The ROCC Pod

Carolyn Elliot of HR Pro and the 2023 Workplace

Episode Notes

 Carolyn Elliot, Director of HR Advisory Solutions at HR Pro, delves into the various challenges that employers have faced in the last six months. The discussion revolves around the complexities of HR management and how to navigate them effectively.

Carolyn shares her valuable insights on how to establish a strong foundation for HR compliance, which includes understanding the legal requirements and regulations that govern the workplace. She emphasizes the importance of knowing your team and their unique needs, as well as engaging outside vendors and support to ensure that HR processes run smoothly.

The conversation also touches on the significance of inclusivity and diversity in the workplace, and how it can positively impact the overall success of an organization. Carolyn stresses the importance of creating a culture of inclusivity and diversity, where employees feel valued and respected for their differences.

More about HR Pro:

Connect with our hosts:

Trish Carruth from The Personal Jeweler -

Jon Gay from JAG in Detroit Podcasts -

Lisa Bibbee from Keller Williams -

Episode Transcription

Jon: Welcome into the ROCC Pod, presented by the Royal Oak Michigan Chamber of Commerce. I'm Jon Gay from Jag in Detroit Podcasts.

Lisa: I am Lisa Bibbee, your neighborhood realtor with Keller Williams Advantage. 

Trish: And I'm Trish Carruth, third generation jeweler and owner of Your Personal Jeweler. 

Jon: Today we're joined by Carolyn Elliot of HR Pro based right here in Royal Oak. Welcome, Carolyn. 

Carolyn: Thank you everybody. I'm excited to be here. 

Jon: So tell us a little bit about HR Pro, and you've got a great history in Royal Oak, right? 

Carolyn: We sure do. We call Royal Oak Home and we're happy to be here. Christopher Powell is our CEO and he started the company in 1990. And at that time we actually were on Woodward, so we've made some transitions across the city moving to Washington Square Plaza, and then our 11 mile road location, which many people ask me about when I see them. But our current home is on Campbell, so we have been there since 2019 and we love it. We're right next to WOW. 

Trish: Nice. I'm actually in Washington Square Plaza. 

Carolyn: Past neighbors. In a past life 

Trish: Can you tell us about the work that you do with employers?

Carolyn: Again, founded in 1990, but we've really started in the Ben Admin area as a Ben Advisory, and so if people are familiar, our sister company is BenePro.

We have BenePro and HR Pro. And so we really started in that space and our CEO saw that continuing need of business evolve with really supporting the administrative function for companies and different employers. And so that's where the COBRA, the FSA kind of came to be. And since that time, we've expanded to HRIS, payroll administration, and then in about 2015, after an acquisition, we really engaged the HR consulting arm, which is the team that I am involved with as the director of HR Advisory Solutions. 

Jon: Got it. Carolyn, can you talk a little bit more about what you do in the HR consulting space? 

Carolyn: HR Consulting gives us an opportunity to connect with clients in a couple of different ways. We can support clients with more project-based items, employee handbooks, FLSA reviews, I9 audits, all the alphabet soup.

Our HR support for an existing team can also be beneficial for employers. So if they have an HR manager in place, we can come in and provide coaching additional support, really just digging into some more problem solving. And then lastly, we also can be the HR team for companies. So currently right now I have a few clients where I am their sole HR person, and so that allows me to really connect with employees one-on-one and then support their manager teams.

And their executive leadership as needed. So that's also a great solution that we have in place. 

Lisa: Carolyn, in talking about connecting, give us your three favorite things about HR. 

Carolyn: I love many things about HR. I will try to narrow them to three. The first being HR is constantly evolving. And constantly changing, and I love that.

It can be difficult to manage when you have legislative changes happening all the time, but that's truly what makes it exciting because it's quite the opposite of stagnant. When you are constantly evolving and changing in the space, it gives you an opportunity to also grow, I think personally and professionally. So that would be number one. Constant change is our friend, even if we don't want it. 

Number two would be that it's always relevant. I feel like if you listen to any stories on social media, the news, family discussions, it all ties back to HR and policies and practices in place with employers. Wage discussions, union discussion DE&I discussions.

It all comes back to the workplace and HR typically and should be at the center of those conversations. So I love that HR has really fought to have a seat at that table. And so that's important. And then lastly, I would say, that it is fascinating in all of its forms. My background is I have a BA psychology from Michigan State, so Go Green!

I also have my MSW from Wayne State. So watching human behavior in moments where it can be very stressful and tense and also very rewarding is just fascinating to me. So I love being able to, again, connect with people and really hopefully support them when they are enduring high stress volumes, but I love being a part of it.

Jon: I can't think of two better degrees for somebody in the HR world to have. That's just, that's perfect. So Carolyn, we've seen so many changes in the last few years all throughout Covid, but let me narrow it down a little bit. What unique challenges have employers been presented with in just the last six months? The first half of 2023? 

Carolyn: So one of the biggest I would say is that exactly as you said, transitioning out of Covid, if you will. We're still dealing with the repercussions, and I saw many clients of mine and across the board, Employers, abroad really restructuring and stepping back and saying, how do we need to operate more effectively?

And so unfortunately that may come with terminations, layoffs, et cetera. And so that's where we've really been at the table with a few different clients that have had some significant downsizing. So that would be a big one. The second one that kind of ties in would really almost be this identity crisis that I see with my clients.

So as a result of restructuring, whether that's been, acquisition and downsizing, acquisition and growth, I've seen it in both forms. It really is who are we as a company. How are we operating going forward? What are our values? There, can often be a lot of trust kind of loss in that process.

And it's hard to see employees go through that. And it's also hard to see leaders have to experience that with their employees as well. And I think overall there's this moment right now where companies are reassessing just the who are we question, looking in the mirror and really taking some time to do that. And if they're not, I would definitely recommend that they do. 

Jon: Quick follow up on that, Carolyn. So on this very podcast, we have had people on both sides of the equation talking about remote work and hybrid work. And folks say that, this is the way of the world. People are gonna wanna work remotely. If you wanna find great candidates, you're gonna be willing to have your employees work remotely.

And then we've had other people on the podcast as guests, they more of the old school mentality of you need to have that face-to-face in-person interaction with your coworkers by the water cooler every day. I'm curious where you fall in the spectrum between those two extremes. 

Carolyn: Absolutely. I would say we're middle of the road at HR Pro ourselves. We continue with a hybrid work arrangement, and so that allows for people to be in the office three days a week and then remote two days a week. We have a core day, which is Wednesdays, and so that allows for us to collaborate effectively as a team.

We know we'll all be together in this day. We can do a meeting. I've seen it play out. I think it's gonna come back to a couple main points. One, it has to make sense for your business if people were able to work remotely for however long during the pandemic and we're able to get their jobs done effectively, it's gonna be very difficult convincing them otherwise.

Number two, there may be times where you need to meet face-to-face, and so keeping that door open is really important to make sure that you're not losing any collaborative energy. There is something about being face-to-face when you're trying to work through problems together as a team. So I would say lastly, just keeping in mind what makes sense for your business, but what makes sense for your employees.

If your employees are really strongly voicing a need to remain remote, I would listen to them and hear the conversation. What is actually drawing you to that space where you don't want to come into the office? If it's long commutes? That's a huge consideration with high costs of gas and food and everything else.

That's a way that maybe we're not paying you higher and we're not increasing your wages right now, but we're gonna help you save on gas costs. That's just a way to think creatively through the problem. So people really need to just make it make sense for their business and for their people.

Lisa: And I love thinking creatively. And speaking of creative thinking, what advice do you have for listeners navigating complex HR challenges? 

Carolyn: Absolutely. They can get very complex in the HR space. So a couple things I would say is it really is never too late to get your foundation set up, whether that's having an employee handbook that's up to date or doing an FLSA audit to see your non-exempt and exempt workers.

Or doing an I9 review. These are essential compliance items in the HR space and in the employer world where you really wanna make sure you have a sound foundation set up. It ultimately will help you save time on the back end too. So it may feel like a heavy lift up front, but it's really important to help set you up for success moving forward.

I would also say, as I just mentioned, you really have to know your people. So whether you use a disc assessment or I love to talk about the love languages, but in the workplace how does your team respond and react to praise? Do they like getting little gifts? Do they like having a shout out in the team meeting?

All these things are so essential to operating effectively and managing your teams effectively, and it just helps when conflict arises, which it will, to be able to work through that together from a place really of, mutual respect and having a core foundation and a core relationship. And then lastly, obviously I'm in this space, but I have to put a plug out for engaging outside vendors and outside support to help you navigate. Whether that's really from employment, a legal team, or you're utilizing someone like HR Pro from an HR advisory standpoint where you're able to work through problems and get potentially new recommendations from an objective viewpoint. It's so important to have that lens because the day-to-day can really muddy the waters, and so bringing somebody in from the outside can help you sort through issues that you may not even realize are happening.

Trish: I'm gonna backtrack a little bit. Earlier you talked a little bit about the different unique challenges that employers have faced, and I know that you have a psychology degree, so when it comes to things like downsizing where there's an emotional side, you become a family and a business, but there's also the logical side where you know that you need to downsize. How do you help employees merge the two?

Carolyn: I think that's a great question, and it's an important question again that all employers should understand and have at the ready, which is truly coming back to transparency and communication. So employees are not gonna necessarily know your bottom line and all your ins and outs on your books. Nor should they, that's not their role within the company. 

But they should understand where the business is at financially from a growth perspective, from a, are we operating more lean these days? What that looks like, and that really comes back to transparency and communication. Oftentimes we say, if you're being terminated or let go or a layoff, it really should not be a surprise.

That's something that, If you can, to really minimize that is important because then people understand and anticipate that it's coming. I know that we lost out on these projects or these contracts ended the beginning of this year, and so that allows, me to move forward knowing that this isn't personal, this is really about the business or about the operational needs.

Jon: I think that's a really key component is by putting logic to it, you can maybe take a piece of the emotion away. Absolutely. So you obviously have quite a passion for HR and all things HR, Carolyn, but let me ask you what you do when you're not working?

Carolyn: When I'm not working, I am helping raise my 11-month-old who is now walking.

Trish: Aw.

Carolyn: So luckily, I have a wonderful, supportive husband who keeps me sane and helps me be the best mom I can be. But HR Pro has been really, Chris, our CEO, prides himself in having, I think it's. 32 babies have been born, within the company since it started. And he's really just like a grandpa in that sense of really allowing working moms specifically to just be engaged in the workplace and working parents at large.

We have mostly women in our company and have historically and that is such an important piece to all this of having a supportive family in core and also a supportive employer to help me get through that. But we are looking forward to sunny days and swimming and walking and doing all the outdoor things.

I am a Royal Oak native, so we just hit the Royal Oak Farmer's Market on Saturday and got some hummingbird plants, so that was cool. And our two giant, old man pit bulls are always by our side, so that's a little bit of our lives. 

Jon: Awesome. Lisa, I'm gonna ask you to pull today's fishbowl question of the day where we ask you, Carolyn, a totally random question. Lisa, would you please draw our fishbowl question of the day? 

Lisa: All right. Carolyn, get ready.

Carolyn: Okay. 

Lisa: What is the one thing still on your bucket list that you're gonna achieve this year?

Carolyn: Ooh, this year. That's a tough one. Ooh. 

Jon: But she's got a one-year-old Lisa! 

Carolyn: I know that's, I was just like, oh man. If I had this question like two years ago, it would be different.

Travel is always big, but personally, I just was thinking about this again. I really wanna learn sign language. It has been such a, in the last couple of years. I just think it is so incredible to be able to communicate without words. And I think it's so important to connect with people who maybe often feel like they are not able to connect with others. And so that is a huge bucket list and I'm really hoping I will make it happen. 

Lisa: And that's a really great skill for children. And I've heard many stories of the young ones learning sign language long before they learned to speak. 

Carolyn: Absolutely. We do it. We've been doing our "more" and "eat" and everything. Whether or not she gets it, she's probably you're crazy. But it's definitely a passion. I really wanna commit to it. 

Trish: So in third grade, me and my best friend got split up in class. So we learned the alphabet and sign language, and we would communicate across the room. 

Carolyn: So great. That's amazing. Who needs note passing? You guys like really evolved. 

Jon: And if you were in school now, Trish, there'd probably be an app for it.

Carolyn: Chad, GPT and everything else. Yeah, exactly. Talk to my friend. 

Jon: I really like what you said there, Carolyn, about inclusivity and people who that may be differently able. The same is true in podcasting, where we make sure there's a transcript available of every episode of the ROCC Podbecause somebody who might be hard of hearing can still get the content.

It's very important in the podcasting space to have transcripts of episodes. So yes, just being more inclusive of everybody all around us really seems like it's a big thing. You mentioned DEI earlier. Diversity, equity, and inclusion, for anybody who doesn't know the acronym. It's really a huge thing right now.

Carolyn: Absolutely. And I think that's something just to tie into some of our other questions, it's such an important thing. It was not just a hot topic. It still will exist now and forever and employers have a lot of opportunity to assess how they're doing that and same thing of heart of hearing or potentially disabled in some way or another.

Looking at your job applications, how you have your job postings, where you're able to apply online, if that's an opportunity. All those things come into play. Having inclusive language in your job postings is huge, and so even just before you even get somebody on the table and a board and actually an active employee, that's a huge thing right now is making sure that you have inclusive language in your job postings and your job descriptions. I'm glad you brought that up because it's very important and. We're happy to see it stay. 

Jon: Last question before we wrap up, cuz this just popped into my head since you were mentioning it, is I was reading that we all have our implicit biases. Subconsciously we tend to wanna hire people that look or act or think like us. But all the research out there shows that the more diverse a group of opinions and perspectives you can have in a room, the more effective a team you can be. Is that right?

Carolyn: Period. That's it. Every time that you look at a team that's able to bring in. And it's diversity in all of its forms, life, experience, education, background, skills it can be across.

If you see in the iceberg diagram, what seen and what's below. Diversity can mean so many things. And having a diverse team at the table makes your product better, makes your business grow. It's all those items because you're just bringing so many different brains together to really create a beautiful thing.

And businesses will have and will continue to have a great opportunity to do that. I heard I was in a recent diversity summit and one of the speakers had said, diversity hires are not token hires, and I've unfortunately heard that used casually in the HR space. And that's something just to be so aware of right now that it's really not about checking the box and all the things that people in their humorous ways like to use.

It truly is about engaging people in a way that can fit within and grow your culture because maybe you're operating in this space, but maybe you wanna grow and expand. And that's a great way to do it. So I encourage employers to really think through that. And that again comes in what questions are you asking during your interviews? People love to do the, "that's where I golf. Is that where you golf?" And not everyone golfs, but it's human nature to try to find commonality. That's a beautiful thing, but that also can limit your ability to connect with potential applicants and potential new hires. It could be a great asset to your business. 

Lisa: Thank you so much, Carolyn, for coming on our show today. Can you tell the listeners how they can find you? 

Carolyn: Absolutely. It was great speaking with all of you today. You can check out our website at We're also on LinkedIn and other social media, so come find us.

And if you're ever at WOW on Campbell, stop by. We're right next door. 

Lisa: My name is Lisa Bibbee. I'm a realtor with Keller Williams Advantage. I put the real back in realtor. Unsure of how the market is shifting and thinking of selling this year? Give me a call for a free consultation. My website is You can also find me on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram at Sold by Lisa b. 

Trish: I'm Trish Carruth, third generation jeweler, and owner of your personal jeweler. I specialize in creating custom engagement rings, wedding rings, and find jewelry. You can find me on Instagram and Facebook at the personal jeweler. Our website, Or stop by our storefront on Fourth and Washington. 

Jon: I'm Jon Gay from Jag in Detroit podcasts. If you have any questions at all about the world of podcasting, which continues to explode, post covid, here in 2023, I'm happy to answer any questions you have. You can find me at or on social media at JAG in Detroit.

You can call me 313-757-2JAG. That comes up to 2524. Thank you for listening to this episode of the ROCC Pod presented for the Royal Oak Michigan Chamber of Commerce. For more information about the chamber itself and to get involved, you can visit Thanks everyone.