Volunteer HR service available to those who need it most
In November 2020, Richie Coladarci, HR strategist at Merchants Fleet, launched A Friend in HR, an online, advice resource.
What started as a soft launch with the help of a half dozen volunteer HR professionals — many from New Hampshire — has expanded to approximately 30 HR leaders across the country, and growing.
“It’s the power of how quickly an idea has spread,” said Coladarci. “There are people wanting to give back and help,” including providing administrative and technical support to automate requests in the near future, as word spreads and demand increases.
The manual process has been extensive.
“We look at the diversity of the consultants we have — everything from race, gender, industry experience — there are a lot of areas of HR — performance management, conflict, job search, union contracts — so we ask our consultants to let us know which ones they’re most versed in,” said Coladarci.
Consultants average 20 years of experience. And having consultants in a variety of states is important so advice complies with state laws.
Coladarci said the idea came to him after he was approached by several friends and acquaintances seeking advice when their job was impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Requests from individuals who have utilized A Friend in HR’s services range from mock interviews and resume building to employee rights in light of the CARES Act and recent appropriations signed into law Dec. 27, 2020. Afterward, individuals are asked to complete a survey that asks for demographics data, “so we know we’re fulfilling our mission.”
“Our focus has been trying to reach an audience of people who don’t have as many resources or someone to turn to,” said Coladarci, who has shared the volunteer organization’s mission through LinkedIn and flyers at grocery stores. “Our mission is to level the playing field.”
Translating HR-speak has always been a need, but federal legislation has added a new layer of complexity.
“There was a lot of legislation, with the Families First Act, the CARES Act, and a lot of that spoke to employee rights and it wasn’t easy to understand,” said Coladarci, who said federal legislation ultimately spurred the need for A Friend in HR. “There are certain companies that need to comply, certain companies that didn’t. This is complicated for HR people and we’re working through it — it’s going to be more complicated for employees.”
Connie Roy-Czyzowski, vice president of human resources at Northeast Delta Dental and a volunteer consultant for A Friend in HR, agrees this is a unique time as legislation was passed quickly and was therefore messy.
“Congress wanted to get something passed and not all the T’s were crossed and I’s dotted, so there’s a lot of uncertainty on both sides, by employees and employers,” she said.
Some questions she’s fielded through A Friend in HR are, ‘my employer is requiring something from me I don’t feel comfortable about — what are my rights here?’ That’s a very difficult situation and some people are from small companies without HR involved. Sometimes you don’t want to ask your employer.”