A Trusted Advisor for Area Business
Gina Kos speaks from experience — more than 30 years of it — when she notes that one of the keys to successful management of any business or nonprofit is careful, responsible allocation of valuable resources.
“We have to make sure every dollar we have is spent wisely,” noted Kos, executive director of Chicopee-based Sunshine Village, adding that, for this reason, she carefully reviews all expenses and especially memberships in business associations, with an eye toward all-important return on investment, or ROI.
And those three letters explain why she’s never had to think twice about her membership with the Employers Association of the NorthEast (EANE).
“Every year, when I open that invoice … I’m happy to pay it; they’re such an incredible resource and effective safeguard for the organization,” said Kos, who has spent the past 25 years leading Sunshine Village, a vibrant community where more than 400 adults with disabilities and their families come to connect, learn, contribute, and shine. “In addition to making the people we serve shine, we want to make our employees shine, and we’re able to do that with the wonderful relationship we’ve had with the Employers Association.”
Such sentiments are common among EANE members, who number more than 825 and cross all sectors of the business landscape, said Meredith Wise, long-time president of the association.
“We like to refer to ourselves as a one-stop source of valuable services for our members,” she explained, adding that, for more than a century, EANE has acted as both an extension of a member’s human-resources department and critical sounding board for decision makers. In these roles, it provides a broad range of resources and services, including:
• A host of training initiatives, including classes on such topics as “Advanced QuickBooks,” “Bullying in the Workplace,” “Employee or Independent Contractor,” “English for Speakers of Other Languages,” “Time Management for Managers,” and dozens more;
• The EANE Hotline, which provides immediate answers to questions regarding the full spectrum of human-resources, labor, and employment issues;
• Hugely popular EANE Roundtables, which provide an interactive learning opportunity and networking with peers;
• Live webinars, including the monthly “30-on-Third” Thursday series and a monthly HR Info series;
• Topical briefings on noteworthy happenings;
• HR Solutions on matters such as employee handbooks, affirmative action, and background checks; and
• A human-resources library that contains HR best practices and legal information from every state.
By taking full advantage of these and countless other resources and programs, area businesses and nonprofits can become employers of choice, said Wise, a critical advantage at a time when every business in every sector is challenged to find and retain top talent.
“We are that one-stop shop,” she said. “If it has anything to do with people — managing them, paying them, looking at benefits, compliance, managing them — we have the resources to help, either on staff or through the partners we work with.”
EANE Answers the Call
EANE calls it the ‘Hotline.’ Kos calls it “an affordable means for securing legal advice.” Wise notes that maybe it should be called an HR Information Line, because it’s certainly not just for emergencies.
Whatever words are used to name or describe it, the hotline is one of the most valuable and trusted services in the EANE portfolio.
More than 12,000 calls are placed each year, with callers receiving immediate answers to questions regarding issues ranging from leave-of-absence complexities to termination issues; from compensation and benefits to best practices.
Michelle Depelteau, director of Human Resources at Sunshine Village, has placed several such calls, and she sums up its value succinctly.
“The most important calls I make to the hotline come when we have a situation that’s been brewing for a while,” she explained. “And now we’re at a point where we have to make a strong decision, and we need to know, from a legal standpoint, is the road we’re heading down the one we should be on? The hotline acts as that confirmation for us.”
The hotline is just one of the many ways in which EANE provides that all-important ROI for the team at Sunshine Village. Kos offered what is just a partial list of services and programs provided by the agency:
• Compensation studies and a performance-based tool that has helped the agency to move the compensation of all employees to a “more competitive place”;
• Help to completely revise the personnel policy handbook, ensuring it is both compliant and user-friendly;
• Training; for example, EANE recently tailored a specific program for managers on leadership. “Their training has allowed us to improve how we communicate and what we communicate,” Kos explained;
• Forums of all kinds, including CEO forums, IT forums, CFO forums, and HR roundtables, where members of the Sunshine Village team have been able to engage in high-level discussions about regulations in those areas.
As Wise said, the EANE is a one-stop source for area employees, who understand that their employees are truly their most valuable asset and want to maximize that asset.
Sunshine Village turns 50 this year. This will be a celebration of many things, especially its belief that adults with disabilities can lead rich, meaningful lives, and its mission to help them do just that. The key to achieving that goal is a dedicated group of individuals working as a team.
A team that has come to rely on the Employers Association of the NorthEast to be that extension of its HR department, that critical sounding board.
And that’s why Gina Kos never hesitates when membership at EANE is up for renewal.