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New Year’s Resolutions: Lifestyle Changes vs. Quick Changes

Historically, one of the top New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight. Unfortunately, many people look to fad diets and weight-loss products to achieve their goals quickly. While fad diets may prove effective initially, research shows that many people don’t find long-term success with these types of diets.

Instead of setting a goal to lose weight fast this New Year’s, set a goal to lead a healthier lifestyle. Common lifestyle New Year’s resolutions include the following:

  • Exercise regularly—Aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week and to do strength training exercises of major muscle groups at least twice a week.
  • Maintain a well-balanced, healthy diet—Try to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein-rich foods and healthy fats. Make it a goal to incorporate more fruits and veggies into your diet.
  • Increase the amount of sleep you get—One of the best ways to become healthier is to get enough sleep. Try to get at least seven hours of sleep, the expert-recommended amount, per night.

Regardless of what you choose to make your New Year’s resolution, make sure it is a “SMART” goal—one that is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic an

Plan Now for Changes to Overtime Rules

Plan Now for Changes to Overtime Rules

By: John DiLorenzo, Chief Entertainment Officer (CEO), Michigan Planners

On May 18, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a rule that would change overtime wage payment for American workers. The new rule allows more employees to qualify for overtime payment by doubling the salary threshold that employees must meet in order to qualify for an overtime wage payment exemption.

With the Dec. 1 compliance date quickly approaching, businesses have little time to evaluate employees’ exempt status, update overtime policies and make the appropriate payroll adjustments.

The House of Representatives passed the Regulatory Relief for Small Businesses, Schools, and Nonprofits Act (H.R. 6094), which would delay the implementation of the new rule until June 1, 2017; however, businesses are encouraged to address the changes right now. There is no guarantee that the delay would pass the Senate or that it would survive a presidential veto.

The bill’s key highlights:

  • The salary threshold increases from $23,660 per year ($455 per week) to $47,476 per year ($913 per week).
  • The minimum annual compensation salary level for exempt highly compensated employees will be increased from $100,000 to $134,004.
  • The minimum salary level requirements for the white collar exemptions will be updated on an ongoing basis.  Automatic updates will occur every three years, effective on the first of the year.  The first automatic update will become effective on January 1, 2020.
  • For administrative, executive and professional employees, employers may count up to 10 percent of employee nondiscretionary bonuses, incentive payments, and commissions as part of the standard salary level.
  • Employers are allowed to make one catch-up payment at the end of each quarter to satisfy the standard salary level. Payments must be made within one pay period after the quarter.

While the potential for the 2016 elections to affect some portions of the overtime changes, businesses are encouraged to prepare now. Willful violation penalties include potential fines of $10,000 if convicted criminally and $1,100 civil penalties of $1,100 per violation.

Assess your level of risk by identifying which changes must be made and how the new rule will impact your business.

Open enrollment trumps Christmas – This shouldn’t be the case

Open enrollment trumps Christmas – This shouldn’t be the case

September 21, 2016

By Michael DiLorenzo, Chief of Outdoor Operations (COO), Michigan Planners

Do you relinquish Christmas shopping for open enrollment processing?  Relinquish no more!  Read the below helpful tips for achieving a smoother open enrollment.

  1. Simplify.  The Health Care Reform laws have resulted in more legal notifications and plan summaries. Place legal documents and notices on a cloud-based site, or email them to your employees. The less they have to go through, the quicker they can make their decisions.
  2. Speak to the decision makers.  You don’t want your key messages (i.e. deadlines, benefit changes) to be distorted, so make an effort to involve both the employees and spouses. Establish a dedicated benefits line to answer frequently asked questions, send mailers to employees’ homes and schedule evening meetings to accommodate working spouses.
  3. Be creative.  The restroom is a high-traffic area that can be utilized for displaying bulleted reminders (i.e., watch your email for enrollment announcements, attend the enrollment meeting this Friday, etc.). Post your flyers on the back of every stall door or on mirrors.
  4. Create a contest.  Contact local restaurants and see if they are willing to donate a stack of lunch coupons. Give each employee who meets your enrollment deadline a coupon, as well as a chance to win a Giftcard to that restaurant. You can use this idea for any type of business – grocery stores, car washes – the list is unlimited!
  5. Address communication problems.

Avoid industry jargon and, instead, focus on helping your audience understand how the plan functions. Explain available carrier tools for shopping providers, procedure costs, quality ratings, and mobile applications for wellness and plan details. Use visuals and examples to explain how a new plan change may impact them.

Michigan Planners Employee Communications Liaison Cindy Pavella reiterates the importance of reaching the employees.

“You can help employees realize the value of their benefits and help them pick the options to meet their current and future needs – but not with a larger open enrollment packet,” Pavella said. “For starters, provide links to YouTube and insurance company websites that feature short videos and tools. The impact is much greater.”

Final piece of advice? Start early. Pencil in 45 minutes next week to plan.

Implement at least two of the above mentioned tips. You will thank yourself in the end – and perhaps even enjoy Christmas shopping!

Hiring Great People and Reducing Turnover

Hiring Great People and Reducing Turnover

August 31, 2016

By: John DiLorenzo, CEO, Michigan Planners

The formula seems pretty cut and dry, doesn’t it? Good benefits + decent pay = a lifelong employee.

However, in today’s competitive economy, candidates consider several factors before joining a company, including flexible work hours, drive time, work environment and advancement opportunities.  What are today’s employers doing to keep up with these demands?

Within Michigan’s economic bounce back, lies the need to bring efficiency and longevity to the onboarding and retention of today’s worker, while considering the needs and values of today’s organization.

Matt Lasco, Vice President of Lasco Auto Group, took a unique approach to address the issues of hiring long-term team members and reducing turnover.

“I would say that in a matter of two years we completely flipped the script,” Lasco said.

Taking a step back to analyze his current hiring and retention methods, he invested in new processes and took steps that his industry typically would not invest in. He began by developing a dedicated human resources team and then incorporated data analysis to: 1) uncover specific reasons employees chose to leave; 2) track employment patterns; and 3) make appropriate adjustments.

Unbeknownst to Lasco, an employee’s drive time had a varying degree of impact on job satisfaction, based on the position. Sales representatives are required to stay late during some weeknights, and those reps who drove an hour or more to work seemed to care more about that drive than an employee who also drove an hour but who was not required to stay late during the week.

In addition to collecting data, companies have begun to realize the correlation between company culture and job satisfaction. Culture involves work environment and overall company behavior. While there’s a fine balance between personal needs and corporate work setting, companies are evaluating the feasibility of creating work environments that encourage collaboration and comfort. Such transformations include meeting rooms with couches to allow for social interaction, open-space workstations, and break rooms with televisions.

As it relates to scoring that perfect hire, remember who your audience is. Research has uncovered that our new Generation Z – those members turning the ripe old age of 21 – may be enticed by training and advancement opportunities, in addition to competitive pay. For these hires, several of them may be leaving college with a hefty student loan and the opportunities to reduce that price tag through employer loan repayment programs, for example, impacts their employment acceptance.

Regardless of whether or not your company is on hyper-growth mode, retaining your current workforce should be of high priority. One retention strategy involves encouraging a healthy work-life balance to reduce the stress we all encounter both on the job and at home. Some examples of company programs to help establish appropriate balance include events that involve family members, onsite childcare, dependent childcare accounts, PTO purchase programs, voluntary critical illness policies, employee assistance programs, and personal classes, such as cooking classes and child behavior seminars.

“The biggest thing, as a whole company, is that we decided we need to make sure people felt like what they were doing has a purpose,” said Lasco. “Having a purpose is so important. In today’s world, the value of time off and time with family is more important than just the paycheck.”

Using Technology to Make Educated Healthcare Decisions

Using Technology to Make Educated Healthcare Decisions

By: Michael DiLorenzo, Chief of Outdoor Operations (COO), Michigan Planners

The stress over medical costs and quality treatment is all too familiar for employees and their families. This reality has led businesses to embrace the idea of empowering their workers and families to become better consumers by equipping them with the right tools.

Today’s technological advancements allow decision-making power to be delivered directly to a smartphone, tablet and computer.

Here are 4 ways employees can use technology to enhance their level of engagement and make knowledgeable choices.

1. Learn about your plan

Patients should understand basic components of their health insurance, such as their out-pocket obligation for medical services and prescription drugs. Carriers have mobile applications, allowing users to verify which services are covered, estimate treatment costs, as well as retrieve their explanation of benefits (EOBs) online.  This immediate access eliminates clutter and allows quick and easy access to plan information.

2. Compare hospital ratings

Employees and their families can visit their health insurance carrier’s website to compare hospital ratings, treatment costs, treatment timeframes, and other important variables for more than 1600 different services. These transparency capabilities allow patients to have greater confidence when trying to decipher which provider and hospital makes the most sense for specific conditions. Ratings and reviews make the experience similar to the type of shopping we do when we plan a vacation and compare hotels, flights, or restaurants.

3. Receive care from home

While some providers have certainly become flexible with their hours of operation (i.e. evening and weekend appointments), receiving care at the necessary times is not always feasible. Health plans are now offering telemedicine solutions for patients to receive care from the doctor via mobile devices, computers, and kiosks. FaceTime-like video allows members to interact with doctors and receive electronic prescribing of medications. Employees can reduce time off from work and a trip to the doctor by getting timely care recommendations from a board-certified physician, 24/7.

4. Track health progress

Remember leaving that annual preventive care checkup with a list of To Dos?  Lower your cholesterol. Eat better. Lose weight. Sounds like a lot of work. Plus, how do you go about tracking your progress?

Patients have the ability to create an action plan centered around their specific health conditions. They can develop a self-guided path towards progression, with built-in goal trackers, text messages, and health assessments to help them remain focused, engaged, and motivated. This plan is created online through health assessments, and with the help of WebMD, an industry-leading health content provider. Employees can even print the data and bring it to the follow-up visit.

Access to knowledge is everywhere, but taking advantage of the right tools and making sure to utilize them is up to us. Never before have we had access to digital applications that deliver life-saving information and care. Encourage your workforce to power up those devices today and become more informed, more engaged, and more active in their health experiences!

Building Great Teams: Are you creating the next dream team?

Building Great Teams: Are you creating the next dream team?

Guest Writer: Laura Van Houtte, Designer of Opportunities, Michigan Planners

Nobody shows up for work saying, “I hope I don’t make a contribution today.”

Yet, when you examine most company teams under a detective lens, you will often find several broken pieces – personality issues, missed deadlines, and lack of action.  These don’t make for very good teams.

According to Kelly Clements, founder and owner of The Entreprenewer, a coaching firm that assists in teambuilding, using the Kolbe assessment is a great first step for improving group performance. These assessments identify each individual’s mode of operation (MO), the natural and instinctive way each individual – regardless of education, age, or gender – performs projects.

“We are looking at each other through our own lenses,” said Clements. “Kolbe measures MO, and because our MO is instinctual, it’s perfectly natural to assume everyone operates like we do.  We manage based on what works for us. Doing so not only leads to frustration, but it leaves so much natural potential dormant in our teams.”

Some individuals naturally like to take a project and run with it. Person A, for example, may take a project and enter implementation mode just seconds after hearing the details. Person B, on the other hand, may prefer to digest the information, wait a day, and then take the first step. Both instincts are okay – and unchangeable!

There is no magic pill to adjust the natural instinct, but you can start with the design of your team.

Take the implementation of a new software system, for example.  It is important to assign the project manager, process manager, and implementation specialist, according to each person’s unique makeup.  Using certain tests, such as the Kolbe assessment, will identify the members who are best suited to respond quickly, keep everyone on track, and follow through on tasks.

Clements adds, “The biggest impact is helping them with the ‘project abyss’. Companies are often full of creative ideas but never seem to get them to completion.”

Luella Sherman, Human Resources Manager for The Genesee Group (dba Genesee Packaging), has seen great transformations through the development of teams.

The company involves workers at all levels and across various departments to execute the systems it has in place, as well as improve processes and enhance performance.

“Some of the best ideas can come from the quietest people.  When working as a team, you can bring out the creativeness from that person and even help him or her become a leader,” Sherman said.

Opportunities for training, professional advancement, and skill development may also support peak performance, both in an individual and within a group.

Sherman continues, “We are always training.  What I see especially in production is that the supervisors and managers pick up on people who may display leadership qualities, who are not necessarily in a leadership position, and train them in other skills that may lead into leadership positions.”

Dream teams are not developed over night, but given the right set of tools, opportunities, and vision, members will begin to better understand their potential as well as that of their fellow coworkers.

The Proof is in the Pudding

The Proof is in the Pudding

A modern-day recipe for a modern-day workforce

Chief Entertainment Officer (CEO) John DiLorenzo writes an interesting article about ways companies are now motivating their staff. Things certainly have changed over the years! John has firsthand experience in developing Google-like corporate initiatives that have ultimately resulted in powerful teams delivering powerful customer experiences.

The proof is in the pudding…and there are new flavors in town! No more plain vanilla 9-5 workdays, 30-minute lunches or once-a-year company outings. Companies have introduced new corporate tastes involving flexible work hours, extended lunch breaks, frequent team-building moments and optional nap time.

Employers are getting creative when it comes to motivating and developing their staff.

Ann Arbor-based Zingerman’s, which conducts various training programs for the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce throughout the year, takes a different approach in managing its people and culture.

Fred Frye, Zingerman’s Director of Department for People (D4P), explained the company’s philosophy: “Our entire D4P team views our role as being servants to our employees’ growth, contributing as individuals and helping to empower them.”

When you invest in people and the formation of company culture, you are also investing in the formation of creative concepts, new products, process transformations and effective marketing strategy.

Organizations across a spectrum of industries have gone so far as to build employee gyms, enforce casual dress codes and institute dry cleaning services, in addition to continuing to offer the traditional corporate training and professional development. The cultivation of exceptional employee experiences leads to exceptional client experiences, which leads to exceptional client retention.

However, this unique style of culture development presents some challenges. Changes in the marketplace involving new technology, immediate access to information, regulations and social issues have led to human resources departments being more open-minded, yet cautious and aware as they consider how to rollout and manage unprecedented employee programs.

The American Society of Employers (ASE) is a not-for-profit employer association serving Michigan’s Human Resource business community. ASE CEO Mary E. Corrado said the role of HR is evolving, demanding a broader, more strategic approach to human resources management.

“More than ever, corporate leaders and boards are looking to HR departments to address and resolve the challenging issues presented by the modern workplace, while also going beyond the traditional nuts and bolts of HR to tie in people strategies to overall organizational objectives,” Corrado said.

The amount of regulations within the world of HR makes coming up with creative ways to manage and engage employees challenging, but not impossible! Companies are encouraged to begin thinking outside of the box to enhance productivity and achieve superior results.

5 Ways to Help Employees Understand Employer Sponsored Benefits

5 Ways to Help Employees Understand Employer Sponsored Benefits

By: Mike DiLorenzo, Chief of Outdoor Operations (COO)

The transformation of healthcare within the past 10 years has impacted the way organizations have unveiled healthcare changes.

A well-thought approach for communicating adjustments – both small and large – to company-sponsored programs is crucial.

Imagine an organization’s dedication towards building a great brand and image among its staff, only to find out that the health premiums jumped 15 percent and the company is passing on a portion of that increase to its workers. All of that hard work in brand building could go down the drain without the right approach.

In the past, a nice letter from the president announcing the rate increases and then wait another year to analyze the rate change might have been sufficient. This is no longer the case.

Today, a comprehensive approach is required that involves communication, onsite meetings and access to company human resources professionals. Maintaining employee awareness and understanding of the benefits package is an ongoing process that involves both written and oral delivery.

To help employees achieve greater understanding and, thus, greater utilization of their benefits, keep the following tips in mind:

1. Describe the plans using everyday language. Over-reliance on industry lingo (e.g., ACA, COB, EAP, EOB, etc.) may frustrate and confuse employees.

2.  Use visuals and provide common health usage examples instead of providing only thick legal certificates and jargon-filled documents.

3. Combine in-person meetings with technology, which can help reinforce company messages about the importance of benefits and its concern for employees’ well-being. Posting a video from the company president on the Intranet or emailing it to employees will help reach spouses who play a role in the decision-making process.

4. Talk about the hard news. Inform employees of major changes in benefits or shifts in employee contributions, and provide the reason for the change, based on your company’s specific situation.

5. Provide consumer tools. The amount of money consumers spend at the doctor’s office and hospitals is on the rise, due to advancement in medical technology, among other contributing factors. Help your employees understand how to properly select a plan that will provide the greatest coverage at the lowest cost for their individual healthcare needs.


Maintaining employee morale and company commitment can be easily tarnished if hard news is not communicated properly. Take the time to plan, then execute, and then begin planning again!

What makes YOUR Michigan City Memorable?

What makes YOUR Michigan City Memorable?

If you, or a member of your staff, will be attending the upcoming

MML Capital Conference Annual Expo on March 23rd,

Stop by Booth 200 &  Enter a chance to win a WE LOVE MICHIGAN Basket.

Entry Requirements:

1. Write down something about your city that makes it unique, fun and / or memorable.

2. Enter your name, job title, phone number, and the city you represent.

3. As an added bonus, bring a photo or item representing your city, and you will be entered into the drawing 2 times!

Winners will be notified by Friday, March 25th.

Good Luck

Questions?  Contact Laura Van Houtte

(586) 263 – 9004 or

It takes two, baby!

It takes two, baby!

People and technology are a great combination

By: John DiLorenzo, CEO, Michigan Planners

March 16, 2016

We live in a world where we can literally reach 1,000 people, with an impactful message, in just about 30 minutes via a Tweet, Facebook post, or email message. All it takes is the right people and the right technology.

A century ago it would have been a good old fashion, pen, paper and envelope.

In today’s fast-paced, constantly changing environment, companies must always be on the lookout for ways to improve their operational systems and processes.

Angie Richardson, Human Resource Director for Financial Plus Credit Union in Flint, couldn’t agree more. Richardson has seen the transformation of her HR department since she began with the company four years ago. She recalls her first day and laughs out loud.

“When I first started at Financial Plus, I had a typewriter at my desk. I thought it was a joke,” Richardson said. “We were doing the same thing the same way for the past several years.”

Since then, she has transformed her department through HR software, new systems and the elimination of paper – her nemesis!

Like Richardson, HR professionals in nearly every industry are faced with a multitude of responsibilities, including answering employee questions, processing membership changes, developing benefits packages and deciphering insurance terms.

Along with economic and industry changes, come upgrades to processing. Examples of upgrades include adopting online enrollment systems, using dual monitors, relying more heavily on vendors and partners, and posting videos and documents on internal posting systems.

Lindsey Miller, Accounting and Human Resource Director for ValuePoint in Saginaw, has seen a need to constantly remain efficient, especially with the additional layers of administration and employee questions that have been added as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

“Streamlining and achieving efficiency in both the day-to-day operations, as well as during open enrollment is a necessity. The current demands and drastic changes in healthcare have required us to allocate more time to meet our employees’ needs and answer their questions.”

When it comes to upgrades in the form of people and technology, a company should take certain steps towards making this transformation. While the upgrades will not happen overnight, there is often a delayed response from companies who tend to get stuck in the analysis paralysis stage … and then never do anything.

Well-run companies are constantly on the lookout for fresh ideas for innovating processes and operations. They believe that remaining open-minded is important. The most productive – and often successful organizations – are those who are committed to change and forgiving of mistakes.