HR and The Graveyard of the Pacific

July 23, 2017 Zuman

The Columbia River Bar—a three by six mile spot where the Columbia River’s current mixes into the Pacific Ocean—is recognized worldwide as one of the most dangerous navigated stretches of water in the world. Conditions can change from calm to life threatening in as little as five minutes. The 2,000 large shipwrecks, and the 700 lives lost since 1792 have earned this treacherous spot the nickname, The Graveyard of the Pacific.

The most skilled captain, one who can confidently navigate a heavily loaded ship or tall-sided car carrier thousands of miles, is at the mercy of the waves, wind and hazardous currents when he nears the Columbia River Bar, regardless of how much experience he has, or how many times he’s been to port.

An estimated 40 million tons of cargo, valued at $23 billion, attempt to cross the Columbia River Bar annually. The financial and environmental risk manufacturers and businesses take to send cargo through this area is immense.

Enter the bar pilot.

One of sixteen bar pilots stationed in Astoria, Oregon board approaching ships, either by boat or helicopter. They take temporary command of the vessel to guide it safely over the bar. It's highly technical, difficult, wet, dangerous work, but these men, and one woman, are a crucial link in the global supply chains that make possible the 21st century's economy.

Columbia River Bar Pilots have one of the highest licensing standards in the United States. Among other things, applicants must have 15 to 25 years experience at sea, and they must be able to draw the Columbia River entrance chart by memory.

But it’s not just superior experience and knowledge that helps them do the impossible; it’s also their equipment. Two 73-foot, waterjet-propelled pilot boats, which can survive a 360-degree roll, and a helicopter that can fly sideways at 45 knots, make up the most advanced pilot transportation system in the world.

This technology, combined with the expertise of the pilots, has made it possible for billions of dollars worth of cargo to move safely over the Columbia River Bar year after year.

How Does This Relate To HR?

Businesses today may not be faced with treacherous waterways and life-threatening situations, but there are still plenty of hazards to navigate while striving for success. The ever-changing labor laws enacted not just on the federal and state level, but increasingly on the city level, creates a number of potentially costly risks that require precise knowledge and reporting to safely traverse.

These laws affect everything from how you can interview, hire, and provide work for your employees; to the type of benefits and pay rates that must be provided. Even if your business is not headquartered in one of the cities with unique labor laws, you may still be obligated to follow the law. If you have a multi-state workforce, the number of unique labor laws you must comply with quickly rises.

While many of the laws are necessary and helpful, they create a burden of reporting and compliance that falls to you, the employer. If you’re found non-compliant, or that have errors in record keeping, you will be subject to fines, regardless of intent. Depending on the size of your business, these fines can range from tens and hundreds of thousands, to millions of dollars.

Keeping track of the compliance documentation and staying abreast of new laws can be a full time job. And, when the task is placed on vital in-house HR staff already burdened with non-strategic busywork the chance of error increases. In addition, adding to HR’s workload leaves less time for work on more valuable tasks, like recruiting and retaining top talent.

To mitigate this risk, there is a solution: Outsource.

The Experts

When you outsource with the right partner, HR experts with in-depth knowledge of labor laws (and how those laws affect payroll and benefits), take command of the documentation and double-checking. They ensure documentation and reporting are traversed accurately so your company can sail safely through legal waters without getting sunk by fines.

This is not a job for a call center staffed with recent college grads; it requires actual HR professionals. The right outsourcing partner will have experts with 15-20 years of experience in the HR field. Navigating through problems when they arise is second nature because they’ve dealt with almost every situation already. They know where to look for signs of trouble so they can resolve issues before they become problems. To them, you’re not just another client, but a partner.  

The Technology

The right outsourcing partner needs cloud-based technology that allows you to interact from anywhere. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, the technology needs to be flexible and adaptable to your unique business needs. It should change with the conditions: as you grow, the technology will adapt to meet you where you are. It will provide reporting that allows you to see trends and spot problems so you can make small course corrections. Finally, by keeping all of your data at a single source, payroll, benefits and HR are connected. An update in one area becomes an update across the board, practically eliminating errors.

The Results

Just as the bar pilots’ specialized training, skills, knowledge and superior technology make navigating a treacherous spot of water safe for massive cargo ships, so, too, does a qualified outsourcing partner help your business navigate the unique risks that come with the increasing flood of labor laws.

Zuman is the outsourcing partner qualified for this level of service. Zuman’s elite group of HR experts, Client Success Managers, payroll specialists and benefits specialists work together to ensure you are compliant with all federal, state and city labor laws that apply to you. In addition, they take the day-to-day tedious tasks off your hands so your team can focus on the higher level issues that will ensure your continued growth and success.

They’re there for you when you need them, but better than that, they’re there for you when you don’t even realize that you do. When you partner with Zuman, their team becomes your team.

About the Author


Zuman is the premium solution for HR, payroll, benefits administration delivering superior control, lower risk, and enhanced employee engagement for growing companies.

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