Four Michigan employers received the prestigious 2009 Arbor Awards for Excellence in recognition of their innovative human resource strategies that are helping to build Michigan’s emerging knowledge-based economy. The awards were presented March 12 at The Ritz-Carlton in Dearborn, Michigan.

R. L. Polk & Co., a global company that specializes in automotive information and marketing solutions, is pioneering new methods of recruiting Gen X and Y, high-tech talent using social media strategies such as chat rooms, Facebook, Twitter and a robust internship program. Their philosophy is to “Hire slow. Hire tough,” taking two to three months or longer to make the right hire. As a result of Polk’s recruiting strategy, employee recruitment, retention, and satisfaction have increased dramatically. Named as a “Cool Place to Work” by Crain’s Detroit Business in 2007, 86.5% of employees surveyed recently would recommend Polk as a place for employment.

University of Michigan employs more than 27,000 people involved in higher education, research and health care who have serious challenges communicating with their leaders. Voices of the Staff is an award-winning initiative that annually involves 120 people from all areas of the university and health system in sharing their ideas and concerns with President Mary Sue Coleman and top administrators. This “bottom-up” communications initiative has been successful in contributing to major changes in the University and to improving employee engagement.

Comerica Bank, a subsidiary of Comerica Incorporated, has a business footprint across five states: Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan and Texas, with select businesses operating in several other states, as well as Canada, China and Mexico. In 2006 Comerica invested in HR by building its HR Academy, an internal service and career development learning center for human resource professionals at every level of the organization. More than 130 HR colleagues (40% of whom were new in 2006), have participated in the HR Academy’s virtual learning program that, among other benefits, enables HR professionals to build contemporary HR competencies, a personal career plan, and a deeper business skill set.

NSF International, a nonprofit global public health and safety certification organization based in Ann Arbor, is expanding its business by listening to its employees at all levels and functions in the organization. Employee Innovation Teams engage employees in idea generation, ensuring that anyone with a good idea is heard, and then evaluating their ideas for their market potential. Employees’ ideas are being implemented with a positive effect on NSF’s bottom-line. For example, employee ideas have resulted in a new Toy Safety Program and the new “Smart Choices Program,” alerting consumers to smarter food choices while shopping.

The Arbor Awards for Excellence, which recognizes best practices and innovation in human resources, is sponsored by The Arbor Consulting Group, Inc., a national human resource management consulting firm based in Northville, Michigan and by Eastern Michigan University, Master of Science HR/OD Program. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the award.

“As Michigan employers face unprecedented challenges, the strategic leadership role of human resources professionals has never been more important,” says Joan Moore, J.D., SPHR, president of The Arbor Consulting Group, Inc. “If we are to succeed in moving to a knowledge-based economy, we need to invest in the development of our greatest asset, our people. HR plays a key role in attracting and developing Michigan’s talent pool. We have strong leadership in the field of human resources in Michigan and, as our Arbor Award winners demonstrate, these talented professionals can help make the difference in our state’s success.”