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How to Write a Wellness Plan

July 10, 2014 by  

Your body is your temple.  You only have one body.  There are so many different phrases and sayings, but they all focus on one thing; take care of your body by making healthy decisions today for tomorrow.

In order to guide your choices and to reach your goals for a healthier you, it is important to establish and follow a personal wellness plan.  If you are currently experiencing health issues, this is even more essential to implement into your daily activities.

It isn’t difficult to put a personal wellness plan together.  It’ll take some calculating and a little research and can be put together using Microsoft Excel quite easily.

How to Write a Wellness Plan

The purpose in creating a wellness plan and “putting it to paper” is to identify your health goals and provide a plan to follow to reach these goals.  Even the best intentions can quickly be forgotten when not written down due to the day-to-day, but when you take the time to research and put a plan in writing, it is easier to hold oneself accountable.

  1. Decide whether you will be focusing on the short-term or the long-term.  A short-term wellness plan is used to target and correct specific health problems.  For instance, high cholesterol would be something a short-term wellness plan would focus on and the goal of this plan would be to identify ways to lower your cholesterol.  A long-term wellness plan focuses on your daily health for 6 months or more.  Included in this would be weight control, muscle build, heart rates/pulse, etc.
  2. What are your goals?  Does cancer run in the family?  Do you plan to get pregnant in the near future?  These are reasons for having a health and wellness plan.  Develop a plan to help prevent cancer.  Develop a plan to provide for a healthy pregnancy.  And so on.  Do you get colds every winter?  Be proactive and put together a short-term plan to reduce your chances of getting a cold this coming winter.  Identify your goals and then put together the wellness plan to help you achieve these goals.
  3. Identify the steps that will help you reach and achieve your goals.  Examples of steps to help would be:
  • Recipes for healthy meals
  • Consumption of known herbs or medicines for your symptoms or for prevention
  • Exercise regimen
  • Rewards that you give yourself for staying on the plan or reaching identified milestones within your plan

The rewards step is important because it provides a way to identify milestones within your plan that once reached and the reward is made it helps to reinforce the overall goal of the plan and the greater reward down the road.  It is hard to stick to a plan when you don’t see any immediate results, often with a wellness plan you won’t see immediate results, but by rewarding yourself along the way, in a sense, you are seeing results.

No two wellness plans will be the same.  You need to take into consideration your health goal, your daily activities, your diet, and what motivators you can identify to help reward you an keep you on track to reaching the overall goal of your short-term or long-term wellness plan.

Managers are Key for Successful Employee Recognition

July 8, 2014 by  

If you have a job in today’s economy you’re quite thankful, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t thinking about or looking for a position at another company.  No, it is still important to keep employees engaged and to show that they are appreciated.  Just because the economic environment of today is brutal does not mean that employees aren’t interviewing or considering changing employers.

An Employment Confidence Survey by found that 42 percent of respondents stated that they expect to leave their current job within 24 months.  This should cause alarm to all companies and human resource professionals as this is a sign of what could cause a difficult employee retention challenge in the future.

A wise man once said that a company is only as strong as its weakest employee…I actually just said that and I borrowed and revised it from the old adage, “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”  This is so true!  As an employer, your greatest asset and competitive weapon is in your employees and the talent (natural and learned) that they bring to your organization.  As such, recognition programs must first focus on managers and their ownership of recognition and retention practices.

With the goal of retaining talent now and as the economy recovers and more and more job opportunities become available, managers can help with company’s employee retention success by the following the 3 P’s of Employee Recognition Tactics.


This is important.  Simply put, be punctual when recognizing.  The most effective recognition is when the recognition is timely.  Although managers should strive to be physically present when giving recognition, business travel and remote locations can make this difficult.  Given these situations, a timely follow-up phone call or video conference should occur…email as the last resort (let’s face it…its impersonal).


All good intentions can be lost with one simple misspelling or mispronunciation.  When publicly recognizing employees from a manager who doesn’t work with the employees on a day-to-day basis it is imperative for that manager to review and practice of first and last names, job titles, descriptions, purpose of recognition, etc.  A botched presentation as a result to an employee means one thing – you didn’t take the time to get to know me, so how can you possibly care what I did.  This will kill morale and motivation fast and create employee disengagement.  As a manager, be sure to know who made a difference and whey and recognize!


The purpose of recognition is to recognize an individual for an achievement.  Thus, recognize that employee and personalize the recognition to him/her.  This can be done through the presentation materials as well as in the recognition presentation.  If presenting to a group of people this can prove to be a bit more difficult, but when you have an opportunity to recognize individually, spend the time to put some thought into how the presentation will be made.  Doing this can go a long way at building a great bond between a manager and employee and the bond of that employee with their employer.

In closing, when acknowledging look nice, offer a firm handshake, don’t just speak…praise the employee for their contributions!  As a manager, you set the standards and provide the example for others to follow.

Additional resources and articles for recognition presentations can be found at:

Low Cost Staff Appreciation Can Produce High Rewards

June 30, 2014 by  

Simple acknowledgement can go a long way.  As a manager, your employees seek your feedback, positive praise, and recognition regarding their performance.  This needs to be done on a consistent and ongoing basis.  Managers who express gratitude to their staff of employees establish a deeper personal connection with them and open the door for stronger communication and loyalty.  This can be achieved through simple acknowledgement and staff appreciation.

In order to create this connection between manager and employee, you need to decide what types of situations you want to acknowledge and reward.  This will become your list of staff appreciation ideas.  Staff appreciation ideas, such as record sales by month, record attendance, or record order volume, are all achievements that your organization and it’s managers can acknowledge and reward at a moment’s notice.

The list below offers additional staff appreciation ideas:

  • Celebrate the anniversary of each employee’s start date
  • Celebrate employee’s birthdays/engagements/additions to family/purchase of new home/etc.
  • A staff team initiates a new program that helps you acquire new clients or gets existing clients to return
  • Record days without accident
  • Factory workers respond to a rush order with speed and accuracy
  • Staff member receives a thank-you or recommendation letter from client that was addressed to a manager

To help identify items to include on your staff appreciation list, ask the following questions:  What could employees do to make the organization…better, faster, more efficient, more money, inviting, fun, etc.  Answers to these questions are the things that deserve recognition within your company or organization.

Employees who are recognized through staff appreciation programs offer many benefits, including increased productivity and attendance.  As a result, these benefits will lead to greater efficiency and profitability for your business.  Appreciation builds a bridge between you and your staff and in doing so helps your staff see you as a person/friend/collegue and not just the boss.

When you actively participate in acknowledgement of your employees you can expect things to change.  Employees who are recognized are typically more productive, less likely to be absent, and accept change with more ease compared to employees who are not recognized.

Don’t hate, appreciate!

Reducing Health Care Costs With Wellness Programs

June 22, 2014 by  

Healthcare costs continue to rise and for the foreseeable future, will likely continue to do so.  As a result, many organizations have turned to wellness programs as a way to strike a balance between becoming more efficient and offering benefits that will attract top talent.

A Deloitte 2011 “Top Five Total Rewards Priorities Survey” discovered that over the next one to three years some 60% of employed consumers indicated they plan to actively participate in a wellness and disease management programs to maximize their health status.  Many of the survey respondents expressed concern with being able to afford health care insurance in retirement and as such acknowledged the advantages to living a healthier lifestyle now to help offset insurance costs later in life.

According to the Center of Disease Control, nationally 65% of people are overweight or obese, and many struggle with associated physical conditions such as high blood pressure and cholesterol.  The Wellness Council of America found that for every $1 invested into a wellness program that a savings of $3 in health care costs. With a depressed economy and companies searching for ways to save money and reduce costs, perhaps a wellness program deserves consideration.


Last year Xceed Financial Credit Union did the research and responded by offering health incentives to promote their employees well-being.

In creating its wellness program, Xceed challenged its internal “event and promotion committee,” called Team Xceed made up of 11 associates from across the organization, to research other wellness programs within and outside the industry. The team then proposed its own program that focused on several core elements that play a role in a person’s overall health: physical fitness, community involvement, environmental “green” efforts, personal development, and weight loss.

Here’s how it works. Points are assigned to all types of activities like running, playing volleyball, volunteering, donating blood, composting at home, taking a college course, cooking healthy or even carpooling to work. Associates log their personal achievements on a daily and quarterly basis, and a cash payout of $300 is awarded to each employee who hits the 1,000-point mark by the end of the year.

In its inaugural year, 128 associates out of 213 participated in the program, with an accumulated point total of 104,603–representing an average of 817 points per person. And 56 associates broke the 1,000-point barrier. Associates are encouraged to send Team Xceed new ideas on how to accrue points and so far the feedback has been very positive. For example, one new associate is a guide-dog volunteer while another is part of a rowing club and those activities were then added to the online activity report.

The program also offers printed information on wellness tips on Xceed’s intranet and in the associate newsletter. In 2011, the credit union also hosted its first-ever health fair that included 28 vendors. Staffers at the corporate headquarters were able to meet one-on-one and learn more about their benefits and options for a healthier lifestyle.

“It feels good to contribute to the health and well-being of our associates,” said Teresa Freeborn, Xceed Financial president/CEO. “We want to do all we can to help stabilize insurance costs, which is why we’ve invested in our own custom wellness program. Any reduction in insurance fees could then be passed on to our associates.”

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, it now costs employers an estimated $13,000 annually to provide premium health care benefits to a typical employee and his or her dependents, and that figure has gone up 10% each year for the past decade. Of that annual amount, almost $10,000 is paid by the employer, and overweight and obese employees incur more than $1,500 in additional costs for the employer each year.

Thanksgiving Day 2011

November 29, 2011 by  

Howdy y’all!!!  Last year, I posted an article titled, “Thanksgiving Day 2010” and I’d like to continue the tradition…even if I’m a little late.  In keeping with the tradition of providing you an opportunity to get to know me on a bit of a personal level while not talking much business, here it goes…

CHANGE.  During the past two months, there has been a lot of change in my life and moving forward into 2012, it looks like there will continue to be a lot of change…and yet my piggy bank remains near empty.  Let me provide some insight as to this change:

  • Got engaged to a Southern Belle from Alabama.
  • Accepted a new role with AC which brought me back to Chicago.  Yeah…that might upset some of you Southerners that I’ve been calling on over the past few years, but the truth is I was born a Yankee and have always been one deep down, even though I loved my time in the South, I really missed home…so I was pretty thrilled to learn about this new opportunity.  Please don’t hate on me too much as I will still oversee and manage the Southeast Region.  This new position gives me additional territory while also getting me more involved with our marketing efforts and Software as a Service (SaaS) development.
  • Rented “Martens Manor” aka my foreclosure rehab project of the last three years, aka my first home to whom appear to be “perfect renters”.  A young couple named Gary and Rachel and Rachel’s daughter who is in the 10th grade.  Rachel sends me text messages with pictures like…”check out what we did to the bar, I bet you miss this” and “Gary borrowed the power washer from work, the driveway looks new”.  They signed a two year lease to remain in the same school district until Rachel’s daughter graduates high school.  Did I mention, Rachel’s from the North…instant connection.  Perfect renters.
  • As part of the rental agreement, there were some items that needed to be completed  to finish the renovation of Martens Manor.  My dad came down to help.  He wishes he hadn’t.  We made a great team, but I think he’s still recovering from all the work.  It is amazing the things that you live with(out) and then when it comes time to sell or rent your house you fix…why did I not make the repairs/improvements so that I could have enjoyed them???  Check out the before (at time of purchase) pics and after (at time of rental) pics on my facebook account.
  • Moved back to Illinois and (temporarily) living with roommates that prefer to be called Mom and Dad.
  • Got un-engaged to previously mentioned Southern Belle.
  • Started my new role at AC early…the position doesn’t officially start until January 1, but after working from home for the past three years and setting my own hours/schedule, why would I not be anxious to go into the office 8-5 or 6 or 6:30 each day?  Love my job.
  • Currently in the process of re-branding Award Concepts.  Want a description of who or what Award Concepts is?  THE BEST.  ‘Nuff said.  Not enough said?  Invite me to meet with you so I can explain further…send me an email.
  • Oh yeah…I also moved my bank accounts from Bank of America.  ;)

So, this Thanksgiving holiday, I am thankful for the change in my life.  Both business and professional.  The ups and the downs.  As I write from my desk here at Award Concepts, knowing the change taking place within these walls, I’m excited about the new products and services we’ll soon be offering to our clients.  It’s going to be a really fun year and I hope to meet and speak with each of you at some point in 2012…I have lots to talk about!  Last year our “product turned awesome” was our Badge ACcent…this year we have a LOT to unveil!

Thank you for the opportunity to partner with you…I look forward to getting to know each of you on a more personal level over the years.


Carl H. Martens
Regional Sales Manager

ph: 630-513-7804 x233

Duke University Hospital Gives Back to Troops

June 27, 2011 by  

Our men and women who are oversees on the front lines sacrifice a lot.  Spearheaded by Deidra Powell and in conjunction with Military Missions in Action and Duke University Hospital’s employee recognition committee, they’ve recognized these sacrifices and have made an effort to give back.

A single mother, Deidra Powell felt lost when one of her two sons left for his first deployment with the U.S. Marines and her second son left for boot camp.

She decided to get active and get to work.  She led a ministry at her church to send care packages to military service men and women overseas, and coordinated visits to a hospital in Bethesda, MD, to visit wounded Marines there.

Powell is a senior information technology analyst at the Duke Clinical Research Institute, and on Sunday she joined a group of volunteers in the hospital cafeteria to sort and put together 1,000 care packages for Marines from the 3rd Battalion 6th Marine Regiment, known as the “Devil Dogs,” that’s based out of Camp Lejeune.  These care packages contain items such as toothbrushes, socks, wipes, Pringles, and shaving cream.  The items had been collected at the hospital over a month’s time to send to the Marines in Afghanistan.

Brian Anderson, assistant director of human resources at Duke University Hospital said, “I didn’t know it was going to be this large”.

The hospital’s employee recognition committee helped to organize the drive as part of an effort to give back to the community, as well as to recognize employees for their work and contributions.

When I saw this come across my news feed, I felt it was something worth sharing with those of you that manage your hospital’s employee recognition programs.  What a great campaign to involve those from the community as well as fellow care givers to help recognize the efforts and sacrifices of those who are serving in our Armed Forces.

Award Concepts applauds Duke University Hospital for taking part in this campaign.  We are willing to offer our design department services to hospitals wanting to put on similar campaigns and needing materials to market the effort to their employees and communities.  Contact us today if you would like to utilize these services.


Points Based Recognition Programs Exposed

April 26, 2011 by  

The “traditional” way to recognize employees is through service awards, commemorating a milestone anniversary for years of service with a company…5 years, 10 years, and so on. In recent years there has been a push towards incentive recognition. In this article, I will expel some of the claims you may have heard and enlighten you to the truths about incentive awards, performance based recognition, and points programs. I’ll admit, in doing research I found it difficult to find information disputing some of the claims of the incentive industry. When you “Google”, you will come up with mostly positive articles extolling results. My caution to offer as you read…note the majority of these articles are written or the study funded by companies that are in the incentive industry…they have service and product they want to convince you on and sell. The money for the research comes from the companies that want to sell the service…my discerning mind warns me to be somewhat wary and read with a critical eye.  The truths and myths about incentive recognition are exposed.

What most incentive companies promote are points based gift redemption programs. The performance based rewards they promote are in the form of gifts that are redeemed by accumulated points that employees earn based on performance standards. These companies want to sell you gifts…that is how they make their money. If anything, they want to expand income from a client by expanding their involvement with a company from traditional years of service awards to also selling them on the idea of further business in supplying gifts for a points based program.

In reading white papers and studies, I’ve noticed that many imply that “traditional service awards” for years of service recognition are meant to motivate employees. This is misleading. I have never asserted that a service award program is to motivate employees. Instead, we feel a service award program works in tandem with an over-all effort made by the company to create a culture of belonging, investment, and “family” in an organization. Traditional service awards are one component of an over-all strategy. They have never been sold as a “motivator”. These published incentive articles use this assertion to weaken their competition (a service award provider) and steer you to their service and ultimately the expanded gift business they can promote.

In research, you will find studies about performance incentives. Be careful when reading data or assertions. There is much study on the effects of incentive performance “pay” (cash)…basically more income for more output. It is easy to study the return on investment in behavior. You will find though that the incentive industry begins to blur their references of “performance based” recognition and adopt the results of “inventive performance pay (cash)” to sell their ideas. In my opinion, this really is an “apples and oranges” situation and not a valid extrapolation. Cash performance rewards and gift performance rewards will not give the same results…the studies show cash yielding double the response of a gift.

Jerry Pounds has an interesting perspective which he writes about in his eBook, titled Incentive Programs:  Manipulative Quick-Fixes That Destroy Employ Engagment.  He talks of how companies endeavor to build “team” in their workforce.  In some ways, performance based rewards can actually work against the “team” goal.  Is the performance reward elevating the individual above the team?

I feel that there certainly are some areas where performance based rewards are applicable.  I feel these are situations when the performance of the individual is tantamount and the team has less importance…such as, health and wellness program that promotes individual weight loss, or a safety program when the need is to promote vigilance within the individual.

Another thing to be aware of in points based incentive performance programs…the employee earns points based upon performance parameters the company establishes.  The provider keeps the “bank” of the points accumulated by the individual employees.  The company also develops a gift selection catalog that can be accessed by the employee to cash in their accumulated points for gifts of varying “point” value redemption.  A provider will want to sell you “points” as the point is earned rather than when the points are redeemed.  They know that points based gift redemption programs are structured to incent people to earn points.  The high quality gifts are not attainable until you earn many points.  Rarely will a provider wait to earn their income until your employee redeems their points for a gift.  This would create a cash-flow dry period for them.  They cannot provide you services without income.  The implications of this for you is that you as a company have now expended money for not yet received product.  It becomes difficult for you to suspend or end the program any time down the road if you no longer can afford or feel it lacks merit.  At that time, your employees who still have “banked” points would be forced to cash in for “less than” gifts or will not even exercise their privilege.

Lastly, I believe the number 1 reason an employee leaves a company or there is poor performance in a team is because of the inadequacy of their immediate supervisor.  I feel that before a company embarks on a performance based reward program, they should first compute the cost.  Once a cost has been calculated, now instead consider how that allocation could be applied to supporting, training, and affirming the front line supervisory personnel…concern for their well-being both physically, mentally, and emotionally.  If your front line supervisors are happy and healthy…you will have a super engaged workforce!

Are Gift Cards Tax Exempt?

April 21, 2011 by  

I’ve been asked the following question many times; are gift cards tax exempt?  I figured I’d do a little research and see what I might find.

There are certain gift cards that fall under the IRS code for tax exempt treatment. As long as the gift card can not be used for cash, paying bills, etc., and are part of a defined benefit plan for gift selections, such as, an award program, they are non-taxable. The code states: according to Prop Regs 1.274-8, the exemption for employee acheivement award applied to “tangible personal property” that is transferred to an employee by reason of the employee’s length of service of safety achievement. Also, the exemption is limited to $400 or $1600 depending on the qualification of the award plan.

“Tangible personal property” does not include cash or a certificate (other than a nonnegotiable certificate conferring only the right to receive tangible personal property). If the certificate entitles an employee to receive a reduction of the balance due on his account with the issuer of the certificate, the certificate is a negotiable certificate and is not tangible personal property for purposes of this section. Other items that will not be considered to be items of tangible personal property include vacations, meals, lodging, tickets to theater or sporting events, and stocks, bonds, and other securities.

Also, the employee awards must not be disguised compensation.

Therefore, if the certificates or VISA cards are nonnegotiable certificates to receive tangible personal property, subject to the dollar limitations, no taxable wages to the employee exits.

I do not want to take a position on whether a VISA card is taxable or not, it is still best to consult with your own tax advisors, but this is what research I found.

Great Products for Breast Cancer Awareness

April 18, 2011 by  

Let Award Concepts help you find the perfect gift to make your breast cancer awareness event a success. With a range of styles and price points to choose from, our products offer something for every promotion and every budget!

Contact us today for pricing and product availability! 1-800-659-7801.

Welcome Spring!

April 5, 2011 by  

Spring and “springtime” refer to the season, and broadly to ideas of rebirth, renewal and regrowth.  It is a time of change welcomed by the end of a cold winter.  Spring to me is a time to be optimistic about the new year.  In with the new; out with the old mentality.  With that comes change in both my personal and professional life.

I had the opportunity to pick up one of our (Award Concepts‘) owners, Bob at the airport here in Atlanta last month.  We stopped by my house and I gave him the tour of the “Southeastern office”.  He was in town because his sister Judy was performing in a play just north of my residence in Commerce, GA.  Five years ago, when I lived in Chicago and worked at the corporate office, Judy worked at AC as a customer care representative.  That being said, I thought it’d be nice to accompany Bob and see Judy and her husband Al.  Prior to the play we sat out on the patio and as is the case when I’m around Bob, we got to talking business.  The most puzzling thing to an owner of a company and to a salesman of that company is why isn’t everyone a client…I mean…we sure feel like we are the best in our industry.  We searched for the answer and concentrated on this question for awhile.

I presented the idea that recognition programs are like cable television.  During the course of the year you receive promotions from many cable providers, but unless you’ve experienced problems with your current service you’re likely to not even think twice about switching providers.  When was the last time that I “shopped” cable providers in my area?  In the four years I’ve lived at my house I have had the same cable provider and I’ve never looked at any others.  Wow, I finally found myself in the shoes of the people that I call upon.  Being a salesman is tough and requires persistence…y’all as administrators of your recognition program seldom look at what other options are available and rarely change providers.  When was the last time you seriously gave another company a look?  When was the last time you changed providers?  It has probably been awhile hasn’t it?  I understand, heck…I can relate.  It is important for you to know a lot has changed in the recognition industry in the past 1-3 years as there is a big push towards providing Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions in addition to common service award programs.

Cable television isn’t really a big deal in the scheme of things.  This is where my analogy gets a little weak.  Recognition is most likely not your primary job function, but unlike cable television, it is a big deal.  Recognition when done right becomes a way of life.  It can transform a workplace and create engaged workers who are appreciated and feel that their work is of value.  We here at Award Concepts, are advocates for creating a culture of recognition.  We realize that no two organizations are the same and that is why each program we craft is unique to each organization.  We take a different approach to recognition, serving as consultants we lean forward when we listen and the end result is a program that has your name stamped on it…not the stamp of some other company.  Award Concepts does not sell recognition programs, we sell the service of crafting custom recognition programs.

You might be wondering if I did anything about my cable.  The answer is yes.  Upon this epiphany  I came home and contacted the providers in my area to see what was available.  I changed providers.  One company (like Award Concepts), had significantly greater value added benefits in the form of SaaS solutions.  Services that I had no idea even existed.  Go figure!

  • Control my cable and recordings from my iPhone
  • Watch television and my DVR from my iPhone
  • Watch ALL Chicago sports (my previous company did not offer a NBA package)  Go Bulls!!!  Derrick Rose for MVP!
  • More channels
  • A reduced bill

The above are some of the new benefits that I enjoy.  There are others, but these are what stood out to me.  Everyone has there triggers.  I’m still searching for a cable company that lets me tell them exactly what I want and craft a subscription package accordingly.  Lucky for you, when it comes to your recognition program you do have options and one of those is Award Concepts and they will listen and craft a program specific to you.  Start a conversation today!

Spring is a time for change.  Below are some images from the 1st quarter of this year and what has changed in my life.  Enjoy!  (Click on “View with PicLens” to see image captions)

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