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!

Friday, April 3, 2015


Education, once a privilege, has become a necessity if individuals expect to find work within our ever-changing, constantly evolving world.  Life-long learning is a requirement for success and innovation – for any kind of job advancement – as we compete within a tech-driven world.  A high school education qualifies few for meaningful work as some form of specialized training or higher education is needed for even well-paying factory employment.  Life-long learning has become the standard for success – we cannot “arrive” and thrive anymore as we must view each accomplishment – each step of the ladder – as but a resting point rather than a final destination.  Mediocrity is the reward of the complacent – only those willing to invest (their time, their talents and their resources) will achieve excellence.  Unless we (as individuals) proactively and intentionally move forward, we will find ourselves drifting upon a becalmed sea without hope or direction – without a course we can chart that would take us from where we are to where we might wish to be.  Unless we identify AND move towards new opportunities as they present themselves, we will live like gulls as they scavenge through the debris that others have left behind.

Lost in the call for change is the definition of reality.  Should we prepare for the future by dwelling on what may have worked in the past to accomplish what needed to be done or by seeking new avenues and processes that might lead us to destinations that have yet to be realized?  Far too many people look into the tunnel seeking shelter from the storm rather than beyond it to seek opportunities yet to be realized.  It is important to live life recognizing both perspectives that a tunnel provides.  One can look into a tunnel as if it were a portal into the darkness, not knowing where it may lead OR as an entrance to the possibilities revealed when we look beyond the tunnel into new horizons not yet discovered or experienced.  

To succeed within a changing environment we must look back just long enough to acknowledge our
shortcomings so that we might analyze why our actions may have caused undesirable reactions (OR identify choices that led to success so they can be implemented elsewhere).  Understanding yesterday’s mistakes and acting to prevent them from recurring allows them to become tomorrow’s memories.  Repeating the same actions and activities hoping for different results becomes but a predictor of a future reality filled with disappointment and failure.

The only way we can thrive is by learning to accept the previously unacceptable - to innovate rather than dwelling in the comfort of our accomplishments.  We once sought knowledge so we could succeed by applying our "learning" to known, well-defined situations.  We learned to do specific activities, using tried and true techniques, to produce a known product, service or activity.  Today we must learn to think rather than simply thinking that we can "do as expected".  We must move away from rewarding effort towards encouraging accomplishment.  We must strengthen our relationships by focusing on the establishment and fulfillment of mission-based objectives.  We must accept the reality that people are not equal (so do not treat them as if they were) but rather are “built” with their own unique characteristics, skills and abilities.  

Greatness comes from leveraging the power of divergent thoughts, gifts and individual perspectives to create a consensus solution that will accomplish much more than could been individually imagined – from treating individuals differently while measuring their performance against defined standards and communicated expectations rather than comparing them to each other.  It comes from recognizing the value of those we choose to include within our lives around – to build them up so we can rise together to exceed our highest individual potential rather than tearing them down so we fall together to our lowest collective depths.  Our knowledge helps to establish our potential – our values (and how we treat those around us) determine our success.

Embracing the possibilities an uncertain future offers is much more productive than worrying about things we cannot control or obsessing over change that will happen with or without us.  Knowledge is power that, when utilized appropriately (ethically, consistently and with the good of the whole as a guiding principle) allows us to accomplish much BUT it can be gained ONLY when we seek (and act upon) opportunities to learn.  Pause momentarily to celebrate each victory, every milestone, significant anniversaries and worthwhile accomplishments but do not consider such achievements as being a final accomplishment.  Steps are but the path we should take as we move towards our final destination.  In order to realize our fullest potential – to build a limitless future from our present realities, we must celebrate progress as much as accomplishment.  We must recognize the importance of succeeding as much as we do success.  We must recognize the need for process and progress before we can expect to realize results.  We must innovate by applying all we know and learn to each new situation we face – by drawing upon our understanding of basic principles that can be extended to define a new reality not yet been imagined.

Each relationship we enter or task we begin becomes a path leading to an ever-changing destination or a destination in and of itself.  The former – a destination providing comfort, security and a “sense of sameness” that satisfies all needs and meets all expectations – may allow us to experience successes in our lifetime but we may never fulfill our potential.  If we choose to live life by celebrating the path upon which we travel as a continuum of wins and losses – of short stops and new beginnings – we will not only realize our full potential, we will achieve it.  Life is not measured by our time on this earth – by when we were born and when we die – but rather by what we do during our time – by who we touch, what we accomplish, how we live and how much “difference” we are able to make in the lives of those around us.  We can achieve what has not yet been realized ONLY when we realize (and act upon) all that has not been achieved.