What’s trending in human resources approaches, policies and good management practices.

Do workplace gender pay disparities really still exist?

The “Me Too” and “Time’s Up” movements have prompted discussions and brought to the forefront all aspects of sexual harassment and treatment of women in the workplace.  Part of this focus has put light on a subject that may have improved some over the last several decades, but is still not where is needs to be: Gender pay discrepancies.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that in 2014, on average, women earned 79 percent of men’s median annual income.  The National Committee on Pay Equity, which reports a comparable statistic for 2014, 78.6 percent, has been documenting pay inequality since 1960.  If we look back 50 years prior to the 79 percent statistic, we can see that the gap has shrunk significantly.  In 1964, women earned only 59.1 percent of what men earned.  However, if you compare 2009 and 2014, the 5-year span saw an increase of only 1.6 percent.  There’s quite a way to go to bridge the gap completely.

A recent Hollywood scenario put into perspective how everyone, no matter what your job is, can fall into this statistical gap.  In reshoots for the movie “All the Money in the World,” Mark Wahlberg was paid an additional $1.5 million, while his co-star, Michelle Williams was paid $80 per day for a total of less than $1,000.  An open letter published by the “Time’s Up” movement stated that “the systematic gender equality and imbalance of power” in the workplace “fosters an environment that is ripe for abuse and harassment against women.”

Now is the time to reflect on your own company’s pay practices to bring gender pay in line and protect your company against future claims.  It’s not only good practice, it’s the law.  The Equal Opportunities Commission (EEOC) requires that equal pay for men and women be established under the Equal Pay Act of 1963.  The Equal Pay Act restricts employers from paying unequal wages “to men and women who perform jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and that are performed under similar working conditions within the same establishment.”

The EEOC looks at the following criteria to establish equal pay: Skill, effort, responsibility, working conditions, and establishment location (for example, when a company has several locations in different geographical areas, those can be considered separate establishments due to the area’s median income).  Differences in pay are only permitted based on seniority, merit, quantity or quality of production, or other factors not related to gender.  The EEOC also states that “It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on compensation or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under Title VII, ADEA, ADA or the Equal Pay Act.”

If pay differences do exist for similar positions regardless of whether women are paid less than men, or men paid less than women, it is best practice to establish from the hire date how the salary decision was made.  Be prepared to back up how your wage determination was made based on the criteria previously mentioned.  Encourage open dialogue with your employees if they have a perception that a gender pay gap exists.  BCN Services staff are prepared to guide you through this process.  Please contact your Partnership Manager with any questions or concerns regarding your employees’ wages.



Frank Lewandowski, Benefits Program Manager

It’s all about the employee and a focus on tech and digital trends

In 2017, organizations focused on the well-being and satisfaction of their employees. Business leaders looked to build a better environment for their workforce and invested in strategies to help recruit and retain top talent. Buzzwords like ‘culture’ and ‘engagement’ were in the forefront of business discussions.

The year 2018 will bring a fresh set of trends that may significantly impact the way businesses operate. Leaders will look for ways to provide employees with the tools they need to thrive and develop.  Key trends will focus on technology and digital integration, collaboration and the employee experience.

There will be a focus on collaboration, including the use of social networks. Another popular prediction includes innovative work arrangements allowing work to become more adaptive and less formal. Interested? Read on for more.

Digital Integration and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Alexa. Siri… Hey Google…

Technology continues to transform the way employees go about their daily activities. Digital tools have become more user-friendly than ever before. With these advances, investment in digital tools and strategies is expected to reach an all-time high in 2018.  Artificial Intelligence (AI) is seeping into every industry and profession. While AI can take many forms, in 2018 we will most likely see a sharp increase in recruitment using the AI-enabled ‘chatbots’ to match candidates with jobs.

Cisco forecasts that by the end of 2018, 82 percent of all consumer Internet traffic will be video. Live and recorded video, as well as video ads, increasingly dominate our feeds across Facebook and Snapchat and even on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. It’s estimated that nearly half of businesses are implementing social videos, with another 25-30 percent planning to implement them in 2018.

The Employee Experience

Culture and employee engagement were top priorities in 2017.  The ‘employee experience’ is quickly becoming the new focus for 2018. Susan Peters, Senior Vice President of HR at General Electric, defines this as, “seeing the world through the eyes of our employees, staying connected, and being aware of their major milestones.”

With the growing influence of younger generations and the increasing transparency of the digitalization age, employees are expecting a more engaging and enjoyable work experience.  This will be a year where leaders develop the ‘employee experience’ to include engagement, culture and performance management.

We can expect to see more businesses move away from traditional, structured training programs leaning towards more self-directed, social, informal learning platforms. Social connectivity will also help create an environment of user-generated content and shared ideas, making learning more digestible and engaging. In place of fixed, formal content, this will lead to a more organic workplace learning environment with a viral-like impact.

In 2018, companies will increasingly turn to existing employees to fill open positions, offering training and encouraging employees to seek promotions. With fewer new employees expected to enter the workforce in the coming years, employers are seeing the advantage of investing in people that are already familiar with, and loyal to, their company.  Businesses can no longer rely on a one-size-fits-all approach to talent management if they want to attract and retain top talent. Tailored and personalized learning opportunities for employees of all types will become the norm. Continuous learning will be a hot trend this year. Digital training is an increasingly attractive option because it gives employers the ability to measure employee productivity through user data. It also allows for a more collaborative experience between departments. As a result, work-from-home and other flexible workplace options are expected to become more and more common place.

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Thom Moore, Partnership Manager

Pet perks becoming more popular with employers and their staffs

The idea of pets in the workplace is gaining in popularity, particularly with the younger generation entering the workforce.  Millennials value non-traditional benefits and perks and, for many of them, the lines are blurred between their personal and professional lives.  According to the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM), although many companies do not allow pets in the workplace, eight percent of companies now do, and even more are offering related benefits acknowledging pets as an important part of employees’ lives.

Studies show that many employees will choose a pet-friendly company over one that is not when comparing similar job offers.  Workers are more apt to stay with a company that allows them to bring their best friend to work, than to move to a company where it is not allowed.  This employee loyalty is an added perk for employers.

Of course there are many factors for employers to consider before tackling such a program.  Be sure you are taking into account the feelings of non-pet lovers in your work environment as well as those that are all for it.  Employees with allergies or a fear of dogs need to be considered.  Is your work place large enough for a pet free zone, perhaps part of the building or on another floor?

If you decide to allow pets in your workplace, take the time to set ground rules.  For example, are pets allowed only on specific days?  What type of pets are allowed?  Dogs?  Cats?  What about a tarantula in a small aquarium?  Be clear, and be sure employees understand their responsibilities in the care of their pet and how entertaining visitors or attending meetings will be handled as it relates to pets.

If you choose not to allow pets in the work place, consider alternatives such as pet health insurance, doggy day care vouchers, or volunteer work day opportunities at a local shelter.  Recognizing and caring about what is important to your employees translates into employees recognizing and caring about what is important to your business.

Can BCN Services help you craft a pet policy for your workplace or do you want to talk it over with one of our HR professional? Give us a call!


Sue Kester, HR Manager

How is social media affecting your workplace? Put a policy in place

By now you have probably heard about the infamous 2017 Oscars flub in which the movie “La La Land” was incorrectly announced as the Best Picture winner.  It has been speculated that this mishap could have happened because the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) employee responsible for handing the correct envelope to the presenters was distracted due to posting on the microblogging website Twitter.

This has caused many to question the quality of of the firm’s work, despite their longstanding reputation and name recognition.  Perhaps, it left you wondering how social media could be impacting your business.  There are several reasons to implement a social media policy if you have not already done so:

  • Establishes Rules: A social media policy allows you to define what is considered confidential information that cannot be shared.  The policy should also make it clear to employees what you consider appropriate or inappropriate behavior and the consequences for not following the guidelines.
  • Manages Employee Distractions and Productivity: Social media can be a distraction for employees; in a recent study, 30 percent of employees admitted that they spend one hour or more visiting social media sites. A social media policy would explain whether or not employees are permitted to use company property to access social media, when this is allowed and for what length of time.  Finally, the policy should also describe if and when employees can use personal devices throughout the day.
  • Protects Your Firm: Allowing employees to use social media on company issued computers and other devices puts the firm at risk for malware.  Malware could allow hackers to enter the company network and place viruses in it.

As a reminder, the National Labor Relations Board says that your social media policy cannot prohibit employees from discussing their working conditions.  BCN Services can assist you in drafting and implementing a strong and legally compliant social media policy that reflects your company values and goals.  If you need assistance in creating a policy, please contact us at 1-800-891-9911.


Alicia Freeman, Operations Manager

From carbon paper to Net Promotor Scores: The continued evolution of business

Like my own dad did for me, I often try to share some historical perspective with my children when it comes to why things are the way they are, or where they come from.

So when I asked my daughter this week to “CC me on an email”, I quickly added “You know, CC is short for carbon copy … you know, when you used to type a letter, to keep a copy you would put a sheet of carbon between…”  Before I could finish the sentence, I heard: “I know, Dad, we do that in Lab at school!  I really like that copy!”

As the old saying goes, some things never change.

But mostly they do.  What’s great about history is being able to put it in perspective, and learn and grow from it.   In the next 24 months, our company will celebrate looking back while forging aggressively into the future.  The year 2017 marks the celebration of 25 years of operation for BCN Services, our flagship Professional Employer Organization.  I am proud of our growth. We started in one small office in the corner of our building taking over the entire space within 7 years and expanding our service to clients with worksite employees in 47 states in 2015.

Recognizing 90 years in business

Our next milestone, one that I am equally proud of, is the recognition of 90 years for the BCN brand here in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  The Bradley, Chesbrough, Niswonger Agency began serving the business community as a commercial insurance agency in 1928, and it was no mistake that BCN was part of our name when we expanded into employment outsourcing arena in 1992.  We are proud to be associated with the BCN name and work every day to live up to its stellar reputation.

It is our clients that deserve the recognition for our success.  They have helped us create our Commitment to Quality Service approach, originally developed in 1996, so BCN staff can deliver consistent, professional, and timely service. It is a Service Protocol we modernized to a Net Promotor Score (NPS) system in 2016 using our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.   We are pleased to have received an average NPS Score of 91.1 from our clients in December.  Thank you for your feedback!

We look forward to celebrating these anniversaries through our clients’ continued successes, and plan to share some of the history that shapes our future in the months ahead.

We appreciate your business! Please contact us if you have questions about any of your human resources policies or needs.


Andy Hans, President/CEO

November was National Flu Awareness Month: 5 Steps to Prevention

As National Flu Awareness month comes to a close, it’s not too late for flu shots and promoting flu prevention in your workplace. Experts agree when the flu season invades the workplace, it can have a ripple effect on employees, co-workers and their families and, depending on your workplace, customers and vendors as well.
The flu season peaks in January and February so taking steps now can make a huge difference in staff productivity and well-being in the months ahead. Following are some basic rules of thumb:

No. 1 – Get your flu shot today

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advocates flu shots for everyone over the age of 6 months. Studies have shown that the best course of prevention is to get a flu shot every year. And while getting a shot earlier in the season may be preferred, it is still not too late to protect you and your family against this year’s flu bug. Check with your medical insurance provider to learn how and where to get vaccinated. If you don’t have medical coverage, contact your local health department or other community resources for the best, most cost-effective options in your area.

No. 2 – Wash your hands throughout the workday

We hear it all of the time and it’s true: Washing your hands frequently, using soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds each time, makes a difference. This is especially the case when you continually touch workplace items such as keyboards, door handles, phones, point-of-sale registers, and other work-related surfaces. Try to avoid touching your mouth, eyes, and nose whenever possible and if your position requires you to travel, be sure to pack hand-sanitizers.

No. 3 – Use tissues to cover a sneeze or a cough

It’s important to not only take care of yourself, but also to care about co-workers. If you feel the need to sneeze or cough, grab a tissue to cover your mouth and nose. You’ll feel better knowing that you’re looking out for your co-workers and your they will appreciate your efforts. And, as always, don’t forget to wash your hands after sneezing or coughing whenever possible.

No. 4 – Keep work surfaces clean

When was the last time you cleaned your keyboard or the handset on your phone? Take a few minutes to clean surfaces around you and everyone will benefit. Cleanliness does matter.

No. 5 – Make good health habits a priority and stay home if sick

This may sound like more than one tip, but it’s really good advice to practice year-round. Techniques such as getting enough sleep, keeping active, managing stress and maintaining a healthy diet are proven steps to improve your overall well-being. If you experience flu symptoms, try to stay home when possible. If you’re a manager or supervisor, encourage team members to stay home if that’s an option. And managers or supervisors should follow the same advice if they become ill.


Susan Price, Strategic Service Manager

Office politics at a new level: Managing the political season in the workplace

Election Day is right around the corner and as the big day approaches, chatter in the office can get louder and louder.  This year, in particular, people seem to be more divided than ever on the outcome of the upcoming national election.

How should this be handled in the workplace?  Is it OK to debate politics in the office?  Is it OK to try and persuade a fellow coworker?

While many are eager to share their political views with coworkers, other staff members may feel very private about their opinions and can feel bullied by the ones that are more vocal.  Things can get heated quickly and it’s important for staff to feel they are working in a nonvolatile environment.

Below are some simple guidelines that may be helpful in your work environment.  No matter what side of the political aisle you are on (or maybe you are taking no position), these helpful tips may help make the environment at work comfortable for all:

  • It’s important that managers or staff in leadership positions be careful in sharing their political views. Be sure that your views are not perceived as a representation of the Company as a whole.
  • Do not allow political signs/banners to be displayed in the workplace. Banners, posters, signs can all be a source of contention for fellow employees that don’t share the same views.
  • Managers or staff in leadership roles should refrain from asking employees what their political views are.   You would not want an employee to question whether they had missed out on an advancement opportunity.
  • Nip it, quick. If you hear about chatter among coworkers that could raise tension, don’t let it linger. If a complaint is made to a manager, it should be dealt with as quickly as possible to avoid bigger issues down the road.
  • Respect each other. You may want to address such rules of respect in your employee handbook.
  • As Election Day approaches, prepare: Tension can rise quickly on and shortly after Election Day. Make sure your staff understands that while they may feel strongly about the outcome, coworkers may feel very differently.

BCN is here to help you with your HR needs and if you would like assistance in establishing Code of Conduct rules in your employee handbook, we are here to help.


Wendy Allen, Marketing Manager

Does texting belong in your workplace?

Chances are, technology and communication trends have advanced more swiftly than your company policies. Do your managers give work instruction to employees via text message? Are your employees reporting a work absence using text messaging? Is this communication happening on personal devices or work devices? Does it matter?

Our Human Resources Department has seen an increase in complaints from employees who are reporting bullying, sexually explicit photos, and racial slurs sent by text messages from co-workers or supervisors. Even more alarming is the group text, which may start out with work-related content and digress into a conversation that wouldn’t be, and shouldn’t be, spoken aloud in the workplace.

Set your policy and tell employees

First and foremost, employers should make their position on texting known. A company’s silence on the matter may be viewed as acceptance of this type of behavior. Even if your employee handbook states that employees are to call their supervisor if they will not be reporting to work, a practice of accepting text messages makes this your new, unwritten policy. (Anybody familiar with a “Code Red” from A Few Good Men where extrajudicial punishment was used causing a character in the movie to die)

At a minimum, your anti-harassment policy should be updated to include all forms of harassment and all forms of communication.

Text messages are documentation

Your supervisors and managers need to be aware that any text messages they send to employees can (and will) serve as documentation. Promises of money, work performance critiques and requests for dates verbalized in the past and viewed as passing comments are now documented and available to be produced on demand.

However, this street runs both ways. In the matter of U.S. District Court case of Enriquez v. U.S. Cellular Corp., an employee sued because her supervisor sent her inappropriate and, what she claimed were, offensive texts. However, evidence was presented that the employee had in turn sent the texts on to other employees indicating that she did not find them offensive. Judgement was found in favor of the employer in this case.

What about texts sent between members of your management team? Is there an expectation of a response whether or not it was sent during business hours? What about when that manager is on vacation or out sick?

Regardless of whether or not you decide to use texting as a part of your regular business communications, make sure your expectations are clearly understood by your employees. Our Human Resources professionals at BCN Services are available to discuss policy options and assist in updating your employee handbook and communicating with your employees. Contact us at 800-891-9911 anytime for assistance.



Sue Kester, HR Manager

Consider liability issues if serving alcohol at company parties

The holiday office party season is upon us, but before you decide to serve alcohol at your company party this year you should be aware that there are potential legal liabilities, including injuries to your employees.

If you plan to serve alcohol, consider the following best practices to limit those legal liabilities:

  • When sending out your invitations, be sure to include a statement that encourages employees to drink responsibly and in moderation at the event and to not drink and drive. Circulate another written reminder just before the party.
  • Hire a professional bartending staff for the event; do not have a self-serve bar or open keg. Verify the bartending staff’s experience and ensure that they have proper insurance coverage.
  • Limit the number of drinks each guest may consume or consider having a cash bar. You may wish to serve beer and wine only instead of offering a full bar.
  • Always serve food so that employees are not drinking on an empty stomach
  • Offer a variety of beverages including non-alcoholic options. Consider having “mocktails”(cocktails without alcohol) so that those who do not wish to drink can still feel included.
  • Emphasize to management staff that they should lead by example and that they may need to intervene if a situation at the party crosses the line.
  • Have alternate transportation, such as rented vans or cabs, available in case an employee has had too much to drink and needs a ride home.

BCN Services is here to help you. If you need assistance communicating to your employees regarding your company’s alcohol policy or if you have additional concerns about serving alcohol at your holiday party, please contact us.



Alicia Jester, Manager-Benefits and Payroll

Workplace rudeness is toxic, contagious and can affect employee morale

Rudeness is increasing in the workplace, causing retention and health problems among employees and decline in employee camaraderie. It is also contagious, causing employees to model bad behaviors.

In a recent University of Florida study, 98 percent of workers have experienced workplace rudeness with half of employees experiencing these behaviors at least weekly.

Rudeness is contagious in workplace

Impoliteness spreads like a virus in the workplace. In the recent study, it was found that encountering rude behavior at work makes employees more likely to perceive discourtesy in later interactions, which prompts them to respond in the same manner. Even witnessing rude behavior directed at someone else seemed to have the same effect.

Incivility can hold people back or minimize their contributions, as it limits a staff’s ability to engage. Employees are less creative when they feel disrespected, and many get fed up and leave and, if they stay, team spirit around the office can deteriorate. Some employees deliberately decrease their effort or lower the quality of their work.

Customer relationships are also damaged

Incivility also damages customer relationships which can chip away at the bottom line. And although it is expensive, few organizations recognize the long-term problems or take action to curtail it. A survey among Fortune companies reveals that HR professionals spend 14 percent of their time managing incivility incidents.

How to stop contagious rudeness

Let’s address what a business owner or manager can do to stop contagious rudeness before it spreads:

  • Make an effort to not be rude and model good behaviors
  • Be clear, beginning with recruiting and onboarding and continuing with current employees, that workplace civility is expected
  • Organizations need to teach civility on an ongoing basis. Role-playing and workshops can help
  • Reward civility by measuring and scoring the behavior in your workplace
  • Penalize bad behavior immediately, even if that means terminating the employee. Keep an open door policy for employees to report problems.

BCN Services can help you discuss how to create a policy about workplace rudeness and bullying and put it into practice. Contact us for assistance.

Sources: SHRM.or, Harvard Business Review, news reports.



Debbie Strahle, Partnership Manager