This article is reprinted from The Oakland Press, 5/3/2017
Corporate America, you know the drill: limited vacation time, not enough time off after having children and the dreaded insurance game.
Many of us don’t fully understand our corporate insurance policies, but we all have felt taken advantage of or limited by archaic insurance policies.
The Swedish-American company Atlas Copco in Auburn Hills aims to change that by using some progressive European policies in the United States.
Atlas Copco, an industrial tools and equipment manufacturer, is half of a mile from the expressway, in a corporate landscape. Outside, it blends with the industrial theme, but on the inside it’s the happy employees, strategic interior design and extra benefits offered to employees that make this company stand out. I toured Atlas Copco and sat down with General Manager, Anders Hoberg and Human Resource Manager, Roberta Brown, to find out why their employee retention rate is so high.
“We were looking to improve our North American sector,” Hoberg said. “We’ve been here in metro Detroit for over 50 years and employ over 640 hard-working men and women, and we wanted to make new policies that focus on health, family, safety and the environment.
“The very things that are important to our employees are also important to us, as a company.”
Atlas has indeed hit those marks of improvement. In 2015 it won the Safety Health & Environmental Award and set a new standard in the corporate sector by starting what’s called SHE week. This is a week worth of activities focused on health and quality of life. But it doesn’t stop there.
Free yoga classes, monthly massages, baskets of fresh fruit, weight watcher programs and smoking cessation programs are all offered by the company either free or at a discounted price. Roberta Brown explains it like this, “Everyone has a voice here, we have open communication and we strive to provide a relaxed environment conducive to working both alone and together.”
“By making the kitchen the center of the office, as a meeting place and by making management accessible among the employees and not sealed off somewhere on another level, has greatly improved the employees work ethic, as they respond favorably to trust and freedom,” she says.
What stood out to me, when I took the tour, were all the smiling faces and the benefits I learned about, such as the lenient work-from-home policies, generous vacation and new parental leave policies. Atlas continues to succeed in the insurance segment, with monthly premium costs 20 percent lower than the national average.
But what about other companies? How can they follow suit, with all the new changes in insurance and the fragility of the Affordable Care Act, where does Michigan stand?
I spoke with Sunny Connolly of Patterson-Bryant insurance in Bingham Farms to get the scoop on new Michigan insurance laws.
“Small business plans have the ability to offer a HRA, which allows for businesses to reimburse employees for premiums and out-of-pocket expenses,” Connolly says. “Larger businesses, over 50 employees, still need to follow the compliance requirements when offering group health plans, such as ERISA, COBRA and Family Medical Leave Act.”
To avoid being audited by the Department of Labor, Connolly says, while Obamacare is still in place businesses are required to follow the act’s rules. Insurance brokers recommend that employers use third-party administrators, who have audit guarantees and hold-harmless clauses.