Focus and Human Resources

PriorityHR makes clients’ human resources needs a priority

Local firm works as co-employer to minimize risk.

May 8, 2015
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A local outsourcing company tailors human resources and employee benefits solutions to meet local client needs.

PriorityHR, an HR outsourcing firm headquartered at 1515 Michigan St. NE in Grand Rapids, is focused on providing customized services and solutions to clients by fostering strong co-employer relationships and remaining local.

The Grand Rapids-based firm not only offers a number of HR services to its small to mid-sized business clients, but also works as a co-employer to minimize employer risk by sharing and managing employee-related responsibilities and liabilities.

Jim Cox, founder of PriorityHR, said through the co-employment agreement the firm takes on some of the responsibilities of its clients and outlines the specific deliverables the staff will provide.

“We take responsibility. I don’t know of anybody quite like us,” said Cox. “We spell it out how we are going to step up to bat and we make sure things are done right. The co-employment agreement means we don’t employ those people, but we take responsibility of those teams. In the eyes of the law, now — because of our agreement — the law looks at a co-employer, so we have to take responsibility.”

Clients are able to maintain control over the business and reduce overall cost, time and risk associated with human resources tasks, according to Cox.

PriorityHR’s HR management services include web-based software solutions, new hire reporting, pre- and post-employment services, unemployment claim management, personnel file maintenance and employee orientation packages.

The firm also offers tax compliance for W-2 preparation and distribution, certified public accounting expertise, and federal, state and local tax deposits; payroll processing services for federal and state withholding, benefit premium reporting and wage garnishments; and employee benefit administration for dental and vision plans, group life insurance plans, group disability plans, customized 401(k) plans, COBRA compliance and benefit premium tracking.

“Wellness is something we implement and something we encourage, too, because that is kind of the future now,” said Cox in reference to employee benefit administration services. “We try to put together at least the basic wellness for every company, so we are doing basic benchmarking like surveying people and encouraging them to do different things. It is going to pay off because the way health care is going now, you have to rely on benchmarking to get better deals.”

While the roughly 30 clients average around 45 employees, ranging from two to more than 200 employees, Cox said PriorityHR is focused on serving companies in the Greater Grand Rapids area to provide a customized, hands-on approach.

“Grand Rapids means a lot to me; I am really behind the community. We are focused on local and we believe in the local concept,” said Cox. “We customize for everybody and we spend a lot of time on-boarding. There are a lot of providers who offer payroll and online tools — and, sure, we have all of those things, but you can’t take the human out of human resources.”

The experts at PriorityHR take time to understand the business culture of a client and regularly conduct onsite visits to become an extension of the company, according to Cox.

“They immerse themselves into an organization, objectives and culture to offer strategic consulting strategies that will uniquely align with an organization,” said Cox in a written statement. “PriorityHR is a company dedicated to making human capital into a strategic advantage. We are prepared to help (clients) strengthen and grow.”

The cost of the outsourced human resources management, tax compliance, payroll processing and employee benefits administration requirements range depending on the size of the client company. For a business with fewer than six employees, the cost is roughly $3,000 per year, while a company with fewer than 25 employees can pay as low as $10,000 each year, and a company with fewer than 50 employees can partner with PriorityHR for approximately $20,000 per year.

“That’s a huge savings,” said Cox. “The total yearly cost for an entrepreneur to employ an HR generalist with two years’ experience for a small business is between $65,000 and $75,000, and to employ an HR manager with more than five years’ experience is a staggering $110,000 annually.”

Established in 1994, the idea for PriorityHR developed from of a certain level of frustration with compliance and understanding the law, according to Cox.

As a young 19-year-old entrepreneur, Cox said he was faced with several workers’ compensation and unemployment claims.

“I started doing this as a pretty young guy. I owned a small farm, and by the time I graduated high school, I had employees — probably 16 — and I wasn’t keen on understanding the laws and made a lot of mistakes,” said Cox. “There was no solution out there and really weren’t human resource firms at the time to do this kind of work.”

Launching with one part-time employee for a couple years, PriorityHR has grown organically over the years to a full-time staff of around 10, and in recent years has focused on marketing the company.

“The model is still the same today for the cost of operating. In the last five or six years, we really have taken it more public,” said Cox. “I guess you could say it grew out of frustration — that is what spurred it on, frustration with the laws and compliance.”

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