Navigating stormy waters:
Jack’s Maintenance finds consultant to manage tough HR issues

Originally printed in Insight Magazine, January 2011. By MaryBeth Matzek.

Problem: Ever-changing employment rules had Jack’s Maintenance Service HR employees spinning their wheels.
Solution: HR consultant Mary Felton developed steps to streamline and improve the company’s hiring process.

“Many small businesses are too busy running their company to keep up with the changes.” — Mary Felton, HR Business Partners

For Lauri Struck, owner of Jack’s Maintenance Services Inc. in Neenah, an expansion into new markets completely overwhelmed her business’ small human resources staff. “We just weren’t keeping up,” she says. Struck contacted Mary Felton, founder and president of HR Business Partners. An independent consultant, Felton works with businesses to pinpoint HR issues and develops strategies to fix them. With Jack’s, she focused on streamlining the hiring process and making sure the business would keep up with constantly changing employment regulations.

“We get applications constantly and by working with Mary, we were able to come up with some questions we could ask before bringing in people for an interview to help slim down the workload. Frankly, we were wasting time,” Struck says. “Now, the hiring process is much more efficient.”

Bringing in a fresh set of eyes was key, Struck says. “I’ve been here forever,” she jokes, “so it was good to have someone else take a look at what we were doing and what we could do better.”

Jack’s Maintenance provides custodial services to businesses and organizations, including the Appleton Area School District. Most employees head directly to their worksite each day, meaning there is often little contact between the central office and employees in the field. With up to 400 employees at multiple sites, making sure employees received training wasn’t always easy.

Felton developed 30-, 60- and 90-day plans to identify core issues needing changes and the action steps to make the changes. One example was the employee handbook. While Struck thought the employee handbook was sufficient, Felton went through it and found a host of changes to be made.

“Employers really need to have their ducks in a row when it comes to their handbooks. If you have something in the handbook — for example you say performance reviews will be done annually — you better do it,” Felton says.

Changing regulations and rules — especially those involving exempt and non-exempt workers — can also be confusing for some small business owners, Felton says. With more than 20 years of experience in HR, she says many businesses don’t fully grasp the legal ramifications of an out-of-date HR policy.

“You need to make sure the proper paperwork is being filled out and being filled out correctly. Laws are constantly changing and many small businesses are too busy running their company to keep up with the changes,” says Felton.

One of Felton’s recommendations for Struck was to hire an HR manager. Felton is still available for providing strategic insight and will work with the new HR manager to make sure the business stays up-to-date on employment law changes.

“We plan on growing more and having someone here every day onsite is going to make a big difference for us,” Struck says.

For Struck, gaining insight on finding and hiring the right personnel is a key take-away from working with Felton.

“People are our business. We need to invest in them to continue growth. If we don’t have good people and good service, we won’t be successful. Mary helped us find ways to improve the hiring process as well as work with our current employees to make sure we’re communicating with them more effectively and keeping them engaged,” she says. “We hope this will lead to less turnover over time, which means we’ll have to spend less time and money on recruitment.”