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 24, 2015


Communications must be transparent, credible, and honest if anyone is expected to trust the message and believe the messenger.  When entering a situation where good employees are working hard to do what they feel best – but losing effectiveness because of misdirected activities and inefficient processes – employers must continually ask questions such as, “Why are you doing this?” “How could this be done differently?” “What can I do to make your job more efficient?”  When observing a situation in your personal life where someone is “doing all the right things” for “all the wrong reasons” – failing to find satisfaction in whatever results might be achieved – we should gently and gracefully point out not only what is being done wrong BUT ALSO what should be done differently.  In order to create change the individual (or group) responsible for performing an activity must have the authority to make change happen. 

Communicating effectively with employees is a process.  If viewed as an event, change will not be lasting.  Employees must become involved in transition, their ideas encouraged and fostered, with credit for positive change being given to them while “blame” for failure is (mostly) assumed by management.  Failure is a necessity for change – but learning from failure should be a positive one-time experience rather than something repeated without consequence.  When employees are involved, engaged and provided with transparent communications BEFORE change happens, they tend to pull together for the good of the organization rather than for their own personal gain.

As employees become invested in the organization, management often is seen as the galvanizing communicator of change rather than the initiator of hysteria.  Decisions regarding process change and workforce adjustments are easier to implement when employees feel involved in the business’ direction.  Knowledgeable employees having the ability to speak up (being heard rather than ignored) usually understand the need for change, often anticipating it long before Management is willing to act (or often before “the top” even recognized the need for change).  Effective communication happens ONLY when two (or more) people talk, listen and discuss prior to acting in a manner that is in the best interest of all parties involved. 
In regards to individual relationships and communications, people must recognize not only what another is thinking but WHY they have established that thought pattern as their “norm.”  We must hold our comments back long enough observe not only what they are doing but WHY they might be choosing that path, what will be the “logical conclusion” to their course of action and whether or not the decision might be “fatal” or simply inconvenient.  Allowing another to make a mistake, and to learn how to overcome the consequences of their decision, often strengthens their ability to thrive in the world rather than simply acting out the suggestions or preferences of someone else.  If someone is always allowed to “take the easy way out” by avoiding the tough decisions, he or she will be unable to contribute to a relationship as an equal.  A low tide allows the flock to feed but does not provide sustainable nourishment.  Similarly, an individual taking “the low road” to avoid conflict or confrontation learns to “keep his or her head down” but will rarely lead (as they are too content following).

Whether large or small – manufacturing or service – privately or publicly owned – businesses must exhibit a “selfless, thankless perseverance” if employees are to become key initiators of change.  Praise loudly (while correcting softly) must be the mantra of leadership-driven change.  Credibility is the cornerstone of employee involvement (which, if tarnished, must be painfully rebuilt over a long period of time).  Providing feedback on the accomplishment of key outcomes is necessary to measure the effectiveness of change.  Involving employees (whenever possible) in the decision-making process helps both good and bad news be more readily accepted.  The same thought processes can be applied to ANY relationship into which we enter – personal or work-related.  Praise, recognition, credibility and trust become the driving forces that make our communications effective AS LONG AS WE RECOGNIZE that effective communications should be viewed as a journey rather than a destination.  Our journey should begin with but a first step – proceeding one step at a time – allowing us to move forward with caution as we keep our eye on the goal ahead rather than finding comfort where we began.  We must not become so obsessed with our goal, however, that it cannot be refined, improved and modified by the input we receive and/or experiences we gain along the way.