by Lara Copeland, contributing editor
Auto repairs. Child support. Financial literacy and assistance. Food stamps. Foreclosure. Health and insurance. Home repairs. Housing needs. Transportation needs. Utilities.
While the listed items may seem like typical issues many adults face from day to day, they can be confusing and overwhelming for the person enduring any number of them, causing ripple effects in all areas of life – including on the job.
Unbeknownst to coworkers and supervisors, employees may face challenges, whether in their professional lives or at home in their personal lives, and these challenges have the potential to dramatically affect an employee’s performance, attitude and engagement at work. Anderson Technologies, based in Grand Haven, Michigan, understands that these issues can cause mental and physical problems for an employee, which can lead to an assumption by management or supervisors that the individual is simply not engaged at work. Wanting to offer non-intrusive support, guidance and counseling to all employees, yet understanding the company was not well equipped with resources or knowledge on how to best help its employees with various life challenges, Anderson acted.
“Anderson Technologies has had an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for several years,” explained Director of Finance and Administration Diane Hiles. The EAP is an offsite resource that employees can call confidentially for help, support and guidance for themselves or a family member. However, Anderson noticed employees were not utilizing this resource. “We receive a usage report each quarter, and the usage was always very low – maybe one or two people a quarter out of 85-plus employees were taking advantage of the EAP,” she continued.
Hiles believed onsite help was lacking and that most people felt they could only call the EAP with “bigger” problems, like alcoholism, depression, cancer and suicide. “I don’t think they felt they could reach out for the smaller problems,” she added. “I wanted to investigate the possibility of our EAP coming onsite on a regular basis to meet with employees if they were having issues.”
Shortly thereafter, Hiles heard about the Employer Resource Network (ERN) and its Success Coach program. ERN success coaches provide long-term coaching, which allows for a holistic approach to providing solutions and creating work and life success for employees. She knew this could make a difference for employees. “We implemented the Success Coach program in the fall of 2014 with full support from our management team,” Hiles said.
Anderson’s ERN – called TERN-KEYS – comprises eight local companies in the manufacturing, health and hospitality industries with identified common needs, such as retention, training and advancement. These companies share a success coach who comes to each employer site at set times throughout the week and offers assistance with work and life issues to all employees. The average employer cost is comparable to the cost of two employee turnovers.
Scott Hillard, the success coach shared by all employers in TERN-KEYS, is at Anderson for four hours once a week, rotating between morning and afternoon to cover all the shifts. Additionally, he is available the remainder of the week via email, text or phone call. To help employees address work/life balance, he finds the root cause of the issue(s) each employee is having and then connects the employee to company, public and nonprofit resources, managing each case from start to resolution. Hillard can tap into several different resources throughout the community – for example, nonprofits to help with financial issues and counseling for abuse, grief and relationships.
He provides essential training to help individuals find solutions to problems that range from car breakdowns to the emotional stress caused by a divorce while also providing help to human resources staff for attendance and performance issues.
“Scott sits in our employee break room, which is used by all employees and where many people will just talk with him causally when they are on break,” Hiles explained. “He used to sit in our front conference room and employees would stop by to see him, but he has definitely developed more of a relationship with our team by sitting in the break room and seeing most employees on a regular basis,” she said.
This certainly helps to develop trust between Hillard and employees, making them feel more comfortable and helping to break the silence. “Many problems can be embarrassing, and employees don’t really want to share their problems with anyone, even if it is confidential,” Hiles commented. Hillard also is available by appointment, and he utilizes one of the conference rooms to speak confidentially with individuals. If the onsite time does not work for an employee, he is willing to meet offsite as well.
“When it comes to the role of success coach, our goal is to help the employee find a road that will lead to success,” Hillard explained. “Our main job when we first meet with an employee is to listen; a lot can be learned just by listening.” From that point, Hillard said he recaps the employee’s needs and starts to work with the individual to formulate a plan of action to put the employee on the right path. “We make sure to assist and guide the employee, not do it for them,” he added.
Being able to come to work, sit down and talk to somebody face-to-face and resolve the issue as a team is something Hillard feels is vitally important and completely different from other programs. “This program removes the barriers, giving it that little extra bit to make sure employees are doing well,” he confirmed. He said the program helps employees to come to work not stressed about what’s going on at home, and, “that’s the part of the job that I enjoy – knowing that I-m removing that barrier.”
Hillard likened his role to that of a coach on the field or court. “Coaches are there to plan things out, hand out the plays and make sure the plays are executed. Sometimes everything works out and you score on the first play. Other times you need to come up with a new plan to make sure you succeed on the next play. Success coaches are no different.”
Hillard works with each employee to create a plan, gives the employee the assignment and makes sure the individual has the ability to do what is needed. “When the employee plays a role in resolving their own needs, they are able to feel a sense of accomplishment when they achieve the results they needed – and they have some of the tools needed to help themselves in the future,” he said.
In the past 18 months, since Hillard has been sitting in Anderson’s break room, the program has had a definite impact on the employees. “In our year-end report from the success coach for the 2016/2017 year, Scott met with a total of 45 employees from Anderson,” Hiles said. Of those, 32 were self-directed reach outs, 10 were direct by HR or a supervisor, and three were referred by coworkers. “Scott has helped those individuals with roughly 60 different types of services.”
Hiles is happy with the results. “I have seen employees make complete changes in their way of living, going from living life day-to-day to coming up with a plan and goal. They are saving money, improving credit scores, going to school and showing interest in additional responsibilities at work.” She also noted the company has avoided potential terminations because of attendance issues by sending an employee to see Hillard.
Several Anderson employees have shared testimony about the impact Hillard has had on them and their success at work and in their personal lives. Greg Tucker, an Anderson employee who recently sought help from Hillard, explained, “He comes into the break room dressed in street clothes and talks to us like regular people. We laugh and joke, but in the midst of that we talk about real life situations.”
It is the comfortable setting and nonconfrontational attitude that led Tucker to seek guidance when his car was vandalized. “I needed quick cash, and I didn’t know where to go, so I confided in Scott,” he said. Hillard put Tucker in touch with a lender that Tucker described as “in the game for me.” When Tucker began making payments on his loan, the credit union put a portion of the money into a private account that couldn’t be touched until a set amount of time had passed – essentially functioning as a savings account for Tucker. “The lender helped me stay focused and set me up on the right path for the future,” he said. “I didn’t even know this thing existed, and I wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for Scott.”
Anderson Technologies’ purpose is, “To help you achieve new levels of success,” and the Success Coach program is an example of how Anderson does that for its employees. As Tucker says about the company’s president and owner Glenn Anderson, “When he says he wants us to succeed and see us grow, it sounds like he’s really speaking the truth when looking at this success program.”