From Hiring To Firing (And All The Issues In Between)

HRPLet’s say you’re a business manager or owner suddenly dealing with a difficult employee. You’re not sure whether to fire the employee or try to work things out.

If your company has a full-time human resources department, no problem; they can deal with it. But if you don’t, you might need to call a human resources company such as Human Resource Partners (HRP) in Traverse City for advice.

“We do get calls from owners who are stressed because they have an employee who isn’t performing well and they’re frustrated and not sure how to save them, or if they should fire them,” said co-founder and president Kate Greene, who started the business in 2000. “This is what we’re good at: coaching or training a supervisor how to deal with a difficult employee, implementing/improving employee safety, helping to find and recruit talent, or designing a benefits and compensation plan program.”

Greene and her partners, Michelle Baldwin and Jennifer Ewing, partner with organizations of all sizes and types.

Their smallest client has two employees and their largest active client more than 88,000, but typically they work with organizations with 25 to 90 employees.

Their main clients are organizations who can’t afford to or don’t want to pay for a full-time HR professional, but do want to work with someone highly skilled in the area.

“For some companies, we act as their part-time human resources manager,” Greene said. “We work very closely to help them find and hire employees, set up pay and benefit structures, deal with employee relations issues, provide employee coaching and, if need be, assist with the termination process.”

Traverse City manufacturing company BORIDE Engineered Abrasives has utilized Human Resource Partners’ services for 11 years. Ken Osborne, vice president of manufacturing, described HRP as “the best outside resource we’ve utilized in our company’s history.”

He recommends their services for any company on the smaller side (i.e., 30-80 employees) that can’t afford a full-time HR person.

“The breadth of things (Kate Greene’s) done for us aside from HR – training, managing salary structure, even strategy discussions … we don’t think about it the same way Kate does … this has created a better culture among our employees,” said Osborne. “If we were bigger, we could absorb (an HR person), but when you’re smaller you have to do things differently.”

Other clients call on HRP for help on a project basis, from employee surveys, to management coaching to finding the company’s next HR manager.

In the last 8-10 years, 80 percent of HRP’s business has been in the Grand Traverse area, but its also worked with a few clients outside of Michigan on projects. During The Great Recession, business was steady for Greene and her team, if not a little better.

“It even had a spike when it became obvious the recession was more than a blip,” she said. “We helped several organizations go through a process for choosing who and how employees would be laid off.”

It was tough, Greene admitted, but she felt the employees who were laid off were “treated respectfully” and knew a lot about the resources available to them. “These employers also knew what would need to happen when it came time to call these employees back,” she said.

Industry Challenges

Greene believes the biggest challenge in human resources on a strategic level is developing a culture that supports the organization’s goals and creates a workplace employees want to work in and stay with.

“This means having solid leadership, a plan for pay, competitive benefits and being purposeful about whom you recruit to join your team,” she said.

On a tactical level, she said, one major challenge has been changes to insurance benefits under the Affordable Care Act.

“Everyone is still trying to get their arms around all the requirements and how to meet all the new elements of the law,” she said.

Room for growth

Helping Greene wade through the daily challenges are her partners: Ewing, who joined the company in June, and Baldwin, who rejoined in 2006 after first working for the company from 2001-2003.

All three women hold professional certifications in the industry: SPHR (Senior Professional in Human Resources) or  SHRM-SCP (Society for Human Resource Management Senior Certified Professional). Prior to joining the company full time, Ewing  practiced in both the human resources and health & safety areas for 20 years.

“In addition to being a generalist, she has a deep knowledge of employee health and safety, wellness initiatives and process improvement,” Greene noted. And Baldwin is particularly skilled at helping small business implement foundational HR tools, such as handbooks, job descriptions, legal compliance and employee relations, she added.

While HRP used to have an office downtown in the Beadle Building, they discovered having an office space to meet clients often wasn’t necessary.

“And it made sense for us to come to their work site so we could see what they do, who their employees are and what the workplace is really like,” said Greene.

While she formerly served on several boards – including president of the Traverse Area Human Resources Association – Greene, a mother of three, now advises boards and nonprofits on a more behind-the-scenes basis.


Six Common HR Mistakes
By Kate Greene

1. Ignoring performance problems. Weak managers put off talking to difficult employees and/or avoid honest feedback during a performance review. Failing to do so eliminates employees’ opportunity to correct behavior. It also costs an organization dollars due to poor performance and potential wrongful termination suits.

2. Bad hires. A poor hiring process leads to issues with the legality of interview questions, faulty questions that do not show who a candidate truly is, not utilizing tests for skill checks, and not including the right players in the recruitment process. All of these can lead to bringing the wrong candidates on board.

3. Sharing employee health information. HIPAA confidentiality rules not only apply to the health care industry, but also employers who offer group health care plans. It’s easy to share the incorrect health information – even as innocently as passing a “get well” card around the office – and open a company up to liability issues.

4. Thinking a yearly “safety meeting” is enough. With all the demands on a workplace, safety and worker’s compensation administration are often put on the back burner. However, even a slip-and-fall injury can result in significant losses in medical costs, productivity of the worker and valuable time.

5. Ignorance of law is no excuse. Many employers don’t understand wage and hour laws and overtime laws; others mis-classify contract help and open themselves up to paying back wages, taxes, etc. These mistakes lead to fines or penalties, costing the business significantly.

6. Not capturing full employee value. Without an employee development structure and program, businesses often miss out on employee contributions and fail to keep top talent. Saying, “we are like a family” is not enough. Without paths, talented employees leave seeing no future and “dead wood” gets by with minimal contribution.