Free HR Hotline Helps Members in a Crisis

An already stressful time got even worse when the pandemic landed during the busiest part of year for certified public accountants—tax season. One association sped up a valuable member benefit in response, with great results.

The team at the Massachusetts Society of CPAs, like staff at many other associations, kicked into high gear last spring to help their members manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

They wasted no time launching a  Coronavirus Resource Center with the latest changes in legislation, tax deadlines, and resources to help firms transition to remote work during their busy season. They started a COVID-19 Legislative Brief, a weekly newsletter sent to all of their 11,000 members, with need-to-know legislative news. They hosted free webinars on hot topics for CPAs, such as the Paycheck Protection Program, and conducted a survey to learn what members were doing to help their communities and clients.

Then, MSCPA saw an opportunity to fill a different kind of need by fast-tracking a benefit that was already in the pipeline: a free HR hotline. The service gives members in charge of human resources at their firms a free, 30-minute, private consultation with an HR expert.

MSCPA President and CEO Amy Pitter said her team knew members would need guidance as they began navigating tricky plans for returning to their offices in the coming months. Although accountants run companies and must handle talent management issues, they’re not HR experts, Pitter said, and MSCPA knew it would be helpful for members to consult with a seasoned HR professional, someone well-versed in complicated workplace laws and with broad experience with different clients and situations.

Staff Is Still Key to Success

“Building the best team possible is how organization leaders become successful,” Pitter said. That means crafting benefits packages that are competitive and having policies that both reflect  the culture of the organization and meet legal requirements. It also means addressing all kinds of performance issues, including helping poor performers improve, helping superstars thrive, and dealing with the murky and fraught area of separations and terminations.

Pre-COVID-19, most leaders were focused on recruiting, retaining, and developing staff, Pitter said, so handling HR issues successfully was the difference between growing an organization or stagnating. Now, “staff is still the key to success,” she said, “but the context and issues are both novel and complex, so getting the right kind of help is more important than ever.”

Member response to the free service has been positive, Pitter said, and the program has added tremendous value to their membership, which she expects will help with retention. “Talking to an HR professional before having a difficult conversation with staff has given our members the confidence to effectively handle challenging—and stressful—situations,” she said.

Want to Try This?

For other associations that might want to try offering an HR service for members, Pitter recommends finding an HR professional you have complete confidence in—both as an expert and a partner. MSCPA’s partner has advised the association on HR issues in the past. She also is a popular speaker at its conferences, so members are familiar with her and are likely to trust her.

Pitter also recommended doing a lot of marketing to raise awareness about the HR hotline benefit for members so it’s on their radar. “Be patient,” she added, “this is the kind of thing that’s going to grow over time.”

Does your association have a success story about helping members during COVID-19 you’d like to share? Send me an email or reply in the comments.


(siraanamwong/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Lisa Boylan

By Lisa Boylan

Lisa Boylan is a senior editor of Associations Now. MORE

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