and get to work. Better yet, figure out your why…what is the strategic why of Human Resources in the organization? How does the work you and your team do contribute to the success of the broader organization? Is your “why” inspiring? If not, maybe it’s time for a makeover.

Start with what’s working and build from there. The mind is programmed to see negatives – it’s a defense and survival mechanism left over from the caveman/ saber-toothed tiger days. As a result, we tend to focus on what’s broken or not working and neglect to appreciate what is working well. Success and feeling good breeds more success and feeling good. Take time to identify what is working well in your department and across the company and build from there.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Sure, in your role as key strategic partner to the organization, you have a lot to do to help your organization be the best it can be. Build your confidence and the confidence of others by breaking projects down into chunks or smaller tasks. For instance, rather than tell yourself you will redesign the entire hiring process by June 1, set a goal to conduct a SWOC (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges) analysis of the hiring process by the end of the month and build from there. Identifying the steps to successfully achieving your goals and chunking them out can help you feel better about progress along the way and help you tell that progress story to others as you go.

Keep track of your progress.  This tip is simple. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Set goals and decide what success looks like. Be specific.

Find a best friend (or two) at work. Social support is essential to quality of life, health and success at work.  As a leader in Human Resources, you are likely focused on creating a great place to work and an atmosphere of trust, fun, and support where employees genuinely like each other and enjoying working together. Don’t exclude yourself from the benefits of social support. Make it a priority to nurture your relationships at work (and at home!) to ensure you have a cheerleader, counselor, and advisor when in need.

Be mindful. As the flight attendant reminds us when we board the plane – put your oxygen mask on before helping others. It’s easy to give, give, and give some more when you are passionate about helping others.  Resolve to make yourself a priority in 2017. The benefits of healthy employees are well documented. Lead by example. Whether you move more, breath deeper or enjoy more of what you love, every effort you make to take care of yourself will help you be a better, stronger Human Resources partner in the long run.


Workplace Dynamics: How work-life balance and emotions affect the office

Employees bring more to work than just their lunch.

That was the message Ulliance President and CEO Kent Sharkey delivered to HR professionals who recently gathered for the 2016 MISHRM conference in Detroit to discuss leadership strategies, relationship building and other trends in the human resources industry.

During his breakout session, Sharkey shared principles of understanding human dynamics while navigating the people side of business. He started with the issues HR professionals are confronted with daily surrounding employees who may not leave their personal issues at the door when they clock in, including:

  • Home and workplace stress
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Family problems
  • Relationship conflicts (personal and work)
  • Legal and/or financial issues

These issues can stir emotions that disrupt the work day and hinder productivity. While positive emotions can foster an atmosphere of teamwork, negative ones can sabotage any chance of employees working together. Negative emotions can be easily triggered by something as simple as misinterpreting an email or a casual conversation at the water cooler that goes awry. Being aware of such communication challenges as tone of voice in an email, the choice of words in a conversation and facial expressions, posture and gestures can help de-escalate emotions in the workplace.

Offering an empathetic ear, making eye contact and hearing a co-worker out are additional ways to foster good communication and help maintain an emotionally even keel in the office. And these practices can uncover deeper root causes of issues affecting employees’ productivity.

In regulating workplace emotions, HR professionals need to understand there are two types of minds: the rational mind (one that provides thoughts) and the emotional mind (one that provides feelings). The more the emotional mind intensifies with negative feelings, the more it will take over the rational mind. The successful HR professional doesn’t necessarily suppress negative emotions, but balances them with the positive among the workforce.

So, how does one maintain a positive workplace by helping employees overcome issues that are adversely affecting their relationships and productivity? Encouraging them to take advantage of their company’s employee assistance program (EAP) is a great place to start.  A well-rounded EAP can assist employees with emotional health, helping to guide them through life’s challenges that may interfere with their job. A dedicated counselor will work to address their barriers to personal and professional success, as well as help them seek solutions to achieve their goals.

Ulliance is an international service company headquartered in Troy, Michigan. For more than 25 years, Ulliance has been helping millions of people achieve their work/life goals through employee assistance programs (EAP), as well as other human resource services including wellness programs, training programs, organizational and leadership development, coaching, career transition services, and crisis management programs. For more information about Ulliance, please visit www.ulliance.com or call (866) 648-8326.

What does each generation need and expect?


Plunkett Cooney

By:  Claudia D. Orr

Recently, Detroit SHRM had a speaker who addressed this issue at one of its educational dinners.  It was really interesting and unfortunately many members missed the presentation. Well, I just came across an article in the November 29, 2016 State Bar of Michigan’s “e-journal” written by Roberta Gubbins (former editor of the Ingham County Legal News) that provided useful insights to attorneys about what their clients may want, depending on their generation.  Since it translates well to the wonderful world of human resources, I thought I would provide the following relevant content from Ms. Gubbins’ article for Detroit SHRM members: 

Traditionalists, born 1900-1945, don’t question authority, adhere to the rules, put duty before pleasure, are savers, and believe in hard work. While they have adapted to technology, they prefer face-to-face contact, less e-mail, and handwritten notes. Marketing to them can include cards for birthdays, holidays, and quarterly newsletters as well as meetings for lunch, Rotary, Kiwanis, or Lions.

The 75 million Baby Boomers, born 1946-1964, are the most educated of the population. They are confident of self, not authority, want a prestigious title and the corner office, have the highest divorce rate and second marriages in history, and were the radicals of the 60s and 70s and the yuppies of the 80s. They are ambitious, competitive, and ethical.

Baby Boomers have acquired technology; they research and buy products and services online, use e-mail, TV is important to them, and they are on Facebook and Twitter. They still go to the mailbox, appreciate newsletters, brochures, postcards, and greeting cards. When writing content for them, it should be straight forward, written in 2nd person, in clear, easy-to-read fonts, and include white space and graphics. They are loyal—do a good job and they will come back and refer others.

The Gen Xers, born 1965-1980, are a small group, numbering about 51 million. They have a low level of trust for authority and are juggling children, job, aging parents, and home ownership. Xers are the first generation to not do as well financially as their parents. They are apathetic politically, highly educated, and have assimilated technology into their lives.

Gen Xers shop and research online, like e-mail, and use social media, namely Facebook and Twitter. They also respond to print such as newsletters, postcards, or greeting cards. Include both print and digital marketing to reach them.

The Millennials, born 1981-2000, are the largest group with 79 million members. By 2020, they will comprise 46% of the workforce and control or influence the spending of $1.3 trillion. They prefer meaningful work, want the companies and services they use to contribute to the community, and view marriage and parenthood as more important than careers and success. They respect authority yet are less trustworthy of individual people. They are the first generation of children to have schedules. They were born with a smartphone in their hand.

To reach Millennials, forget print and use all forms of digital communication. They are more apt to come to you if they are referred by their peers or if your reviews are positive. They will visit your website, your SBM Member Directory profile, and read your blog. Social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc., is a constant part of their world. They also stream radio to their phones, tablets, and laptops. Think about including radio advertising as part of your marketing plans.

Pretty interesting, right?  I am a Baby Boomer and much of the description is accurate except I could care less about a corner office or prestigious title and have become less competitive overtime.  So, be careful not to stereotype too much since this could lead to an age discrimination claim.  Remember, under the Michigan Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, any decision based on age maybe unlawful, even if it favors the older worker over the younger employee.

This article was written by Claudia D. Orr, who is Chair of the Legal Affairs Committee of Detroit SHRM, and an experienced labor/employment attorney at the Detroit office of Plunkett Cooney (a full service law firm and resource partner of Detroit SHRM).  She can be reached at corr@plunkettcooney.com or at (313) 983-4863. For more information go to: http://www.plunkettcooney.com/people-105.html. 

Detroit SHRM encourages members to share these articles with others, inside and outside their organization, as long as its name and logo, and the author’s information, is included in the re-post of the article. November 2016.