Banking & Finance, Health Care, and Human Resources

ERN program leads to high retention rates

Initiative helps employees facing housing, transportation, child care issues.

September 21, 2018
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At least one area employer is experiencing high retention rates courtesy of a community resource program.

Atrio Home Care is owned by Holland Home, Resthaven and Clark, and through Holland Home, Atrio is a part of West Michigan Employer Resource Network’s My Success program.

Carolyn Flietstra, executive vice president at Atrio Home Care, said the biggest unmet need is personal home care workers because more and more seniors prefer to receive care at home.

“We have this problem where lots of people want to have personal care at home, but it is the most unfilled position there is,” she said. “The baby boomer generation is so large. There is a surge of folks who are moving into that age group who need care more than any other generation in the past.”

To ensure Atrio attracts more employees and retains them, Flietstra said ERN provides a success coach. The coach is contracted through the Kent County Department of Health and Human Services, according to James Vander Hulst, president of Michigan ERN.

Flietstra said the program helps reduce barriers for employees, which can include problems with housing, transportation, child care, medical expenses, family problems, evictions or other life challenges.

The success coach helps match employees with an assistance program, loan program for emergency expenses, counseling referral or other resources, according to Flietstra.

Atrio Home Care employs 170 people at its three locations (two in Grand Rapids and one in Holland), and a success coach is available to any one of those employees who come across financial issues. Flietstra said 7 percent of Atrio’s staff uses the program.

“The program is one of the most significant reasons Atrio Home Care has a low turnover for aides in comparison with national and state averages,” she said.

Vander Hulst said ERN establishes a relationship with credit unions across the country. For Kent County, he said the organization partners with AAC Credit Union to authorize loan and savings programs.

“An employee can get up to a $1,000 loan to get their car fixed or whatever the hardship is,” Vander Hulst said.

However, the funds aren’t just readily available for any employee who wants it. According to Flietstra, employees must go through a financial background check; the success coach also helps applicants set financial and budgeting goals before the loan application is approved.

Once the loan is approved, Flietstra said they establish a repayment plan program.

“There are payroll deductions over a significant period of time, small amounts, to not only repay the loan but also set aside savings for an emergency fund,” Flietstra said. “So, when they are finished paying off the loan, they also have an emergency fund so that hopefully they don’t run into that same problem again.”

Employees can apply for a loan up to three times, but there are escalating responsibilities, including taking some educational courses.

“The point of the loan and saving programs is for (employees) to get ahead of emergencies and be ready for them in the future,” Flietstra said.

There are 14 ERNs in the state of Michigan and 33 nationally, including in New York, Ohio, Indiana, Texas, Arizona and more. Vander Hulst said if employers are enrolled in ERN and use a success coach, there is a 98 percent retention rate among members.

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