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An Employer’s Guide to Retirement Plans

February 18, 2014 by  

Based on a study by {Hewitt Associates} in 2004, majority of the employees from mid-sized to large companies in the United States said that health insurance benefits are more important than other company compensations. But apart from health insurance, other companies also provide retirement plans for their trusted and qualified employees. In this article, you’ll understand further why it’s beneficial to have the pension scheme as part of your company’s benefit to employees.

In the United Kingdom, the government recently introduced the auto-enrolment scheme. Launched in early October 2012, auto-enrolment plan seek to improve the standard of living of millions of people when they retire. Employers in the UK have a major role to play to implement this new pension scheme. Once you start learning about auto-enrolment, you’re likely to have more questions in mind. If you need assistance on how to apply auto-enrolment, you can search for Aviva Auto Enrolment. Aviva is one of the leading insurance provider worldwide. They can provide you all the answers to your insurance problem.

According to InvestorGuide.com, there are two types of employer-sponsored retirement plans: qualified and non-qualified. If the employee meets the requirements set in the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Code and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1947 then they can obtain the qualified retirement plans. Non-qualified plans apply to those employees that either do not meet the IRS Code or the ERISA requirements. These are funded by employers and it’s their responsibility to explain to their employees that they cannot get the tax benefits provided to qualified plan holders. The benefits under this scheme are paid at the retirement age in the form of annuities, which are taxed as ordinary income tax or in lump sum payments.
Here are the tax benefits under the qualified pension scheme:

– Allow employers to deduct annual allowable contributions for each participant
– Earnings on the contributions are tax-deferred until withdrawn by the employer for each participant
– Some taxes can be deferred even further through a transfer into a different type of Individual Retirement Account (IRA)

Retirement scheme is part of the planning one does to be prepared for life after paid work ends, not just financially but in all aspects of life. By providing this benefit, you can be sure that you’ll attract reliable workers who’ll stay in your company for a long time.

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.

What is the Purpose of a Formal Service Award Program?

March 28, 2011 by  

The main point is that a formal service award program holds a company accountable to doing daily recognition. Think about that previous statement. Compare your company’s standards of how you handle daily recognition to others in your industry. Would yours be better or worse than most? Imagine a company that holds a beautiful annual event that includes a dinner at a banquet hall, where all people celebrating a years of service anniversary are accompanied by their spouse to be honored in front of their peers and recognized for their dedication to the company.

A company who makes the investment of money and time to go through the work of recognizing its most important assets, the people, is going to also be inclined to take care of daily recognition throughout the year aside from the formal event. A manager who has to prepare a two minute synopsis of the awarded employee is going to be paying closer attention to the tasks the employee works on. This manager will be inclined to give positive affirmations to the employee for a job well done leading up to the event.

In other words if your company does not have a formal event the managers will most likely not be motivated to give small forms of incentives and recognition to their employees. A company that doesn’t take the time to recognize an employees long term commitment is not going to retain their best employees.

Now if your company doesn’t have the budget for a big banquet there are other things you can do. A low cost alternative is to pull everyone together in a unit for a few minutes to take the time to formalize the service award recognition. You are accomplishing the praise portion in front of their peers.

Employees that decide to quit their jobs usually leave because of a bad relationship with their manager. They don’t quit on the company they quit on the manager, which usually means they find the need the leave the company. This problem stems from feeling un-appreciated. Managers need to find ways to show genuine interest in their employees and look for ways to give positive affirmations.

If your company is lacking a formal service award program and is also looking for guidance on what to do for daily recognition contact us today, we can help!

What Drives Employee Productivity?

March 24, 2011 by  

There are many answers to this question. We are all given the same amount of minutes in each hour of work each day. Some people seem to accomplish more with less effort. How do I become one of these people that gets more done in what appears to be less time? How do you help others become those people? First of all, your employees are hopefully doing work that they look forward to doing on a daily basis. If they are not, they will be tired and un-motivated if their core skill set is not being challenged. The answer to driving employee productivity has nothing to do with time; it has to do with harnessing more energy at the goal.

What drives a high energy level? Passion and a definitive purpose with a clear goal of what is to be achieved is what drives a person’s energy level. You, as a manager, must be certain that you have clearly set the guidelines of what is to be achieved so that your employees know what they are working toward. Take a look at the ways you engage the interest of your employees toward their goals on a daily basis. Small incentives and public recognition of the people who are doing the right activities will keep their energy level high while driving productivity.

I also suggest that you have personal consultations to engage your employees and help them understand their core skill sets. Employees who feel satisfied with their work is key to productivity and employee retention. If a skilled, outgoing nurse is limited to answering the phones for her department during the majority of her shift, it will not be long before she is looking to be transferred to a new department. Think of a purebred race horse that is given the task of working in a farmer’s field all day, pulling a plow, to till the ground. The horse will soon be unproductive as it is not doing what it is meant to do. Now, if this same race horse knew that the field that was being plowed is going to be turned into a race track the clear set goal will motivate the horse to finish the task.

If you are looking conversation topics you should enroll in the 1 Minute Manager. You will receive a thought-provoking email every day that will reinforce a positive mindset and give you some good ideas for managing your workforce.

Ideas for Employee Appreciation and Recognition

March 21, 2011 by  

When a new employee is hired they are given a job description and duties in which to perform.  They receive training and upon completion of that training they are expected to complete their daily tasks.  The desired productivity level is something that can not be forced onto an employee by an employer.  To increase productivity levels in employees they must feel appreciated and motivated.  When an employee is motivated, they take a personal investment into their work and often work harder and smarter, this not only benefits the company, but the employee as well through performance reviews, promotions, raises, etc.  When employee morale is low, it can be lifted through employee appreciation and recognition.

There are many cost-conscious solutions for an employee to be appreciated and given recognition.  Often, managers are so engrossed in their own work as well as managing staff members that they have little spare time or forget the value in showing appreciation to an employee.  Studies show that simple and inexpensive employee recognition ideas can be as effective as high-priced employee recognition initiatives.  Therefore, it is important as a manager to take into consideration this study and make it a priority to appreciate and recognize their employees…in doing so, they will reap the benefits from having staff members who are energized, passionate, and motivated about their work.

Think about it…you like to feel appreciated and receive recognition for your efforts whether it be in your personal or professional life.  How does it make you feel when you receive such?  Your employees are no different.  Below are some employee appreciation and recognition ideas that require very little cost to your healthcare organization.

Handwritten note. This is a simple way to show appreciation and can be left on at the employee’s office or work station.  Be sure to make the connection between the employee and his/her contributions to the organization…this will make the employee feel that their work is important.

A summons. Often when an employee is called to a manager’s office it is to be reprimanded for something.  Change this up.  Summon an employee to your office just to say, “thank you” for something that they’ve done.  This will do wonders and not only boost employee morale, but strengthen your relationship with him/her.

Treat them special. This doesn’t mean to play favorites.  Assign special assignments to those that take initiative.  This is a great way to keep these employees motivated and energized.  This is also a display of trust and it helps the employee to perform important tasks faithfully.

Edible treats. Distributing edible treats such as chocolates, donuts, bagels, etc. amongst team members when targets are achieved is a great way to express employee recognition.

Praise. Inform top management of an individual or team’s accomplishments.  Individual recognition in the presence of management helps generate a sense of pride in the employee or team towards their work.

Have a party. Everyone loves pizza!  Order some pizzas in for lunch to celebrate an achievement or accomplishment of an individual or team.  Another option (weather dependent) is to have a picnic on campus.  Extend the allotted time for lunch and transform it into a party of sorts.

Take a picture. This is an excellent way to engage employees in their work.  Simply take advantage of the various photograph opportunities that exist in any given work day.  Take pictures of your employees performing their roles as care givers and display these images on a board near reception or on the walls throughout the hallways for others to see.

How organizations approach appreciation and recognition will differ, but every organization should have some form of a recognition strategy in which their primary goal is to create a culture of recognition.  The above are just a few examples of inexpensive recognition which may lead to impressive results from an individual or team.  For more information on this topic, contact a Recognition Expert at Award Concepts today!

View also:  Employee Happiness Kit

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It: Reviewing Your Employee Recognition Options

March 8, 2011 by  

In our lives we have routines…ways of doing things…and setups…

Have you ever heard the expression, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” Most people have. Many Human Resources managers take this stance when it comes to their organization’s employee recognition program. Essentially, they believe that if there is no evidence of a real problem, and fixing the “problem” wouldn’t improve their years of service program, then there is no logical reason to waste energy and time (theirs or anybody else’s) trying to fix it.

I understand where they are coming from. The process of reviewing vendor options isn’t normally at the top of any HR professional’s to-do list. But at the same time, I feel like it is the responsibility of these people to periodically review their options when it comes to their organization’s recognition program vendor. Your employees depend on you to look out for their best interests. This applies to their insurance benefits, payroll timeliness, retirement packages AND employee recognition program.

Change is okay. Do not be afraid of change. The constant evaluation of the effectiveness of an organization results in the need for HR professionals to frequently research and advocate change.

If you feel like the concept of reviewing your current vendor against the dozens of other recognition companies out there is a little overwhelming, do not worry. Award Concepts will make it easy for you. We can administer fully-customized, anonymous surveys to see what your employees think about your current program. These surveys are at no cost to you. We guarantee that you’ll discover something new when surveying your employees. They are unique, hard-working and opinionated individuals; they will let you know what they really think about their recognition program.

Some other things to think about:

– Don’t minimize the value of an effective recognition program or the damage of an ineffective one. Research shows that the more satisfied employees are with the organization’s recognition practices the more productive they are. They’re also less likely to leave your company.

– Don’t treat everyone the same. One size does not fit all when it comes to employee recognition. Take the time to get to know your employees. Find out what motivates them. Respect people’s differences.

– Don’t rely on a traditional award like a logo’d t-shirt or coffee mug as the gift of choice for your employees. Think creatively. We offer our clients a wide variety of fun, modern awards that are useful for your employees.

Looking for a quote? Give Award Concepts a call today (1-800-659-7801). We’ll respond quickly with a competitive recognition program quote that will motivate, engage and inspire your employees.

And remember – just because you don’t think something is broken doesn’t necessarily mean that it cannot be improved upon.

The Relevance of Service Awards: Why a Service Award Program is Essential

March 8, 2011 by  

People want to be recognized. People need to be recognized.

The questions you need to be asking yourself: Are you recognizing them? If not, why aren’t you? And if you are recognizing them, how effective are your methods of employee recognition?

These are important questions. Coincidentally, they’re also the questions that you don’t normally ask yourself on a day to day basis. Recognizing an employee’s hard work and dedication to your organization is what a Service Award Program is all about.

So how does a service award benefit the company as a whole? In simple terms, a happy worker is a good worker. Your employees’ level of motivation has an impact on the quality or quantity of their work. Increased employee productivity and retention in turn benefits the corporate bottom line.

Historically, service awards have been synonymous with employee recognition. Service awards are a way of recognizing employees for predetermined years of service with the company. On milestone anniversaries businesses will offer gifts to commemorate the occasion, usually giving the employee a selection of gifts to choose from. The traditional method of recognition was for an organization to offer gifts to their employees by means of selection out of a printed award catalog. This is still very common, but today more and more companies are offering gifts to their employees via company branded websites, which happens to be one of Award Concepts’ specialties.

Over the past two years, we have invested into the development of “Software as a Service (SaaS)” employee recognition solutions to help fuel your organization’s recognition program. We’ve developed Recognition Portal™ websites that are customized to your company. We have established an Admin Recognition Portal, which is geared towards program administrators, and we also have an Awardee Recognition Portal which focuses on the award recipients. Each portal provides useful tools for day-to-day recognition that will help create a culture of recognition and fit in with your total recognition strategy.

In addition to the recent change in technology within the employee recognition industry, the awards themselves have also changed over the years. An effective mix of award types helps all types of employee recognition, from everyday contributions to major achievements and milestones. Award Concepts offers a wide and varied selection of awards that range from lifestyle gifts to customized emblematic awards. We literally have hundreds of gift selections ranging from binoculars to high-definition televisions, iPods to grandfather clocks, and digital cameras to crystal bowls. Try to think of any award you’d like to provide your employees; we have it.

A service award program is an essential part of every organization. If you don’t have one right now, you should. Contact Award Concepts for more information regarding Service Award Programs.

Cash Awards: They Cost More Than You May Have Expected

February 23, 2011 by  

Occasionally in our journey to find organizations we can help, we come upon groups that use cash awards to recognize their caregivers.  Let’s take a look at “cash vs gifts”.  Cash awards have a few perceived advantages on face value…we are told cash awards are easy to dispense and usually the comment, “my folks want cash”.  As I said, “on face value” these may seem to be two good reasons…but, the easy answer most often is not the best answer.  In the case of cash awards for recognition, it really is not the best for both your organization financially or for your caregivers.  In this article, I will give you some excellent tools to use to make an informed decision on how to effectively recognize your caregivers for your employee recognition program.  Are you ready to read more???

The Marathon of Employee Recognition

December 1, 2010 by  

Award Concepts' Brian Zwolinski with 2010 Chicago Marathon medal

I am not a professional runner – far from it, actually. I had never run more than 3-4 miles at any given time in my life. But earlier this year, I decided to challenge myself to do something that I never thought was possible: run a marathon.

By means of an intense 18-week training program, I gradually built up my stamina and improved my technique to get to the point where I was physically (and mentally) capable of running a continuous 26.2 miles uninterrupted. On October 10th, I completed the 2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. I’d say it was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

It was also one of the most fulfilling accomplishments of my life.

When I saw the finish line in front of me at the end of the race, I had such a wide range of emotions all at the same time. Pride. Happiness. Relief. Excitement. And I thought to myself, “Employee recognition should feel like that.” Those who receive effective recognition in the workplace should be fulfilled, proud, happy and excited. And those who provide it should also feel similar emotions. The right kind of appreciation can help to make a boring day an exceptional one. It’s no secret that people love recognition and praise.

Recognition isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. I’d like to further detail how the process of running a marathon can correlate to effective employee recognition:

1) Training – Without a strict diet and regular exercise routine in place, I never would’ve been able to run the marathon. Your staff members should similarly be trained to engage your organization’s employees. Subscribe them to our One-Minute Manager for daily email reminders on recognition.

2) Purpose – Running a marathon isn’t easy, but all that hard work pays off on race day. Likewise, you need to be conscious of your employees’ feelings throughout the calendar year. Are they happy? Are they stressed? Do they feel like they’re being appreciated? Employee recognition isn’t a ‘once a year’ thing. Talk to your employees. Ask them questions. See what makes them tick.

3) Community – One of the best aspects of the marathon for me was the incredible moral support I received from other runners, volunteers and fans during the race. This type of community and support should be evident throughout your organization. Use your awards program to build a culture of recognition and appreciation. Creating this culture will help to support all employees in continuing to serve your customers with excellent service.

4) Recognition – My name was listed in the Chicago Tribune as an official Marathon finisher. It meant a lot for me to have a published record of my achievement. If your organization has a corporate newsletter in place, you should list all employees who are celebrating their anniversaries each month or every quarter. If you do not have a newsletter, add a new page to your website or intranet. Employees who read these resources will congratulate each other throughout the week. This is a free and easy way to incorporate peer-to-peer recognition into your corporate structure. The best part: it works.

5) Rewards – I have some great keepsakes from my race, including an engraved medal that I have on display at home, and a shirt that tells the world I finished a marathon. Tangible awards act as an excellent reminder to employees that their company appreciates them and cares about their work ethic. Awards can range from standard items like jewelry, watches and clocks to more modern gifts like iPods, luggage sets and bikes. Our programs incorporate a wide variety of substantial and meaningful award selections that your employees will cherish for years to come.

For more information regarding the long-term benefits of effective employee recognition, please contact Award Concepts today. Our tools, tips and techniques will help you develop and implement a recognition program that will achieve the goals your company seeks.

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