The Employers' Association

The Employers’ Association (TEA) is a not-for-profit employers’ association, formed in 1939, with offices in Grand Rapids serving the West Michigan employer community. We help more than 600 member companies maximize employee productivity and minimize employer liability through human resources and management advice, training, survey data, and consulting services.

TEA is in the business of helping people. This blog is intended to address human issues, concerns and the things that impact people - be they self-perpetuated or externally imposed. Feel free to respond to the thoughts presented here, for without each other, we are nothing!

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Some people sleep without dreaming and awaken rested. Others dream while sleeping and awaken inspired. We must dream what we wish to accomplish before we can expect anything to happen. What kind of life could be based on the premise that what “is” will never change – that bringing the beliefs, values, ideals and accomplishments of several together would serve only to advance each individually rather than collectively enhance the group’s abilities?

People have said that setting low expectations will keep you from ever being disappointed. If we set no expectations – fearing the pain of failure more than anticipating the rewards of success – we may survive but will rarely thrive. We de-energize our relationships when we focus upon shortcomings or why something failed. Rather, we should use failure as a springboard towards implementing a solution. Believing that the “light at the end of a tunnel” is actually an opportunity not yet realized rather than a train heading towards us on a collision course reflects the assimilation of dreams into daily reality.

Destiny is a result of how effectively we balance our dreams with our abilities as we travel an unfamiliar path paved with not-yet-realized thoughts and ideas. Sadly, truth can often keep us from accomplishing our dreams. Far too often we allow our present reality – the knowledge we have about the world in which we live – to stop us from trying new things and entering into situations.

Accepting that our own (or another individual’s) weaknesses are insurmountable results in our believing failure is a probability. If, however, we merely acknowledge deficiencies as bumps in the road, relentlessly moving forward as we seek to accomplish our dreams, we will invariably find a way to make things happen. Destiny becomes reality only when we truly believe that “the things dreamed of” can become as much “probability” as they are “possibility” – when they become the things we anticipate and expect rather than simply things held tightly within the privacy of our individual hearts.

Friday, March 18, 2011


A Human Resource professional was recently reviewing his organization’s turnover report at a Board of Directors meeting. One of the group’s divisions had experienced an increase in turnover (from 15 to 20 employees representing more than a 5% increase). The turnover, attributed to unreasonable work schedules and a non-competitive pay structure, had many on the Board concerned that a continued exodus of good people might cripple the Organization in the middle of its transition to a new business model. While the “surface” seemed to be turbulent based on his summary analysis, the answers to several questions helped still the waters a bit:

  • How many of the 20 individuals leaving were “truly valued” employees? (Answer: 5)
  • What was the average tenure of those leaving? (Answer: 7 Years)
  • Did the switch in business model have anything to do with increased turnover? (Answer: We DO expect more from our employees and put more pay at risk than ever before but they have not complained much about it.)
  • Have you compared your BENEFITS and PERSONAL TIME OFF POLICIES with the organizations to which your employees went? (Answer: We cannot compete with (fill in the blank) organization. They pay whatever it takes so we do not have the slightest chance to retain people.)

Unmitigated turnover can cripple an organization BUT the insidious problems caused by “wrongful hiring” can poison an organization from the inside. Pay is often the easiest thing to blame for turnover BUT working conditions, management/supervisory leadership style, work schedules and even a shift from “stable income” to “pay at risk” often causes more turnover than does pay. A high turnover rate among employees having 7 years service should focus us more on what is different with where we have been than on the bright promise of where we might be going.

It is amazing how many “negative” issues have a positive aspect – how many dark clouds have a silver lining. Never take issues at face value without first seeking clarification or expansion. We can usually find the “cause” for any “effect” – but we must first seek or we will never find!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


When working with people, our “first impressions” often inaccurately influence the way we react to others UNLESS we take time to identify their origins. I have found that:

Unfounded perceptions can negatively influence thoughts and actions. I once worked with the owner of a small machine shop that was struggling financially. A 76-year old machinist became a “source of conflict” within the shop. The owner wished all his employees were as loyal and undemanding – seeing him as a great role model for others. Employees “did not want to end up working until they died because they could not afford to retire,” viewing him as great motivation to seek other employment. Perceptions, however, not reality as the worker in question told me he really did not have to work NOR was he particularly loyal – but that “if I ever met his wife I’d know why he was still working!” Often our perceptions can taint our thinking…always learn all the facts before making a judgment.

We miss much in life when we assume what another is thinking or doing – or limit what we feel they can contribute. One of the most critical components in the development of a Compensation Program is to ask employees what they actually do (rather than assuming we know what their job entails). An hourly employee once told me that the purpose of his job was to “bring to fruition the dreams of the owner so that we can share in his rewards.” While this answer did nothing to define job responsibilities, it DID speak volumes to the owner about how employees viewed their work. He began to pose questions to employees and include them in decisions he would not have discussed when thinking that they “did only what they were told” rather than believing they could “contribute positively to his dream.” Once he began to view employees more as partners than as workers his company began to grow and prosper exponentially – with increased efficiency and a reduced turnover rate.

People (and our thoughts about them) can contribute positively to us OR weigh us down. If we take the time to verify our perceptions before we pass judgment we can often avoid making assumptions that could lead us down the wrong path. If we ask for help and opinions from others before acting they can often make our journey easier. If we listen to what others say, we often find we are not so alone in the world – which support and affirmation can come from unexpected sources. People will always say (and do) the strangest things. Make sure you pay enough attention to what they are saying or doing (and sometimes what they are NOT saying or doing) that they can truly make a difference in your life!