Street Talk

Street Talk: Home may be where the heart is, but employees aren’t

Strength in numbers.

March 22, 2013
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Pointing to extensive research from more than a decade of experience with the Best and Brightest Companies to Work For program, National Association for Business Resources CEO Jennifer Kluge is criticizing Yahoo and Best Buy for recently reversing their policies that allow employees to work from home.

“It’s unfortunate that the decisions by Yahoo and Best Buy to move away from having virtual employees comes at a time when technology, accessibility of good talent and the realities of family life are converging to create a climate that increasingly supports the value of virtual work,” said Kluge. “Technology has made it possible for companies of any size to hire the best workers, no matter where they are located or the particulars of their home situation, promoting both employee productivity and work-life balance.”

Kluge noted that fully 75 percent of the companies chosen to receive Best and Brightest Companies To Work For awards offer their employees the opportunity to telecommute. She explained the program recognizes companies that see their employees as their greatest asset and work with conviction to create organizational value and business results through their people. NABR considers winning companies to represent the leading edge in human resources practices, she said.

Kluge also noted studies like the “Engaging Virtual Employees: Innovative Approaches to Fostering Community,” a white paper published by The Forum: Business Results Through People in 2012, demonstrates that the ability to work virtually has paved the way for employers to not only hire the best talent possible but also retain talent that might be lost to competitors.

“The study also highlights the challenges of engaging employees and promoting relationships, and details the strategies that can help make that happen,” she said.

In the end, Kluge urged companies to carefully consider the benefits of virtual work — especially for promoting the work-life balance that attracts and retains employees — before changing policies and compelling workers to do all aspects of their jobs at a physical work site.

“It’s time for business leaders to employ their ingenuity instead of reverting to outdated business practices,” she said.

Egg-cellent!

Approximately one in six people in West Michigan are food insecure or do not know where their next meal is coming from.

Thanks to the generosity of some West Michigan egg farmers, Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank now has an answer for some of those people.

Herbrucks Poultry Ranch of Saranac and Sunrise Acres of Hudsonville donated 200,000 eggs to Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank last Thursday. This annual donation, on top of what the companies already donate to the food bank and other local organizations, is highly anticipated because it fills the protein gap found at most food pantries.

The Comstock Park-based food bank serves more than 100,000 families in 40 counties, distributing approximately 24 million pounds of food per year through more than 1,250 agencies.

Ken Estelle, CEO of the food bank, said fresh eggs are always a prized item for food banks due to their dense nutritional and high protein content, but they are also one of the hardest food categories for food banks to acquire.

“It’s particularly impressive that these companies are willing to donate at this time of year, given the demand,” said Jeff Armstrong, vice president of operations at Sunrise Acres.

Easter is the busiest time of year for Michigan’s egg producers.

With more than 5 million laying hens, Herbrucks Poultry Ranch is the largest egg producer in Michigan. Sunrise Acres, at 2.1 million, is in the top four.

Road trip

When Holland’s Calvary Church was looking for a way to help with health care problems in disaster-stricken Haiti, church leaders came up with an idea to create and equip a mobile medical clinic.

Church members donated the funds to purchase a 2012 Mercedes Benz Sprinter 3500 to serve as the foundation for the clinic, but they still needed design and construction expertise to outfit it as a health clinic. After looking at companies around the country, Calvary found that expertise in its own backyard.

“There were only a couple companies we found in other states that would consider this project,” said Joyce Johnson, missions director for Calvary. “So, we were thrilled when we found a local company — American RV — that had the expertise and desire to take on the project.”

American RV, located on 76th Street SW in Grand Rapids, not only took on the project, but went above and beyond with overtime hours, employees working at home, custom how-to manuals and videos.

“We are honored and humbled to use our talents to help Calvary Church aid people across the world,” said Chad Neff, general manager at American RV. “We put a lot of labor and a lot of love into this project knowing just how vital and appreciated it will be to the people it serves in Haiti.”

The van will be shipped to Fort Mercredi, Haiti, where it will be based at the STEP Seminary. A medical team consisting of two local doctors and two nurses will staff the vehicle. Johnson estimates that more than 23,000 people will receive care from the clinic.

1 million strong

West Michigan continues to be the bright spot of the state. A recent U.S. Census report pegs the Grand Rapids Metropolitan Statistical Area with more than 1 million residents, making it the fastest-growing metro area in Michigan.

This information is bound to open new doors, according to leaders of West Michigan’s economic development organization, The Right Place Inc.

“Grand Rapids’ metropolitan area has exceeded 1 million in population, ranking us as the 52nd most populous metro in the country, and the fastest-growing region in the state,” said Birgit Klohs, Right Place president and CEO. “This puts West Michigan in a new league for economic development — one that will bring new interest and growth to our region.”

The announcement comes as a result of a March 14 report from the U.S. Census Bureau defining new metropolitan areas across the nation.

According to the report, the Grand Rapids-Wyoming MSA now boasts a total population of 1,005,648. West Michigan remains the second-largest metro in the state.

Complementing the new MSA, the U.S. Census report includes updated information on the often overlooked Grand Rapids-Wyoming Combined Statistical Area, which now includes eight counties and nearly 1.4 million people.

This news adds to an impressive list of major business growth announcements over the past year in West Michigan. Most recently, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines announced the carrier will begin service to Grand Rapids’ Gerald R. Ford International Airport beginning in early August.

Right Place officials acknowledge the new MSA data will take time to circulate, but they stand confident that larger companies will take notice.

“With over 1 million MSA population, West Michigan is now on the radar of new national and international brands,” said Michelle Van Dyke, regional president of Fifth Third Bank. “Our population is up, unemployment is down, companies are investing, and disposable income is increasing — we’re a growing region.”

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