Employee Benefits! – transcript – Jim Bell with Kurt Baker
Written by Kurtis Baker on July 29, 2018
Our host, Kurtis Baker, is joined by Jim Bell of Abel HR! Find out about the benefits of working with a PEO!
00:44 Kurt Baker: You’re listening to a podcast of Master Your Finances with me, Kurt Baker, a certified financial planner professional. Sunday mornings at 9:00 AM on 1077TheBronc.com.
00:53 Announcer: The financial views and opinions expressed by the host and guest on this program do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of 107.7 The Bronc, Rider University, or Certified Wealth Management and Investment. The material discussed is not designed to provide listeners with individualized financial, legal, or tax advice.
01:09 Announcer: Planning your financial future does not have to be overwhelming. 107.7 The Bronc presents Master Your Finances with Kurt Baker, a certified financial planner professional with Certified Wealth Management and Investment. For the next 60 minutes, Kurt and his expert team of financial guests will help to decipher financial terms, navigate market trends, interpret federal and state regulations, and more, so you can make smart decisions with your money to increase your personal wealth. Missed an episode? Go to 1077TheBronc.com and Apple iTunes to download and listen to previous shows. Just look up Master Your Finances. Master Your Finances is underwritten by Certified Wealth Management and Investment, focusing on personal, financial, and small business planning. For more information about all of Certified Wealth Management and Investment services online, it’s CWMI.us. Now, here’s Kurt Baker with this week’s edition of Master Your Finances.
02:04 Kurt Baker: Good morning and welcome back to another edition of Master Your Finances, presented by Certified Wealth Management and Investment. I’m Kurt Baker, a certified financial planner professional hosting your show. My office is located in Princeton, New Jersey. I can be reached through our website which is www.CWMI.us, or you can call me directly at 609-716-4700. And this week we’re very pleased to have with us Jim Bell Sr. He’s the CEO and founder of Abel HR, a professional employer organization, or a PEO located in Cranbury, New Jersey. Bell’s a lifelong New Jersey resident, served in the United States Navy as an Atlantic Fleet Radar Specialist. Afterward he went to work full-time at Johnson and Johnson and earned his degree from Rider University in 1973. Bell learned about the emerging business of outsourcing Human Resources during his 20 years of service as a controller and accountant at several prominent companies. He saw the opportunity to break ground in this new industry and used his own money to establish Abel HR in 1992. Like a true friend, Abel HR help small business leaders grow their companies by safeguarding their clients, employees and taking the headaches out of HR for clients.
03:25 Kurt Baker: For almost three decades, Abel HR has transformed the burden of HR administration into a tool that allows business owners to efficiently align mission with resources. With Abel clients can focus on what they do best, and run their business without worrying about HR, while Abel’s qualified HR professionals manage the administrative functions for them. It’s a family-owned company. Abel HR was one of the very first PEOs, which is Professional Employer Organization, in New Jersey. They help the HR staff of larger companies do their jobs more efficiently and service the HR staff at smaller organizations. Abel HR provides HR services to include payroll administration, employee benefits and risk management, and it encompasses Worker’s Compensation, employee practice liability, insurance and compliance with various safety regulations. Abel HR administers more than 5,500 employees for its clients across the country. You were one of the pioneers in this whole industry, and I know many companies of the… Employees are your number one asset, right?
04:28 Jim Bell Sr.: Yes.
04:31 Kurt Baker: And it’s really important in a lot of these things you have to do for HR for many companies, especially smaller ones, it’s kind of a burden. It’s a lot of back-end administrative things you need to get done. So you were one of the first people to think of this whole concept. You wanna walk us through how all that happened and where your industry really came from? Because everybody used to have to do their own HR back in the “old days” so-to-speak, right?
04:52 Jim Bell Sr.: Well, most of my HR background came from Johnson and Johnson because before you could become a department head, you had to have a very good foundation in Human Resources. Back then it was called the personnel department. I was blessed with cross-training at the time as part of the Personal Products Management Training program and it served me very, very well, because no one else had that advantage. One other things that set Abel apart from my competition was we paid as much attention to our employees as we did to our clients. We made life easier for them. We made compliance easier for them. And since we eliminated so many of the problems and misunderstandings that often cropped up, life was smoother for both the client, the business owner, and the employees, and naturally us too. It worked extremely well and it was one of the reasons that we grew.
06:15 Kurt Baker: Do you want to tell us exactly what the definition, so to speak, for a PEO or professional employer organization? You wanna kind of walk us through what exactly is that, what does that mean, in layman’s terms so to speak?
06:28 Jim Bell Sr.: When Abel started we assumed an employer relationship, and we hired the client employees and put them on our payroll and we still do that today. However, both state and federal governments have changed our definition to that of co-employment. We are the employer, from an administrative standpoint, but that does not relieve the client from employment responsibilities. We do all the work, the client here is very little, from any of the agencies, we handle all of it.
07:26 Kurt Baker: I remember a term that came up many, many years ago, and I assume this is probably the advancement. We used to call it, I heard this term, “employee leasing”. Is that what it was? And it’s now changed into this co-employer situation or what’s the difference between those two terms?
07:40 Jim Bell Sr.: At the beginning, it was called employee leasing. And to this day, that was the best description. What we would do is hire everyone, including the owners, who worked in a given company and lease them back to that company. We then took over all the administrative responsibilities. In April’s case, the client became our site director. And from an administrative standpoint, each enforced Abel policies. Anything came up that he couldn’t or didn’t want to handle he simply called us, worked fine. However, it caused a few problems in that if the leasing company, if you will, was the employer and hypothetically it was a trucking company, and a truck had an accident and killed or maimed 25 people, who is responsible?
08:52 Kurt Baker: Good question. [laughter]
08:55 Jim Bell Sr.: It couldn’t be a leasing company. There was no way to buy insurance for that liability. Because the liability belonged to the client.
09:04 Kurt Baker: Right.
09:06 Jim Bell Sr.: So, right from the beginning we were co-employers. But there was no definition as such. And there were other situations. A building burns down, a client building burns down, who’s responsible? I’ve had buildings burn down and I’ve had the landlords come after me. But your employee started the fire. I said, “Well, that hasn’t been proven yet, number one. Number two, I don’t have insurance for that occurrence. You have to talk to the client.”
09:51 Kurt Baker: So the client covers the insurance. So this is something where it sounds like you gotta be really good at being clear about your insurance policy is what I’m assuming, correct? To make sure everybody understands where the liability coverage is in case something does happen, whether you’re a trucking company or whether it’s just the building you’re working out of.
10:08 Jim Bell Sr.: I wound up with 20 some odd credits in law from Rider College and I have used them well.
10:15 Kurt Baker: Okay.
10:19 Jim Bell Sr.: You have to know how to read an insurance policy, you have to understand who is responsible for what, and you have to be able to present your case as to why you can’t be insured for giving liability that clearly belongs to the client. And it’s worked.
10:39 Kurt Baker: When you set up these relationships do you go and talk to them and say, “Hey look, we’re gonna cover this area and you need to cover this.” The two insurance agents or companies have to kind of talk, right?
10:49 Jim Bell Sr.: Yes.
10:49 Kurt Baker: So everybody understands that if a certain type of occurrence happens, you wanna make sure that one or the other has it covered somehow.
10:55 Jim Bell Sr.: It’s not a quick sale, you have to make sure that everyone is covered for just about any contingency that might arise.
11:03 Kurt Baker: So, what are the main points… You kind of described them. But just hit real quickly, ’cause we’re going go to the break here. But the main points of why somebody would say “Oh, I wanna just off-load… I wanna get my rid of my employees and I’m gonna set them outside a little bit.”
11:15 Jim Bell Sr.: Well, the key here is they don’t wanna get rid of their employees.
11:19 Kurt Baker: I mean have somebody else manage them. Let me term it differently.
11:23 Jim Bell Sr.: That is often the interpretation.
11:26 Kurt Baker: Right, right.
11:27 Jim Bell Sr.: I had a client, called all his people together on a loading dock one morning and said, “You’re all fired. This guy’s gonna hire you.” And he walked off the loading dock.
11:39 Kurt Baker: That doesn’t sound like a great presentation to me. Especially on a loading dock. [laughter]
11:43 Jim Bell Sr.: I never saw so many pale faces on my life. And I said, “He’s kidding, he didn’t mean it!” [laughter]
11:48 Kurt Baker: Those are usually pretty burly young people, so to speak. So I don’t know if I want to upset them to much. [chuckle]
11:55 Jim Bell Sr.: I was pretty young myself at the time.
11:57 Kurt Baker: Oh, okay, alright.
11:58 Jim Bell Sr.: But scared me half to death. I had some help with me at the time, we broke the people into groups in 10s and 15s and sat down and said, “This is what he really meant to say, he was kidding.”
12:24 Kurt Baker: Okay. So we’ll pick that up when we come back from the break in just a few minutes. There’s a lot to talk about about why people might entertain basically being in a co-employer status and having the HR aspects handled by a different company expert in that particular area, and leaving you to essentially focus on the core of your business, so to speak. We’ll be right back.
12:32 Announcer: We are talking finances, so you can make informed choices for a better financial future. Missed an episode? Go to 1077TheBronc.com and Apple iTunes to download and listen to previous shows. Just look up Master Your Finances. Now back to Master Your Finances with Kurt Baker, a certified financial planner professional with Certified Wealth Management and Investment. Exclusively on 1077 The Bronc, and 1077TheBronc.com.
13:00 Kurt Baker: Welcome back you’re listening to Master Your Finances. I’m Kurt baker certified financial planner professional. I’m here with Jim Bell Sr., the CEO and founder of Abel HR. And we’ve been talking about what at one point long, long time ago, people referred to as employee leasing, but it’s really like a co-employer status where essentially a client will have the employees managed, the HR aspect, managed by Mr. Bell here, Abel HR. And they will offload those administrative tasks, which many small business owners I know, it’s really a big headache, something they really don’t wanna be an expert in, don’t wanna spend a lot of time on it, but it is extremely necessary because your employees are your most valuable asset. So you wanna make sure they’re well taken care of. But from a true business perspective, you really need to focus on your business, whether you’re a trucking company, or a manufacturer, or a service-oriented company. Whatever that may be. That’s really where you want to spend your day and not necessarily figuring how to fill out a payroll spreadsheet, right? So that’s what I’m assuming is where this all started.
14:00 Jim Bell Sr.: It’s a good assumption, yeah right.
14:01 Kurt Baker: So you mentioned before the break, you came in, the owner of the company said, “Oh, you’re all fired.” And you said that worked out okay, though. So how did you explain that to everybody what was actually happening here so they felt a little more at ease as far as how that goes.
14:19 Jim Bell Sr.: Well once I caught my breath I looked at everyone and said, “He’s kidding.” He had a dry sense of humor. So that went over well. “So now this is what is really happening. I will be your payroll department, I will be your HR department, I will provide your benefits, your retirement plan. And there’s a whole host of other benefits that you will have being our legal employee. However, the one thing I’m not gonna be is the owner of this company, and your relationship with the owner will remain unchanged.” And, you could almost hear the sigh of relief.
15:12 Kurt Baker: So any business-related aspects like which truck I’m loading this afternoon…
15:17 Jim Bell Sr.: Correct.
15:17 Kurt Baker: You talk to the same guy you always talked to. If you wanna get your deductions changed on your payroll then you have a new phone number to call or a new extension to call.
15:26 Jim Bell Sr.: Your boss is still your boss.
15:27 Kurt Baker: And that’s how you take care of it, right?
15:28 Jim Bell Sr.: Your salary is still your salary. The relationships that you formed over the years, continue. I just take over the legal aspects of it all.
15:40 Kurt Baker: So I guess one thing that comes to my mind because of some of the things that have been happening recently in the news, I guess. So what happens if you have an employee-employee issue, like one employee is not treating another employ properly and things like that? Those kinds of things that occur. Not necessarily a direct business thing. But are those under because you’re…
16:00 Jim Bell Sr.: That’s mine.
16:00 Kurt Baker: Is that under your end of it because it’s an employee-employee thing? But if it’s employee to a business aspect, like you mentioned the building or the truck and things like that…
16:07 Jim Bell Sr.: That’s the client.
16:08 Kurt Baker: That’s the client. So if it’s employee to employee… So I’m gonna make the assumption that you are involved in training and helping people to understand this is what you don’t do. This is what you…
16:16 Jim Bell Sr.: Correct.
16:17 Kurt Baker: Do do. So there’s some training it sounds like involved too as far as…
16:22 Jim Bell Sr.: Well, it’s on-going.
16:22 Kurt Baker: Okay.
16:22 Jim Bell Sr.: It’s on-going training at this point. You never really stop. And once you do laws change, again and you have to start over. [chuckle]
16:32 Kurt Baker: Right. But I guess you’d have the advantage, if you’ve got 5,500 employees, you’re kind of staying on top of all this stuff. So as things change… Cause you have the state law regulations, then you have the federal regulations. It sounds like you’re in more than one state, and some companies are in more than one state so now you’ve got to keep up with all the different aspects of the different states.
16:48 Jim Bell Sr.: Scale is on my side.
16:51 Kurt Baker: Right.
16:52 Jim Bell Sr.: I have people who do nothing but stay on top of the law changes.
16:56 Kurt Baker: Right.
16:57 Jim Bell Sr.: I have four law firms on retainer. One of them is national.
17:04 Kurt Baker: Okay, that’s good.
17:07 Jim Bell Sr.: We have something called employee liability insurance, who also specializes in law changes because they’re insuring the risk for me. And they help a lot with our HR manuals, with certain words that are used that maybe shouldn’t be, how to describe what we’re doing to our clientele and our employees. And it’s worked out extremely well.
17:45 Kurt Baker: So you kind of touched on something a little bit, so how does that… Cause I know you need to… With an employer, client, they need a job description, expectations, setting goals, objectives compensation. So how does that happen? So like if I’m using you as a service, I go, “Well, I wanna set up a comp plan and I wanna set up an HR manual, I do all my job descriptions.” Is that… We have a conversation with you and then you turn it into a manual? Is that what’s happening, I guess?
18:11 Jim Bell Sr.: Exactly. We document what’s going on and if we find anything in that process that shouldn’t be going on we change it. [chuckle]
18:20 Kurt Baker: Right, right.
18:22 Jim Bell Sr.: And it works. In many cases the client, “I didn’t know that was illegal.”
18:27 Kurt Baker: Right, right. So when you come in… That’s one of… That’s probably one of the spots that gets forgotten about sometimes, even if you describe to people what their job is. Sometimes it’s a little vague or it changes because if the company grows, like what I did today… And I’ve heard this before, is that people… If they sit their employees down and say, “Write down what you do every day.” And then you look at the job description, and they’re not always the same thing. In fact many times…
18:52 Jim Bell Sr.: Rarely if ever.
18:53 Kurt Baker: They’re quite different. And so the employer is actually not… Didn’t realize that this person was actually doing all the other pieces of the job. They didn’t realize.
19:03 Jim Bell Sr.: Rarely, if ever, are the stated job description and the activities performed by the employees in sync. I have found over the years that there are very few bad people. Everybody means well, but they don’t understand the need for documentation and communication. If someone takes on an aspect of a job because someone else is on vacation, when that person comes back from vacation, they never assume what they had when they left.
19:56 Kurt Baker: So, you get kind of job creep, I’m gonna call for a minute. [chuckle]
20:00 Jim Bell Sr.: It’s a good word.
20:00 Kurt Baker: The job kind of… It shifts a little bit [chuckle]
20:02 Jim Bell Sr.: That’s a very good phrase. Now, is anybody trying to put anything over on anyone else? No.
20:09 Kurt Baker: Right.
20:10 Jim Bell Sr.: The person who assumes the added responsibility did it because he or she likes it.
20:16 Kurt Baker: Okay.
20:17 Jim Bell Sr.: The person that doesn’t make it waves about it didn’t like that aspect of the job.
20:22 Kurt Baker: Right.
20:22 Jim Bell Sr.: And yes, you have a job creep. Is there anything wrong with that? No. As long as it’s documented, because one of the other things we introduce is a review where you sit down with the client and the employee and you show them how to review the last 12 month’s performance. What I try to introduce is the fact that a review should be nothing more than an affirmation as been what’s going on between the employer, the client, and the employee for the last six months, 12 months, whatever the period is determined to be. As long as there are no surprises then everyone is doing their job. But, “I should be getting a raise because I’ve taken on three additional responsibilities.”
21:25 Kurt Baker: Right.
21:26 Jim Bell Sr.: “I didn’t know that.” “You didn’t?” “No.” “Why didn’t you tell me?” “Well, you’re the boss. You should have known.” “And how would I’ve known?”
21:37 Kurt Baker: Yeah, and I think you bring up a very good point. Is that sometimes people think reviews are flowing down the stream. It’s actually a two-way street because that’s where business owners tend to learn a lot about what their business is actually doing when they literally sit down with them and review it. Because I think some business owners think, “Well this is kind of a waste of time, everybody needs to do their job.” But it’s actually not a waste of time because you’re either reaffirming that what you’ve put together works. And if you don’t now you’re getting a better understanding of how your business works and where you can focus as far as maybe making some adjustments and tweaks and finding out maybe some inefficiencies and things like that, I would assume.
22:13 Jim Bell Sr.: It really comes out that good employees don’t wait to be told. They see something that needs to be done and they just do it.
22:22 Kurt Baker: Right.
22:23 Jim Bell Sr.: And they don’t often brag about it or make announcements. So you’re sitting there at a review and if you don’t take the time to ask leading questions and listen intently to what your employee is saying you’re missing out. You’re misleading yourself. You’re not doing a good job of managing your own company because you just don’t have a clue as to who’s doing what.
22:54 Kurt Baker: Agree, agree. That’s great. So, when we come back we’ll talk a little bit about some of the things we can do once we identify the employees, how to assist them and compensate them, and the benefits that you provide and can be provided when you’re dealing with a much larger scale back to the employees to reward them when they’re doing a great job. We’ll be right back.
23:12 Announcer: We are talking finances, so you can make informed choices for a better financial future. Missed an episode? Go to 1077TheBronc.com and Apple iTunes to download and listen to previous shows. Just look up Master Your Finances. Now back to Master Your Finances with Kurt Baker, a certified financial planner professional with Certified Wealth Management and Investment. Exclusively on 1077 The Bronc, and 1077TheBronc.com.
23:38 Kurt Baker: Welcome back, you’re listening to Master Your Finances. I’m Kurt Baker here with Jim Bell Senior, the CEO and founder of Abel HR. And before the break we were just talking about the importance of doing periodic reviews and just making sure that everybody is on the same page and it’s really kind of a two-way conversation where the employer learns a little bit more about what their employees are doing and the employee gets feedback from their employers.
24:00 Kurt Baker: So it’s really a very beneficial thing, and when you’re dealing with somebody who can kind of help you with the structure of all this, they make it much easier. They handle the back-end paperwork, so you can spend a little more time on focusing on what is actually happening between the business owners and the employees and vice versa to get a better idea how the business is actually operating. And then you can see where to make some adjustments. And also you’re gonna see… Not only will you identify some employees maybe who are underperforming, but you’re gonna also identify those employees who are performing beyond what you expected, and in some cases you’re gonna wanna, I’m sure, recognize that. And so you’ve got some things that I guess you could do to maybe help recognize employees based on how their performance is, correct?
24:41 Jim Bell Sr.: Absolutely. Once you’ve established what the real job is that’s being performed, you can make some very objective decisions as to compensation. All too often, compensation decisions are made without gathering the proper intelligence and without having full knowledge of what the job entails. The number of times I’ve come across that is absolutely scary.
25:19 Kurt Baker: So how do you help an employer figure this out? Because if all of a sudden I find an employee who’s really taken off in what they’re doing… Cause the employer’s gonna say, “Well, I’m not sure I want to give them really that big of a raise.” Cause employers may resist that. But on the other hand, if they’re not careful, if they’re really performing at that high of a level, they can get hired away, right? So you have to kind of be… You wanna reward employees that are doing well, correct?
25:42 Jim Bell Sr.: That has happened.
25:44 Kurt Baker: And you have to pay attention to that dynamic because at some point they realize they’re doing well, and somebody else is going to… Maybe one of your clients is gonna say, “Oh, I recognize how great that person is, I’d love for that person to come over here and work for me.”
25:54 Jim Bell Sr.: Well we have an anomaly going on in New Jersey right now. In fact, it’s nationwide, and we’re finding out that it might be worldwide. And there is a serious shortage of qualified people to do jobs. And if you have someone, the word is who is truly engaged in the welfare of your company, you don’t wanna lose them.
26:25 Kurt Baker: Oh, absolutely not.
26:27 Jim Bell Sr.: Or her. It’s often a her. If you don’t recognize the job they’re doing, if you’re not even aware of the job they’re doing, an ad pops up in the newspaper, or it comes up on the web, or a placement service company calls into your company and it asks for the person who holds the title that they’re looking for. They’ll pirate them right out from under you.
27:01 Kurt Baker: Oh, absolutely. And nowadays it’s even easier because a lot of people put their profiles on things like LinkedIn, where it just sits out there anyway for people just to learn about them.
27:11 Jim Bell Sr.: Yes.
27:11 Kurt Baker: But people that are looking for employees are gonna say, “Oh, well, these are the qualities I’m looking for in that person.” And so a lot of this information is now public. And years ago nobody really knew unless you talked to the person, you dealt with them.
27:22 Jim Bell Sr.: No you don’t have to do a lot of research now, it’s dumped right in your lap.
27:25 Kurt Baker: Yeah it’s right there in front of you, just… And I’m sure somebody is selling that data too, if you want it.
27:29 Jim Bell Sr.: One of the things you have to be careful about on the web is that people tend to get a little carried away with themselves.
27:38 Kurt Baker: Really? Is that true? [chuckle]
27:39 Jim Bell Sr.: And you may or may not have qualifications that you thought you had. [chuckle]
27:44 Kurt Baker: Right, right, right, right, right.
27:46 Jim Bell Sr.: You have to hone your interviewing skills. The interview has to be a little more technical than it was before to make sure that they do in fact have the experience that they say they have. But it works, it works well. You also have to have a good foundation for your people. If you know the job that they’re doing, then you know what you paid them when they came on board, you know what kind of raises you’ve given them, and you have a feel for what’s market value. That person may need, or may deserve more money. Or something.
28:37 Kurt Baker: So do you help them with that? As far as like what the current market is for positions?
28:41 Jim Bell Sr.: Absolutely. Yeah, we’ll go in and research.
28:42 Kurt Baker: Because sometimes you kinda get lost in your own company. You go, “Well, I think I’m paying them well.” You don’t realize that maybe there’s been a shift in what the compensation structure is for that specific position. You just may not be aware of it because you’re not actually looking for that job.
28:54 Jim Bell Sr.: That is exactly the problem. The people in charge are often so busy, and so close to the problem, they don’t see it.
29:04 Kurt Baker: Yeah, right, and that’s why it’s good when you have somebody else kind of step in and take a look from the outside.
29:09 Jim Bell Sr.: It’s similar to having your wife tell you, “You don’t talk to me anymore.” [chuckle] “I talk to you all the time.”
29:15 Kurt Baker: You mean our spouses recognize things in ourselves that we don’t recognize?
29:18 Jim Bell Sr.: Yeah. [chuckle]
29:19 Kurt Baker: Is it not always positive things?
29:22 Jim Bell Sr.: And it’s same way in an office.
29:22 Kurt Baker: Oh okay. Wasn’t aware of that. Is that true?
29:24 Kurt Baker: Okay. Very true, yes. It is very true, yes.
29:26 Jim Bell Sr.: It happens all the time. And it happens more in office than it does in a home, because you’re spending more time in an office, or a factory, or a distribution center. It doesn’t matter.
29:40 Kurt Baker: So how… There’s an employee assistance program, so how does that work? What is it and how is it work?
29:44 Jim Bell Sr.: Well, life in metropolitan areas especially, including New Jersey, has become very, very demanding. Our employees are under more pressure than they’ve ever been in the past. And they need help. And it has to be rendered in an ultra-conservative, confidential manner or they simply won’t come to you.
30:19 Kurt Baker: Right.
30:20 Jim Bell Sr.: So we have what’s called an EAP, Employee Assistance Program, whereby our employees are encouraged to call in and ask for assistance from EAP. They then get on the phone with a counselor and discuss problems with children, problems with spouses, problems with money. Drug problems, alcohol problems, general getting along with people problems. Problems with your boss, problems with your subordinates. About the most dramatic use is suicide. If you see someone who is not acting right, call EAP.
31:23 Kurt Baker: So you can call for somebody else as well, not just for yourself? ‘Cause I remember hearing something… And I don’t remember the exact year this happened, but not in the too distant past, the mental health cost to companies, the medical side of it, so when you look at insurance, has actually surpassed the physical cost of insurance. And many people aren’t even aware of that. They think “Oh, somebody gets hurt and falls, slips, falls, it’s cost.” We kind of identify with that.
31:48 Jim Bell Sr.: It’s easy.
31:49 Kurt Baker: They don’t realize that the actual… The mental health side of this… And for the reasons you’re pointing out, there’s a lot more stressors on people, the businesses themselves are under a lot more stress, family life is more stressful. So we have to learn how to manage that a little better.
32:03 Jim Bell Sr.: Well, either that or you have an employee and their performance just keeps slipping.
32:08 Kurt Baker: Right.
32:09 Jim Bell Sr.: And you don’t know why. It’s like getting hit by a truck with no headlights. [chuckle] But this is something positive you can do and you can be so very effective. I’ve had situations twice now where personal problems were so very bad that the employee committed suicide.
32:40 Kurt Baker: That’s awful.
32:41 Jim Bell Sr.: In one instance… In both instances, the employee committed suicide at work.
32:47 Kurt Baker: Oh, wow.
32:51 Jim Bell Sr.: It sounds terrible, but the employees came in the next morning and found a woman hanging from a fire main, a fire extinguisher.
33:05 Kurt Baker: Well, that has a very traumatic effect when you…
33:08 Jim Bell Sr.: It shut the company down.
33:09 Kurt Baker: When you lose somebody to suicide, regardless. Even if it hadn’t been on site, it just has a… A lot of people are questioning and they’re thinking, they saw that person, I’m sure, they talked to that person, I’m sure, many people did the day before, and they’re like, “What happened?” Right? So there’s a lot of questions, a lot of guilt that comes through. Whether it’s…
33:29 Jim Bell Sr.: It was absolutely terrible.
33:30 Kurt Baker: They feel bad, basically.
33:32 Jim Bell Sr.: Had she said anything, the mildest hint, there would have been several people springing to her aid.
33:43 Kurt Baker: Right.
33:44 Jim Bell Sr.: But she didn’t.
33:46 Kurt Baker: Well, and that’s the issue. And that’s kind of my nonprofit world, that’s one of the things we do, is we educate about suicide ideation and things like that. And the hard part is when somebody gets in that position, they can’t reach out. So, education of those people around them becomes very, very critical. We have to reach in ’cause they get into this place, this tunnel vision, and they get really isolated. And there are signs, but they’re not things that most people look… Know what to look for.
34:13 Jim Bell Sr.: You gotta watch for them.
34:14 Kurt Baker: And in retrospect, many times they can come up. And it’s just very traumatic. So this Employee Assistance Program is really, really important, and we’ll pick up on that when we come back from the break in just a few minutes.
34:22 Announcer: We are talking finances so you can make informed choices for a better financial future. Missed an episode? Go to 1077thebronc.com and Apple iTunes to download and listen to previous shows. Just look up Master Your Finances. Now back to Master Your Finances with Kurt Baker, a certified financial planner professional with Certified Wealth Management and Investment. Exclusively on 1077 The Bronc and 1077thaebronc.com.
34:48 Kurt Baker: Welcome back, you’re listening to Master Your Finances. I’m Kurt Baker, certified financial planner professional, here with Jim Bell Sr., the CEO and founder of Abel HR. And just before the break we were talking about the critical importance of the Employee Assistance Program, which is really… It’s growing, as Jim was saying in the segment. And a lot of that, I think, has to do with that employers are starting to realize that just from a financial standpoint and a business standpoint, it’s really important to take care of your employee’s mental health ’cause that cost has actually exceeded the cost, from a medical perspective, of physical issues that typically happen which we’ve always been focused on in the past. So they’re actually seeing this trend line.
35:28 Kurt Baker: And now, thanks to things like what Jim is doing where there are programs in place where you’re trying to help to educate people on what to look for in themselves, in their friends, co-workers, I should say, at work, and a way to contact some professional services to help them through that. Whether it’s with your boss or whether that’s with a co-worker or family issues, there’s just lots of things to life. Because work is really integrated to life. It’s part of our life. And I think when we recognize that, I think you have a better work life, you have a better home life. I think your overall situation becomes a little bit better when we kind of address how that integrates together, I’m assuming, correct?
36:05 Jim Bell Sr.: That’s a very valid point, in that most of us spend much more time at work than we do at home, and that has to be faced because the things that happen at home often will impact negatively what’s going on at work. Not so much vice versa, which I always thought was strange, but that’s the way people are wired. The biggest problem I’ve had with EAP situations is EAP problems are very, very sensitive, very personal, and people don’t wanna talk about them. Our EAP has a segment called Sensitivity Training, and they will come out and address groups of employees as to what to watch for. I think that’s worth its weight in gold because you can spot situations in advance before they become big problems. And just a brief conversation with a trained counselor can help make it go away, or at least get it on the road to healing, as opposed to what normally happens. The employee sits there with this deep dark secret, and it’s just eating them alive, and you don’t know.
37:42 Kurt Baker: Right. And if you had a physical… If you had an infection or something, you’d want to get treatment early, right? If somebody had cancer, you’d want to get treatment early.
37:47 Jim Bell Sr.: Sure. Anybody can say you need to see a doctor.
37:50 Kurt Baker: Exactly. And that’s something… I think you bring up an extremely important point, is that the sooner you deal with any kind of issue that’s affecting your mental health and the way you’re responding to it, the sooner you get help…
38:04 Jim Bell Sr.: The better off you are.
38:04 Kurt Baker: The better the results are gonna be, the more likely you are to see a positive recovery. And the workplace is gonna get a little better too, of course, right? Because if you’re down and not doing well and not feeling well, you’re working with other people all day long, whether it’s directly with a co-worker or whether it’s with the clients at the corporation. You’re just not gonna be performing and not be in the state that you wanna be in to do your job as best you can.
38:28 Jim Bell Sr.: No matter how big or small the corporation is, you are part of a big wheel, and no wheel is going to be efficient if it has a flat side, or a bad spoke. It has to be addressed.
38:44 Kurt Baker: Very true. Very true, very true. You also wanna talk a little bit… I guess, the Earned Sick Leave Act, I guess that’s… Something we want to discuss that a little bit. How does that work and what does that mean?
38:55 Jim Bell Sr.: The Earned Sick Leave Act is, from my standpoint, finally a recognition of reality. Because it’s not just sick leave. Many of my clients are converting to paid time off. They don’t have a vacation and they don’t have sick time anymore. I always had a gripe with sick time, because we forced our employees to lie.
39:30 Kurt Baker: True.
39:32 Jim Bell Sr.: You have a parent who has a sick child. Are they coming to work? Probably not, unless they have the mother-in-law of the year, they’re not coming to work.
39:44 Kurt Baker: So they tell you they’re sick so they can stay home for their sick child?
39:47 Jim Bell Sr.: Yes.
39:48 Kurt Baker: So what you’re really doing is it sounds like you’re re-classifying. So from an employer’s standpoint, it’s still the same amount of time off, right?
39:52 Jim Bell Sr.: Yes, we’re just recognizing reality.
39:54 Kurt Baker: Right, which makes sense.
39:56 Jim Bell Sr.: There are, in my experience, very few companies that do not pay for time off. They pay something.
40:07 Kurt Baker: Right.
40:07 Jim Bell Sr.: The state of New Jersey has established how many days somebody can be paid. It’s approximately what was going on before. The definition has been changed by employers, mainly, to include personal emergency time. For instance, and this is silly but it’s still valid, your refrigerator breaks. How can you function without a refrigerator? Worse yet, a wash machine and a dryer? Your life stops.
40:55 Kurt Baker: It’s a little tough.
40:56 Jim Bell Sr.: Well when you call, they tell you, “I’ll be there between 1:00 and 6:00.” “But I gotta go to work.” “I’m sorry.” “Alright.” In the old days, “I got a really bad cold.” [chuckle]
41:16 Kurt Baker: That was really good.
41:18 Jim Bell Sr.: Today, “I got a problem.” “What’s the problem?” “The dryer went out. I got a mess on my hands. My wife has a very important meeting she has to go to today at work, there’s no way she can take off. I need to take off.” “Okay, understood. Thanks for telling me.” You know what’s going on with this person. You know how…
41:44 Kurt Baker: It gives you a better picture of what actually is really happening then too as well.
41:48 Jim Bell Sr.: Yes, and you also know what to do with your staff in terms of, I gotta back him up for a day, or her up for a day, I don’t have to back her up for a week, she’s only gonna be out a day.
42:00 Kurt Baker: Right. Cause she’s not sick.
42:01 Jim Bell Sr.: She’s actually not sick, you know?
42:03 Kurt Baker: She’s just staying home for the afternoon.
42:04 Jim Bell Sr.: Sometimes you wanna give out Emmy’s because you’d swear this lady had strep. And she’s gonna be out for three or four days. Or the guy. Guys are as good as acting as women are. No one has the market cornered. But this makes this so much more human.
42:26 Kurt Baker: So do they have to define what it is? Because I know that… I find this term to be… People use it all the time, but I think its true. They take a Mental Health Day. Sometimes people get so stressed they just need a breather.
42:38 Jim Bell Sr.: Yes.
42:39 Kurt Baker: They just need to stop life for a few hours, take a day off, recharge, and come back.
42:47 Jim Bell Sr.: Yes.
42:49 Kurt Baker: So that’s okay now?
42:51 Jim Bell Sr.: But the mortgage is due next week.
42:51 Kurt Baker: Right. Well, exactly, right. But what I’m saying is there are points in time where… I think that’s a valid… Personally, I think that’s a valid reason for somebody to say I really… Stress at home, stress at work, stress everywhere. I need a little time.
43:04 Jim Bell Sr.: You can pick up your phone and call your boss and simply say, “I need a mental health day. I’d like to take a PTO day.”
43:15 Kurt Baker: And so how are… I’m curious, how are employers responding to that? I’m sure some are very, “Okay no problem.” Are there employers saying, “What are you talking about? Get to work.”
43:22 Jim Bell Sr.: I take it further, I thank them for their honesty.
43:25 Kurt Baker: Okay. Oh so you’re the one that gets the call in this case? Correct?
43:30 Jim Bell Sr.: I might, yes.
43:30 Kurt Baker: Okay. Alright. Okay.
43:32 Jim Bell Sr.: In many cases they will call their immediate supervisor. And those are the instructions that I try to give to the immediate supervisors. Reward desired behavior. Don’t badger. Because they’ll go back to hiding again.
43:51 Kurt Baker: Right.
43:53 Jim Bell Sr.: If you know what people are doing, and why they are doing it, you are going to be be a much more effective supervisor. And people often go, “Oh yeah, I didn’t think of that.” [chuckle] Of course they didn’t think of it, they got 15,000 packages that have to be put on trucks by four o’clock.
44:13 Kurt Baker: Right. Right. But it gives you a realistic idea of what you need to do as far as moving employees around and adjusting things. Right?
44:19 Jim Bell Sr.: Yes. If you know where you are, you can allocate your staff much more efficiently. As opposed to, “Are they lying or not? Hmm.”
44:31 Kurt Baker: So that’s good. So communication back and forth between employer and employees is critical. Jim, I appreciate you coming on today and talking to us about the importance of really having a great HR department, and the fact that most small businesses really just don’t have the capacity to do this. And this industry, which you were really there in the beginning to kind of do a co-employee status where you could handle the back end, the HR, help with things like job descriptions, help manage the employees, and nowadays, with this Employee Assistance Program, you can really help manage them from a overall health standpoint. No matter what’s going on in their life, you really want to keep your employees in their best condition mentally as well as physically, so that they can perform well for the company.
45:11 Kurt Baker: And then I like the idea that the Sick Leave Act was kind of updated, so to speak, to recognize that people take time off for various reasons, especially with all these stressers and all… It’s just super busy these days, and things happen, life happens and sometimes you just need a little time. Whether the refrigerator broke or you just need a little time off to take care of it. All of this is really important. And so we absolutely appreciate you coming on today. Again, I am Kurt Baker, with Certified Wealth Management and Investment, and I can be reached at 609-716-4700 or our website which is www.cwmi.us, or you can find us on Facebook at facebook.com/Masteryourfinances. You can subscribe to the podcast and listen to this podcast, as well as all of them, at Masteryourfinances.us. Remember together we can master your finances so you can enjoy financial peace of mind.
46:05 Announcer: The financial views and information provided by Master Your Finances and its guests are intended for general informational purposes only. The material discussed is not designed to provide listeners with individualized, financial, legal, or tax advice. Always consult your financial planner for professional advice.
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