Employee Jeremiah Baughman cooks on a grill set up outside the SmartWool offices Friday at lunch, while other employees visit in the background. The local business is striving to make the employees feel vested in the company during these tough economic times.

Photo by John F. Russell

Employee Jeremiah Baughman cooks on a grill set up outside the SmartWool offices Friday at lunch, while other employees visit in the background. The local business is striving to make the employees feel vested in the company during these tough economic times.

Human resources panel cites importance of care, respect for employees in tough times



Mike Turner, chief human resources officer for Yampa Valley Medical Center, talked about the benefits of performance-based pay and helping employees feel invested in their workplace during a discussion about compensation Thursday at Steamboat Smokehouse.


■ Get tips and information about employee compensation and more from the Denver-based Mountain States Employers Council at www.msec.org.

■ Visit the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment’s Web site at www.colorado.gov/CDLE.

— Two local members of the human resources industry said last week that focusing on respect, transparency and compassion for employees can help keep them committed through a lack of pay increases during the recession.

“The more open you can be, the more inclusive with employees … the more they’re going to understand and buy in” to company changes, said Dixie Heyl, human resources manager for SmartWool.

Heyl and Michael Turner, chief human resources officer at Yampa Valley Medical Center, spoke to an audience of 10 workers and employers Thursday at the Steamboat Smokehouse, as part of a Yampa Valley SCORE Success Steps luncheon titled “How Much Should I Pay My Employees Now?” Discussion leader Darcy Trask, an instructor at Colorado Mountain College and director of the Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership, stressed that Heyl and Turner were speaking as human resource professionals, not as representatives of SmartWool or YVMC.

Their message was largely universal, focusing on ways to balance compensation and benefits with reduced income in a brutal economy. Turner, Heyl and Trask all stressed the importance of keeping good employees during a recession, because they are the ones who can help bring a business into recovery and find new ways to cut costs while maintaining productivity.

“Good employees are still your No. 1 asset,” Trask said. “You need to be (like) the college recruiter who is looking for the best talent right now — and you need to keep your best talent right now.”

She said employees might not always realize all the components that are part of their compensation packages and costly for employers, such as workers’ compensation. Making employees aware of their total compensation package, Trask said, can “help them develop a value perception about those dollars that you’re spending.”

Heyl said if an employer can’t increase employees’ pay, there are other ways to improve morale, such as providing more flexible hours, creating a fun, family-style atmosphere in the office and increasing managers’ personal “face time” with employees.

“Sometimes, it’s the little things that can make the biggest difference,” she said.

Laurie Good, vice president of financial services for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., said staff members on Mount Werner long have been working to reduce costs, using methods such as bringing seasonal staff to the mountain just before the start of ski season, rather than two weeks or so beforehand, when their full-time services are not yet needed.

“We’ve been really working on what does it take to open,” Good said.

Training workers just before the start of the season makes their time more valuable and reduces ski area costs, she said.

“We’ve really dialed that up,” she said.

Turner said that although conventional wisdom might say to “batten down the hatches” during a recession, investment in employee training and giving employees new skills can ultimately cut costs and improve worker morale.

“I think this is a time when it’s most appropriate to invest as much as you can in training your employees,” Turner said. “They want to learn.”

Randy Rudasics, of SCORE and Colorado Mountain College’s Bogue Enterprise Center, said it’s important for employers to not only be open about payment plans and business practices, but also to provide a long-term vision that shows employees they’re “part of an engine that has a lot of momentum.”

“Try to paint a picture of where you’re going to be in a year or two, when the ship rights itself,” he said.

Turner also said that one-time fixes, such as pay bonuses, often only have “a shelf life until halfway into the next pay period.”

“You’re not going to buy any loyalty or friendship” with bonuses, Turner said. “Employees need to know that you really love them, that you care.”

That’s easier said than done, he noted.

“You have to be genuine about it,” Turner said. “You can’t fake that.”

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4233 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com


addlip2U 7 years ago

"Turner also said that one-time fixes, such as pay bonuses, often only have “a shelf life until halfway into the next pay period.”

Clearly, you must understand what motivates each individual. Monetary recognition in this economy is very important to anyone. What - No financial bonus? You have got to be joking!


Clearsky 7 years ago

A new hospital is built with the same number of beds and facilities as the old hospital. A consult company is hired and recommends expanding the hospital in anticipation of the needs of a growing community. The hospital needs to accumulate a large amount of money in a short time. They minimize raises and increase employees’ contributions to the hospital’s self funded health care fund as well as the out of pocket amounts for services. Morale suffers. The next year the hospital gives a bigger raise but increases the amount of employee contribution by an amount greater than the raise and increases out of pocket expenses for services as well as requiring families to pay out of pocket per person rather than just one amount. Morale decreases. Directors are sent to leadership lectures. The ( ) director complains to a few people in staff that it is a ridiculous waste of time. The raise and contribution cycle repeats each of six consecutive years until the raise actually brings the wages up to a competitive level. Yet the employees with a family are now paying five times more than a single employee into the health care fund and still required to pay out of pocket per each family member until three meet the deductible. Morale remains low. Administration attends a symposium on positive employees create a positive environment. Human resources asks employees to fill out a “confidential” survey on benefit and human resource satisfaction. The survey includes the questions: “how long has it been since you worked somewhere else?” and “what department and what shift do you work?” The results of the survey indicate that employees are 57-62% satisfied with benefits and Human Resources. Within a few months, departments begin to fire long time employees for bogus reasons. Colorado is a “Right to Hire, Right to Fire” state. Although the hospital has a pathway to fire someone, it is in favor of the director. So morale drops to an all time low. The method now being employed is to put an employee’s picture in the paper with a testimony of how wonderful it is to work at the hospital.


Clearsky 7 years ago

Leadership should be as "exceptional" within the hospital as outside the hospital!


Clearsky 7 years ago

Someone should report about the real atmosphere of working at the hospital but don't reveal the sources or he/she will be in the unemployment line for speaking up.


Clearsky 7 years ago

Why is the steamboat not listing this on the most discussed. Freedom of press being thwarted by powerful interests?


Clearsky 7 years ago

Thank you for reposting. The paper should really investigate the "atmosphere" in the hospital. The people who actually do the patient care! The only open door policy is right through to the outside parking lot. Ask anyone who works or worked there. Please!


Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.