2011 Arbor Award Winners

Merging Cultures, Job Shadowing, Wellness, Investing for Retirement

Take Top Honors at 2011 Arbor Awards for HR Excellence

Northville, Michigan...Four Michigan-based organizations were honored at the 2011 Arbor Awards for Excellence on March 8. Valassis and St. John Providence Health System each received an Arbor Award for Excellence and Polk and University of Michigan received Arbor Special Tribute Awards in recognition of innovative human resource strategies that are promoting innovation and an engaged workforce. The awards, founded by the Arbor Consulting Group, were presented, at a special breakfast ceremony held at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

The 2011 Arbor Awards for Excellence recipients are:

Valassis is a leading media and marketing services company whose familiar RedPlum digital and print deals and coupons reach over 100 million shoppers each week. Headquartered in Livonia, Michigan with approximately 7,000 associates in 28 states and 8 countries, Valassis acquired a direct mail marketer in 2007. Newly merged organizations typically focus their energies on aligning systems and exclude the people side of the transaction. Valassis took the higher road and focused on bringing together its people and culture. The "new" Valassis developed an internal employee-led campaign called CelebrateUS to celebrate successes, foster an atmosphere of caring for each other and the community, and put fun into the workplace. CelebrateUS --- with a tagline of "You're in great company"--- includes activities such as: Random Acts of Kindness Day and Earth Day, gifting car safety seats to employees with newborns, sending a College Care Package to associates' dependents entering college, a marriage gift card, and showcasing "GeneroUS" community activities such as Valassis' support of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Surveys show a measurable increase in job satisfaction among associates following the launch of CelebrateUS.

St. John Providence Health System is giving career seekers --- including displaced autoworkers --- an inside look at health professions through an in-depth job shadowing experience. Participants range from second career seekers to college and high school students. Some 200 individuals went through the program in its first year, some of whom are now in training for careers in health care. To date, more than 400 people of all ages and career stages have applied for the program that includes on-line information, an orientation to health care professions where potential participants can select a field of interest, from the laboratory to physical therapy or nursing, and more. By opening up its doors to those wanting a glimpse of a career in health care, the job-shadowing program, which is often a one on one experience, has created a sense of pride among associates that serve as coaches and, importantly, helped participants chart a career path that is right for them. Organizers explain that the job-shadowing opportunity is an eye-opener for participants. They experience the rewards of a career in health care. They see, for example, what procedures a radiation technologist performs and, learn what specialized training is involved.

The 2011 Arbor Special Tribute Award recipients are:

Polk, a global company that specializes in automotive information and marketing solutions, has a "top down" attitude towards wellness. This means employees often find themselves clocking miles on treadmills mid-afternoon next to Stephen Polk, Chairman and CEO. The Polk Wellness Program includesan on-site fitness center, access to subsidized personal trainers, Weight Watchers at Work, yoga, health & fitness seminar topics, Healthy Taste Fests, and a new program called: "Move It. Lose It. Live Healthy." Polk has a workplace philosophy that encourages use of the company fitness center at anytime, not just noontime or after work. The company's commitment to wellness, even in a lean economy, is paying dividends: its promotion of healthy lifestyles and behaviors for its employees and their families has helped to keep its annual health care benefit cost increases below average.

University of Michigan (U-M). "The only way to have enough money for retirement is to save." U-M introduced a new streamlined enrollment process for its retirement savings plan that is making it easier for its 40,000 employees to save for retirement with the added plus of increasing earnings on their investments. U-M's, improved retirement savings plan includes a streamlined electronic enrollment process, investment options that offer an automatic time-to-retirement adjustment year over year, and reduced investment fund management fees. Previously many employees said they did not have the time or knowledge to make decisions about investing for retirement. Many were putting retirement saving decisions off indefinitely. Others were out-of-balance in their savings portfolios, carrying too much or too little risk. Now, newly introduced target retirement date funds automatically rebalance the portfolio holdings depending upon an individual's time to retirement. Another new feature of the plan is lower fund management fees resulting in more money staying in an individual's retirement savings account, which gives account balances more earning potential as each participant keeps a higher percentage of the returns generated by the funds in their portfolio. Savings in fees to retirement plan participants are projected at $3.2 million annually. In addition, the electronic enrollment process has reduced entry errors, staff time to reconcile errors, and paperwork. More than 500 hours of staff time and 11,000 pieces of paper were eliminated as well as the thousands of dollars spent on copying and shipping.

The Arbor Consulting Group, Inc., a national human resource management consulting firm based in Northville, founded the Arbor Awards for Excellence program, which was established in 1996, to recognize excellence in human resources. Conducted biannually in partnership with Eastern Michigan University, Master of Science HR/OD Program, this year marks the 13th anniversary of the awards.

"As Michigan employers face unprecedented challenges, the strategic leadership role of human resources professionals has never been more important," says Joan Moore, J.D., SPHR, president of The Arbor Consulting Group, Inc. "If we are to succeed in growing Michigan, we need to invest in the development of our greatest asset, our people. HR plays a key role in attracting and developing Michigan's talent pool.  We have strong leadership in the field of human resources in Michigan and, as our Arbor Award winners demonstrate, these talented professionals can help make the difference in our state's success. The best practices demonstrated by today's award recipients can be implemented in organizations across Michigan making everyone a winner."

The Arbor Consulting Group specializes in affirmative action, human resources compliance, employee relations and retention. The 2011 Arbor Awards event sponsors include Clark Hill, Patricia R. McCarthy Marketing & Public Relations, JustUs and the Kienbaum Law Group, Sedona Partners, Kienbaum, Opperwall, Hardy & Pelton, and Smith Professional Search.  For more information, visit: www.arborhr.com.