Happy Friday! Many managers got up a little earlier today so they could stop by the donut store on the way into the office this morning. Who doesn’t like a donut after all, right? As soon as word gets out that someone walked in with donuts heads pop up over cubicles like a bunch of ostriches. Once everyone grabs their favorite and a cup of coffee then the sugar slug soon begins to set in and motivation slowly fades away leaving only thoughts of lunch and the great escape for the weekend.
Bring in the donuts on Friday and real incentives for every day. Incentives that make a difference to employees and their families. Something that makes life a little easier these days is an incentive to many who are trying to make ends meet. Insurance incentives that provide supplemental coverage to help fill in the gaps or reduce deductibles such as dental, vision, prescription drugs and telemedicine reaching a doctor or nurse 24/7 for minor illness. These incentives will benefit the entire family without a considerable expense to you, their employers.
Suggestions to Drive Production & Quality:
Training Bank – Provide each employee an allotted amount of hours per month to train in a department from an approved list. The only requirement is provide an idea that may enhance their own department and how they benefited personally from the experience. Create a chart noting progress to be discussed during their One-on-Ones.
Job Swap – Every second Friday job swap for 1/2 a day to promote cross training and job advancement. This includes swapping with the boss, a big incentive!
Assign an Incentive – Survey your staff on what improvement should be tied to what incentive asking them to submit the rules and their ideas for approval before beginning.
Motivate the Manager – During alone time have an honest conversation with yourself writing down how you will motivate and reward yourself so that you can in turn inspire others.
Hire for Attitude – On occasion we hire just below the bar because the candidate has dynamite and contagious personality, this is a must do to help stimulate the group. An employee who may lake the highest level of skill but can add a lot to the team is a true benefit.
Suggestion for Fun Department Events:
Celebrate the seasons (fall, winter, spring & summer) with themed events that the employees vote on.
Host meetings outside on beautiful spring days, a terrific incentive.
Tap into your employee’s skills and ask them to present training, provide beneficial tips and suggestions for incentives.
Coordinate a lunch, happy hour, bowling or other outside the office event for your department.
Organize a joint potluck with other departments to foster team work.
Have a beautiful pet contest where each employee provides a picture and brief bio about their pet.
Best foot forward sock contest complete with runway walk, move over Tyra Banks.
Entrepreneur Award for the best idea to increase productivity or improve quality incentive.
As with any well developed wine, you must first let it breath to fully appreciate it. None of us want to spend a gorgeous spring day at work, give and your will receive. Give the chance to learn, give time, give space and yes, give them a little bit of freedom to breath and have some fun!
There are literally thousands of membership based organizations in the U.S. Tradesmen, artists, salesmen and others who look for ways to increase business, meet people with similar interests and enjoy membership provided perks.
How do memberships use affordable benefits and incentives?
To Increase Membership
A Retention Tool
To Ease the Pain of a Dues Increase
A Differentiator to Distngquish Your Organization Over Another
Since many of your members may be uninsured or under insured, Strategic Concepts and our strategic partners have combined basic insurance benefits and incentives for your organization. Each plan can be tailored to meet your member’s needs and are implemented easily with no fuss.
A telemedicine connects members 24 hours, 7 days a week via telephone and email with U.S.-based, licensed physicians and board-certified specialists who have independently contracted to be participating providers in this Physician Network. It is a convenient and affordable alternative that increases access to physician care, while lowering healthcare costs.
According to the Wellness Councils of America (WELCOA), as many as 70% of doctor office visits and emergency room visits are unnecessary. While the care was necessary, the travel and cost of the visit could be avoided. Telemedicine provides a more convenient, and cost-effective alternative to the high cost setting of a doctor’s office or the ER. This service can reduce healthcare costs, maximize physician access for rural residents, and offer convenience without sacrificing quality of care.
This program provides access to physicians for telephone or secure email medical consultations. The medical services offered during a consultation can range from general advice to a diagnosis, recommendating treat, and prescribing medication, when appropriate.
URAC - An independent, nonprofit organization, is well-known as a leader in promoting health care quality through its accreditation and certification programs. URAC offers a wide range of quality benchmarking programs and services that keep pace with the rapid changes in the health care system, and provide a symbol of excellence for organizations to validate their commitment to quality and accountability.
NCQA - The National Committee for Quality Assurance is a private, 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving health care quality. The NCQA seal is a widely recognized symbol of quality. Organizations incorporating the seal into advertising and marketing materials must first pass a rigorous, comprehensive review. For consumers and employers, the seal is a reliable indicator that an organization is well-managed and delivers high quality care and service.
VerifPoint – A leading Credentials Verification Organization (CVO) based in Lake Forest, California. VerifPoint offers credential verification services to improve and expedite the credentialing process of healthcare providers. Fully certified by NCQA (The National Committee for Quality Assurance) and accredited by URAC, VerifPoint provides primary source verification that meets industry and regulatory standards such as NCQA, TJC, URAC, CMS and AAAHC.
Flexible limited benefit association group health insurance plan with costs controlled by the member based on the plan selection designed to pay for:
Doctor Office Visits
Emergency Room Visits
Hospitalization and Surgery
Dental and Vision
Life and Disability
Gift Cards and Incentives
Discount gift cards, travel, restaurants and VIP packages.
Contact us to learn how your organization can grow your membership with other services.
Imagery is what provides us a view of the finish line right before we reach out to touch it. We know what may lie ahead of us but the imagine is so vivid, it blurs all the hurdles that may exist along the way helping us to reach our goals.
Have you ever experienced something so wonderful that you actually paused for a minute to freeze frame and save it to memory because you know you will want to replay it over and over agan for the rest of your life? Your first kiss, your wedding day or the birth of your child. At work, when you sold your heart out and won that cruise you had so much fun on with your kids. How about when something came over you and you bought a homeless man groceries or did something nice for senior who was lonely?
If we sharpen are imagery tools we can almost imagine the feel and taste of what drive us. Start small and think of an apple. As you imagine the apple you have already decided what type of apple it is and just how big it is. You begin to eat the apple feeling the skin separating a bit as you chew it, the apple juice is slightly sweet with every bit right before you swallow. The apple is crunchy and loaded with juice, you can actually sense that the center of the apple seems to get softer with every bit. It has been a while since you have had one yet can imagine the difference between a Granny Smith and Gala Apple. It is truly amazing that if we stop, sit quietly, we can perceive with imagery.
Your employees and donors need help visualizing because we all get accustomed to our surroundings and it can dim the opportunity to see beyond what actually lies in front of us. Employees and donors need vivid pictures of their goals that are fresh and obtainable. Goals that have a reward and incentive inspiring them want to achieve. If you are rolling out the same contest over and over, with they same hype and not touching their senses, you are not helping them to truly visualize by providing the right tools to do so.
How do you stimulate your employees and donors senses? You must first learn about what part of their job keeps them interested at a personal level. You might say it is money but there usually is more to it than that. Could it be that what helps them visuallize is meeting blood donor recipients and feeling that they were a part of life saving gifts that was received? How about providing a visual timelline with updates from the organic garden that grew from money raised on the telephone thanks for your Call Center?
As with most of us that have the ability to see life in pictures, we probably had parents that pointed things out to us as we played in the park or went to the beach. Things that we might not have noticed at a young age. When I was a child, my dad would point out clouds that looked like animals and people as my sister and I laid on the grass studying the sky with amazement. My dad would also point small insects out or budding seeds from our garden making us stop and take note of little changes. Along with teaching his daughters about the wonders of nature, he was helping his two daughters sharpen their imagery skills.
By pointing out progress pepper in incentives to peak interest creating a basis from which imagery begins to take shape. Everyone should participate in your donor drives and sales contests because each individual contributes in one way or another. They should be included in conversations during development, marking and the life of the contest. All should feel part of the bigger picture and not just feel like a cog in the wheel. We all want to feel like we are part of the solution and know that we are helping others.
We often limit ourselves with thoughts of “I never win contests” or “I wish but there is no way I can do that” and cannot look beyond a limited circle. We limit ourselves by our thoughts, beliefs and fail to visualize us holding the trophy or driving that new Mercedes. The more open-minded we can be, and the bigger, the more positive the outcome and success. Limitations are within our minds, and it is up to us to rise above them. We need to reward ourselves and those we work with providing them an incentives to look beyond. It is up to us, to help our employees and donor visualize once we learn how to do so so that we can all succeed.
After the celebration of landing that job comes the almost immediate thought of “okay, now what?” Your new employees is on their way to wonder and dream about how and when the higher paying job will be theirs. The newness of the job lasts as long as a 5 years old’s joy with their new toy at Christmas.
The realty is true even in a still tough job market. Employees at all levels more than ever have grown tired of vanishing opportunities and have really been beat up over the past several years. Employees need to know now what is in it for them and know that the work they are doing work today will help them land their next job with someone else. You are a dreamer if you think that you employee is going to be a lifer, a lifer now-a-days of 3 to 5 years. Employees are savvy and realize that to make more money, receive more benefits and to land a job at the next level, that they must keep moving from one company to another.
How do you sweeten the pot in your employee’s eyes and help your own career along at the same time? After all, YOU need people to be an effective manager. It is a managers principle responsibilities to lead, motivate and think strategically while hitting those numbers. Yes, lots of big responsibilities but if you do things right, the machine will work for you because your employees will want to work for more than just a pay check.
A few things to keep in mind:
The Gold Rule of do unto others is still and will always be the best way to do business.
Be generous with knowledge and power. if you are one that will not share knowledge, you will be resented for it. Keeping your employee dumb is a stupid move. The more meetings that you invite people to, the more your employees will see you as a teacher and someone how actually does cares about more than just their own career. A BIG incentive!
Got a project? Time to survey your staff for their input and be sure to give them credit thanking them for their input along each point of discovery.
Provide cross training in your department and others promoting career growth. Talk to your employees and ask them what they would like to learn or experience. If it is not directly related to their current job, so what. They may develop a interest that will benefit your department and your company.
Hire people with a good sense of humor, they are the best one’s to keep things upbeat and stimulate ideas. We all gain from high energy people that give us a boost.
Don’t rely on HR Directives, get out there and talk to people. Ask them what type of atmosphere stimulates them the most because the answer does change from year to year. Keep your atmosphere one that changes keeping things fresh.
Take an occasional step back and ask yourself if you are the one doing all the talking. If you find yourself doing all the talking, STOP. Time to ask your staff to present updates and directives.
Provide your younger staff with projects to investigate new opportunities and improvements. Those fresh out of college or who are eager to make an impression should provide you with a new way of doing things that you may not realize.
Seek out those that are consultants to learn about supplemental benefits and incentives that are virtually at no cost after tax benefits. Your employees will love it and so will your boss. Sometimes you can help HR learn something new about employee benefits.
Take action and stay out of Ruttville, keep looking for ways to shine. Volunteer for reach assignments and get involved in extra-cirricular activieites at work such as fundraisers or employee rallies. The important thing is to get out from behind your desk and market yourself. Your own energy and enthusiasm will rub off on your own employees.
Keep things light hearted and smile. Let employees know you are a human being and that you are all in it together.
If we appreciate each today and all those around us, we will experience life to the fullest. No it is not easy and not all will be people we call our friends but it is not life or death and we will learn from them.
The other day I heard two people talking at the table next to me at Starbuck’s while I enjoyed my chai tea. One of the women told her friend and peer that she was accused of being an “Employee’s Manager” by her in personable boss. She told her friend she was shocked by his comment and hurt by his lack of support. Within a few minutes she actually said she was not really too surprised because he was what she calls an “Absentee Boss”, he only came around when he needed something or when he had an opportunity to rattle her cage.
As they continued to talk and eat their muffins and people began to thin out inside, she was asked by her friend how things were going for her department. She wondered if perhaps he was upset because her team was maybe not making their service level agreements or if customer complaints were on the rise about her employees. The frustrated manager said that neither was true but she did notice that her boss seemed increasingly disinterested in her efforts to raise morale after the ups and downs of this recession. Some of her other peers on the floor also seemed to be recent how her employees raved about her and thought that her cheerleader attitude was ridiculous and unnecessary at times. Most managers made sure they met production standards, followed employee development requirements and nothing more. They were good managers with a different management style.
Today’s workplace more than ever we are made up of different races, ages and education levels. The common ground really is only that everyone is trying to keep their jobs, election debates and survive this long recession. No matter what the economy, the department or the situation employees in the work place want to be appreciated. They want to have you look them in the eyes a few mornings out of the months to say a sincere good morning. They want a manager who truly does not hide behind a smiley mask asking them how they are while walking by at light speed without even hearing the employee’s entire response. Work is work but there is absolutely no reason why a manager cannot care or insert motivational incentives along the way.
If we put a stake down for an afternoon investing in some time alone, we will come to realize that what motivates us as managers is in part what motivates our employees. Not that our employees are like our children but after awhile you get to know what motivates them, what makes them not succeed and what ignites their passion.
What motivates crowds who wait for days in the rain for the “Twilight” movie premier for a chance to see their favorite star and be the first to see the movie? People want to feel and feel cared for at an emotional level, they want to be connected and be part of a community. Being part of a community is a big reason why people want to connect on Face book, Twitter and why they still pay $13.00 dollars or more for a ticket to go see a movie that they can rent in a few months.
How do you become an employee’s manager to get the best production results?
1) Let the real you come out, laugh a little and smile. Talk about your weekend or fun community activities you heard about.
2) Walk around right before it is time to get off work and thank employees for their work that day.
3) Schedule one on ones that spend at least the first 5 minutes on getting to know your employees. Ask them what movies they have recently scene or ask them if they caught the game on Monday night.
4) When invited, participate in events that your employees schedule such as potlucks. Don’t forget that just because you are the boss does not mean that you eat at the potluck and don’t bring a dish. I can’t tell you how many times this really does happen.
5) Bring in articles you may come across in the Sunday paper or in magazines that let the employees know that you did pay attention while your employee was speaking with you and that you are sincerely interest in what they shared.
6) Pay attention to your employee’s desk, anything new on it? Make a positive comment and talk it. The funny items most employees have on their desk make it an easy and fun topic.
7) Survey your employees and ask them what topics they would like to discuss in future meetings. Don’t forget to ask them if they want to be a presenter or do some show and tell regarding recent training or conferences that they may have attended.
8) Thank your employees frequently and especially, during holidays. Use employee incentives to kick up morale and carry you through the holiday season.
It is your job to make the number but don’t forget that it is your employees who do it for you. If they are happy, you will be happy. You don’t have to be a push over to be the boss that keeps employee wanting to come to work each day.
What’s required? What’s not? And what’s just good policy? This primer will help you figure it out.
Once you have great employees on board, how do you keep them from jumping ship? One way is by offering a good benefits package.
Many small-business owners mistakenly believe they cannot afford to offer benefits. But while going without benefits may boost your bottom line in the short run, than penny-wise philosophy could strangle your business’s chances for long-term prosperity. “There are certain benefits good employees feel they must have,” says Ray Silverstein, founder of PRO, President’s Resource Organization, a small-business advisory network.
Heading the list of must-have benefits is medical insurance, but many job applicants also demand a retirement plan, disability insurance and more. Tell these applicants no benefits are offered, and often top-flight candidates will head for the door.
The positive side to this coin: Offer the right benefit, and your business may just jump-start its growth. “Give employees the benefits they value, and they’ll be more satisfied, miss fewer workdays, be less likely to quit, and have higher commitment to meeting the company’s goals,” says Joe Lineberry, a senior vice president at Aon Consulting, a human resources consulting firm. “The research shows that when employees feel their benefits needs are satisfied, they’re more productive.”
Benefit Basics The law requires employers to provide employees with certain benefits. You must:
Give employees time off to vote, serve on a jury and perform military service.
Comply with all workers’ compensation requirements.
Withhold FICA taxes from employees’ paychecks and pay your own portion of FICA taxes, providing employees with retirement and disability benefits.
Pay state and federal unemployment taxes, thus providing benefits for unemployed workers.
Contribute to state short-term disability programs in states where such programs exist.
Comply with the Federal Family and Medical Leave (FMLA).
You are not required to provide:
Health plans (except in Hawaii)
Dental or vision plans
Life insurance plans
Paid vacations, holidays or sick leave
In reality, however, most companies offer some or all of these benefits to stay competitive.
Most employers provide paid holidays for New Year’s, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day and Thanksgiving day and Christmas day. Many employers also either allow their employees to take time off without pay or let them use vacation days for religious holidays. (See more on time off in “The Low-Cost Benefits of Offering Time Off” ).
Most full-time employees will expect one to two weeks paid vacation time per year. In explaining your vacation policy to employees, specify how far in advance requests for vacation time should be made, and whether in writing or verbally. There are no laws that require employers to provide funeral leave, but most do allow two to four days’ leave for deaths of close family members.
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers to give workers up to 12 weeks off to attend to the birth or adoption of a baby, or the serious health condition of the employee or an immediate family member. After 12 weeks of unpaid leave, you must reinstate the employee in the same job or an equivalent one. The 12 weeks of leave does not have to be taken all at once; in some cases, employees can take it a day at a time.
In most states, only employers with 50 or more employees are subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act. However, some states have family leave laws that place family leave requirements on businesses with as few as five employees. To find out your state’s requirements, contact you state labor department.
Legal Matters Complications quickly arise as soon as business begins offering benefits, however. That’s because key benefits such as health insurance and retirement plans fall under government scrutiny, and “it is very easy to make mistakes in setting up a benefits plan,” says Kathleen Meagher, an attorney specializing in benefits at Kirkpatrick Lockhart LLP.
And don’t think nobody will notice. The IRS can discover in an audit what you are doing doesn’t comply with regulations. So can the U.S. Department of Labor, which has been beefing up its audit activities of late. Either way, a goof can be very expensive. “You can lose any tax benefits you have enjoyed, retroactively, and penalties can also be imposed,” Meagher says.
The biggest mistake? Leaving employees out of the plan. Examples range from exclusions of part-timers to failing to extend benefits to clerical and custodial staff. A rule of thumb is that if one employee gets a tax-advantaged benefit–meaning one paid for with pretax dollars–the same benefit must be extended to everyone. There are loopholes that may allow you to exclude some workers, but don’t even think about trying this without expert advice.
Such complexities mean its good advice never to go this route alone. You can cut costs by doing preliminary research yourself, but before setting up any benefits plan, consult a lawyer or a benefits consultant. An upfront investment of perhaps $1,000 could save you far more money down the road by helping you sidestep expensive potholes.
Expensive Errors Providing benefits that meet employee needs and mesh with all the laws isn’t cheap–benefits probably add 30 to 40 percent to base pay for most employees–and that makes it crucial to get the most from these dollars. But this is exactly where many small businesses fall short because often their approach to benefits is riddled with costly errors that can get them in financial trouble with their insurers or even with their own employees. The most common mistakes:
Absorbing the entire cost of employee benefits. Fewer companies are footing the whole benefits bill these days. According to a survey of California companies by human resources management consulting firm William M. Mercer, 91 percent of employers require employee contributions toward health insurance, while 92 percent require employees to contribute toward the cost of insuring dependants. The size of employee contributions varies from a few dollars per pay period to several hundred dollars monthly, but one plus of any co-payment plan is it eliminates employees who don’t need coverage. Many employees are covered under other policies–a parent’s or spouses, for instance–and if you offer insurance for free, they’ll take it. But even small co-pay requirements will persuade many to skip it, saving you money.
Covering nonemployers. Who would do this? Lots of business owners want to buy group-rate coverage for their relatives or friends. The trouble: If there is a large claim, the insurer may want to investigate. And that investigation could result in disallowance of the claims, even cancellation of the whole policy. Whenever you want to cover somebody who might not qualify for the plan, tell the insurer or your benefits consultant the truth.
Sloppy paperwork. In small businesses, administering benefits is often assigned to an employee who wears 12 other hats. This employee really isn’t familiar with the technicalities and misses a lot of important details. A common goof: Not enrolling new employees in plans during the open enrollment period. Most plans provide a fixed time period for open enrollment. Bringing an employee in later requires proof of insurability. Expensive litigation is sometimes the result. Make sure the employees overseeing this task stays current with the paperwork and knows that doing so is a top priority.
Not telling employees what their benefits cost. “Most employees don’t appreciate their benefits, but that’s because nobody ever tells them what the costs are,” says PRO’s Silverstein. Many experts suggest you annually provide employees with a benefits statement that spells out what they’re getting and at what cost. A simple rundown of the employee’s individual benefits and what they cost the business is very powerful.
Giving unwanted benefits. A workforce composed largely of young, single people doesn’t need life insurance. How to know what benefits employee’s value? You can survey employees and have them rank benefits in terms of desirability. Typically, medical and financial benefits, such as retirement plans, appeal to the broadest cross-section of workers.
If workers needs vary widely, consider the increasingly popular ” cafeteria plans ,” which give workers lengthy lists of possible benefits plus a fixed amount to spend.
Health insurance is one of the most desirable benefits you can offer employees. There are several basic options for setting up a plan:
A traditional indemnity plan, or fee for service.Employees choose their medical care provider; the insurance company either pays the provider directly or reimburses employees for covered amounts.
Managed care.The two most common forms of managed care are the Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) and the Preferred Provider Organization (PPO). An HMO is essentially a prepaid health-care arrangement, where employees must use doctors employed by or under contract to the HMO and hospitals approved by the HMO. Under a PPO, the insurance company negotiates discounts with the physicians and the hospitals. Employees choose doctors from an approved list, then usually pay a set amount per office visit (typically $10 to $25); the insurance company pays the rest.
Self insurance.When you absorb all or a significant portion of a risk, you are essentially self-insuring. An outside company usually handles the paperwork, you pay the claims and sometimes employees help pay premiums. The benefits include greater control of the plan design, customized reporting procedures and cash-flow advantages. The drawback is that you are liable for claims, but you can limit liability with “stop loss” insurance–if a claim exceeds a certain dollar amount, the insurance company pays it.
Archer Medical Savings Account.: Under this program, an employee of a small employer (50 or fewer employees) or a self-employed person can set up an Archer MSA to help pay health-care expenses. The accounts are set up with a U.S. financial institution and allow you to save money exclusively for medical expenses. When used in conjunction with a high-deductible insurance policy, accounts are funded with employee’s pretax dollars. Under the Archer MSA program, disbursements are tax-free if used for approved medical expenses. Unused funds in the account can accumulate indefinitely and earn tax-free interest. Health-savings accounts (HSAs), available as of January 2004, are similar to MSAs but are not restricted to small employers.
Cost Containment The rising costs of health insurance have forced some small businesses to cut back on the benefits they offer. Carriers that write policies for small businesses tend to charge very high premiums. Often, they demand extensive medical information about each employee. If anyone in the group has a pre-existing condition, the carrier may refuse to write a policy. Or, if someone in the company becomes seriously ill, the carrier may cancel the policy the next time it comes up for renewal.
Further complicating manners, some states are mandating certain health-care benefits so that if an employer offers a plan at all, it has to include certain types of coverage. Employers who can’t afford to comply often have to cut out insurance altogether. The good news: Many states are tying to ease the burden by passing laws that make it easier for small businesses to get health insurance and that prohibit insurance carriers from discriminating against small firms. (MSAs, described above, are in part a response to the problems small businesses face.) The following states make some special provision concerning small employers and health insurance: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Until more laws are passed, what can a small business do? There are ways to cut costs without cutting into your employees’ insurance plan. A growing number of small businesses band together with other entrepreneurs to enjoy economies of scale and gain more clout with insurance carriers.
Many trade associations offer health insurance plans for small-business owners and their employees at lower rates. Your business may have only five employees, but united with the other, say, 9,000 association members and their 65,000 employees, you have substantial clout. The carrier issues a policy to the whole association; your business’s coverage cannot be terminated unless the carrier cancels the entire association.
Associations are able to negotiate lower rates and improved coverage because the carrier doesn’t want to lose such a big chunk of business. This way, even the smallest one-person company can choose from the same menu of health-care options that big companies enjoy.
Associations aren’t the only route to take. In some states, business owners or groups have set up health-insurance networks among businesses that have nothing in common but their size and their location. Check with your local chamber of commerce to find out about such programs in your area.
Some people have been ripped off by unscrupulous organizations supposedly peddling “group” insurance plans at prices 20 to 40 percent below the going rate. The problem: These plans don’t pay all policyholders’ claims because they’re not backed by sufficient cash reserves. Such plans often have lofty-sounding names that suggest a larger association of smaller employees.
How to protect yourself from a scam? Here are some tips:
Compare prices.If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Ask for references from other companies that have bought from the plan. How quick was the insurer in paying claims? How long has the reference dealt with the insurer? If it’s less than a few months, that’s not a good sign.
Check the plan’s underwriter.The underwriter is the actual insurer. Many scam plans claim to be administrators for underwriters that really have nothing to do with them. Call the underwriter’s headquarters and the insurance department of the state in which it’s registered to see if it’ really affiliated with the plan. To check the underwriter’s integrity, ask you state’s department for its “A.M. Best” rating, which grades companies according to their ability to pay claims. Also ask for its “claim-paying ability rating”, which is monitored by services like Standard and Poor’s. If the company is too new to be rated, be wary.
Ask the agent or administrator to show you what his or her commission, advance or administrative cost structure is.Overly generous commissions can be a tip-off; some scam operations pay agents up to 500 percent commission.
Get help.Ask other business owners if they’ve dealt with the company. Contact the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any outstanding complaints. If you think you’re dealing with a questionable company, contact your state insurance department or your nearest Labor Department Office of Investigations.
Above and Beyond What does COBRA mean to you? No, it’s not a poisonous snake coming back to bite you in the butt. The Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act (COBRA) extends health-insurance coverage to employees and dependents beyond the point at which such coverage traditionally ceases.
COBRA allows a former employee after he or she has quit or been terminated (except for gross misconduct) the right to continued coverage under you group health for up to 18 months. Employee’s spouses can obtain COBRA coverage for up to 36 months after divorce or death of the employee, and children can receive up to 36 months of coverage when they reach the age at which they are no longer classified as dependents under the group health plan.
The good news: Giving COBRA benefits shouldn’t cost you company a penny. Employers are permitted by law to charge recipients 102 percent of the cost of extending the benefits (the extra two percent covers administrative costs).
The federal COBRA plan applies to all companies with more than 20 employees. However, many states have similar laws that pertain to much smaller companies, so even if your company is exempt for federal insurance laws, you may still have to extend benefits under certain circumstances. Contact the U.S. Department of Labor to determine whether your company must offer COBRA or similar benefits, and the rules for doing so.
A big mistake some business owners make is thinking they can’t afford to fund a retirement plan in lieu of putting profits back into the business. But less than half of the employees at small companies participate in retirement plans. And companies that do offer this benefit report increased employee retention and happier, more efficient workers. Also, don’t forget about yourself: Many business owners are at risk of having insufficient funds saved for retirement.
To encourage more businesses to launch retirement plans, the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 provides a tax credit for costs associated with starting a retirement plan, including a 401(k) plan, SIMPLE plan or Simplified Employee Pension (SEP). The credit equals 50 percent of the first $1,000 of qualified startup costs, including expenses to set up and administer the plan and educate employees about it. For more information, see IRS Form 8881, Credit for Small Employers Pension Plan Start-up Costs(PDF).
Don’t ignore the value of investing early. If, starting at age 35, you invested $3,000 each year with a 14-percent annual return; you would have an annual retirement income of nearly $60,000 at age 65. But $5,000 invested at the same rate of return beginning at age 45 only results in $30,700 in annual retirement income. The benefit of retirement plans is that savings from tax-free until you withdraw the funds–typically age 59. If you withdraw funds before that age, the withdrawn amount is fully taxable and also subject to a 10-percent penalty. The value of tax-free investing over time means it’s best to start right away, even if you start with small increments.
Besides the long-term benefit of providing for your future, setting up a retirement plan also has the immediate gratification of cutting taxes
Here is a closer look at a range of retirement plans for yourself and your employees.
Individual Retirement Account (IRA) An IRA is a tax-qualified retirement savings plan available to anyone who works and/or their spouse, whether the individual is an employee or a self-employed person. One of the biggest advantages of these plans is that the earnings on your IRA grow on a tax-deferred basis until you start withdrawing the funds. Whether your contribution to an IRA is deductible will depend on your income level and whether you’re covered by another retirement plan at work.
You also may want to consider a Roth IRA. While contributions are not tax deductible, withdrawals you make at retirement will not be taxed. The maximum annual contribution individuals can put in either a Roth or a traditional IRA is $3,000 for 2004, assuming they meet the eligibility requirements.
To qualify for Roth IRA contributions, a single person’s adjusted gross income (AGI) must be less than $95,000, with benefits phasing out completely at $110,000. For married couples filing jointly, the AGI must be less than $150,000. The contribution amount is decreased by 30 percent (35 percent if 50 or older) until it is eliminated completely at $160,000 for joint filers. For 2005 to 2007, the contribution limit for both single and joint filers climbs to $4,000 per person and to $5,000 per person in 2008. After that, contributions and indexed to inflation.
Regardless of income level, you can qualify for a deductible IRA as long as you do not participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401 (k). If you are in an employer plan, you can qualify for a deductible IRA if you meet the income requirements. Keep in mind that it’s possible to set up or make annual contributions to an IRA any time you want up to the date your federal income tax return is due for that year, not including extensions. The contribution amounts for deductible IRA’s are the same as for Roth IRA’s.
For joint filers, even if one spouse is covered by a retirement plan, the spouse who is not covered by a plan may make a deductible IRA contribution if the couple’s adjusted gross income is $150,000 or less. Like the Roth IRA, the amount you can deduct is decreased in stages above that income level and is eliminated entirely for couples with incomes over 160,000. Nonworking spouses and their working partners can contribute up to $6,000 to IRAs ($3,000 each), provided the working spouse earns at least $6,000. It’s possible to contribute an additional $500 for each spouse who is at least 50 years old at the end of the year, as long as there is the necessary earned income. For example, two spouses over 50 could contribute a total of $7,000 if there is at least $7,000 of earned income.
Saving Incentive Match Plan For Employees (SIMPLE) SIMPLE plans are one of the most attractive options available for small-business owners. With these plans, you can choose to use a 401(k) or an IRA as your retirement plan.
A SIMPLE plan is just that–simple to administer. This type of retirement plan doesn’t come with a lot of paperwork and reporting requirements.
You can set up a SIMPLE IRA only if you have 100 or fewer employees who have received $5,000 or more in compensation from you in the preceding year. The employer must make contributions the plan by either matching each participating employee’s contribution, dollar for dollar, up to 3 percent of each employee’s pay, or by making an across-the-board 2-percent contribution for all employees, even if they don’t participate in the plan, which can be expensive.
The maximum amount each employee can contribute to the plan can’t be more than $9,000 for 2004; the amount increases to $10,000 in 2005. After that, the amount will be indexed for inflation. Participants in a SIMPLE IRA who are age 50 or over at the end of the calendar year can also make a catch-up contribution of an additional $1,500 in 2004, $2,000 in 2005 and $2,500 in 2006.
Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) Plan As its name implies, this is the simplest type of retirement plan available. Essentially, a SEP is a glorified IRA that allows you to contribute a set percentage up to a maximum amount each year. Paperwork is minimal, and you don’t have to contribute every year. And regardless of the name, you don’t need employees to set one up.
If you do have employees(well, that’s the catch. Employees do not make any contributions to SEPS. Employers must pay the full cost of the plan, and whatever percentage you contribute for yourself must be applied to al eligible employees. The maximum contribution is 25 percent of an employee’s compensation (up to a maximum of $200,000) or $40,000, whichever is less.
KOEGH Plan A KEOGH retirement plan can be set up by self-employed individuals and doesn’t require advanced IRS approval. There are two types of KEOGH plans available. One is defined-benefit, which allows participants to contribute a maximum of the lesser of either 100 percent of their average compensation for the three consecutive years of highest compensation as an active participant, or $170,000. Then there’s defined contribution, which allows for contributions of up to $42,000 for either a profit-sharing defined contribution plan or a money-purchase plan. The deadline for setting up a KEOGH plan is the end of the tax year (December 31), and the deadline for making contributions to the KEOGH plan is the same as the SEP–the due date for your Form 1040 individual tax return (including extensions). 401(k) Plans 401(k) plans take their name from the section of the federal tax code that provides for them. These plans let you and your employees set aside a percentage of salary tax-free every year. As a kicker, the funds grow tax-free until they’re withdrawn. 401(k) plans are very popular benefits with employees because they allow you–the employer–to essentially pay workers more without that income being taxed. Compared to SEPs, 401(k) plans are more popular with employers because most of the contribution comes from the employees.
The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) governs the way 401(k) plans are set up and managed. There are many responsibilities that go with setting up a 401(k) program. For instance, you or someone you select has to determine the investment options employees will get to choose from. You have to monitor the investment’s performance as well as the service provided by whomever is administering your plan. ERISA exists to make sure any fees that are charged are “reasonable.” Setting up a 401(k) is a complicated procedure governed by many arcane rules. You should never do it without consulting with a qualified tax advisor.
Where to Go With so many choices available, it’s good idea to talk to your accountant about which type of plan is best for you. Once you know what you want, where do you go to set up a retirement plan?
Savings certificates (often at higher yields than at banks or savings and loans)
Personal and auto loans
Lines of credit
Christmas club accounts
Only state-chartered credit unions are allowed to add new companies to their membership rosters. To find a credit union that will accept your company, call your state’s league of credit unions.
When comparing credit unions, get references and check them. Find out how communicative and flexible the credit union is. Examine the accessibility. Are there ATMs? Is there a location near your business? Consider the end users–your employees.
Once your company is approved, designate one person to be the primary liaison with the credit union. That person will maintain information about memberships as well as enrollment forms and loan applications. Kick things off by asking accredit union representative to conduct on-site enrollment and perhaps return periodically for follow-up or new sign-ups.
This how-to was excerpted from Start Your Own Business, Grow Your Business and “Selecting the Right Retirement Plan” by David Meier.
Wow a free vacation condo in a resort, really? You are kidding, all I have to do is quickly blast out an email back to you with a date when I want go within the next two weeks? How can this be, there has got to be a catch. Who gives a resort vacation away for free without a catch? Who? What is their incentive for doing this? Well, after day dreaming about my vacation at this resort I figured out the “why”. The why is because this company is going to literally receive hundreds of immediate responses to their offer which enables them to learn who is still in business, who is reading their emails, what the recipient’s most current address and phone number is and which are interested in receiving contact from their company? This exercise is an interesting way of putting together their Christmas Solicitation List. Very cleaver guys!
Have you begun your Christmas Solicitation List yet? You can still make it and follow these tips to make the most of your efforts.
1) Look at 2012 trends, what are people talking and tweeting about.
2) make sure your inventory is in check, nothing worse than having orders and no products.
3) Decide what your eye catching theme will be.
4) If necessary, staff up for the holidays and train, train, trains.
5) Line up incentives for bundled services or products to make them more attractive.
6) Create special incentives and services for purchases before Black Friday.
7) Offer free services such as gift tags, gift wrap or pairing ideas.
Partner with other business that is complimentary to your business and workout an incentive plan for them to participate.
9) Are you ready to send SMS Text messages to iphones and tablets? More shoppers are using the latest technology and you will want to reach every one of them.
10) Establish a Pinterest holiday marketing campaign with lots of fun incentives.
11) E-gift card or retainable coupon codes that act as a certificate.
12) Create incentives for referrals and increase sales!
The important thing to remember if you get started early, you can keep selling all season long as people begin to find value you in your product and service buying for many others.
So your business partner or your husband left you, who cares right? So the competition one upted you this year, you’ll show them! We have always been told that revenge is something we are never to act on because it only brings us bad Karma but if you use those “I will show you’s” as rocket fuel, revenge can be a great thing!
How many times have you made the wrong decisions and changed your way of doing things? Like many of us, we all have. We trusted the wrong person, jumped when we should have waited or did not answer the door when we heard opportunity knock.
It is time to use all that energy that made us so mad that we could have picked up our car at that moment in time and thrown it across the boulevard! Gather up that piss and vinegar and your pen to draft your plan. Don’t wait, pick up the phone and call an old contact NOW! Take advantage of that boiling emotion that we usually experience when something goes really wrong and use it as a creative incentive tool to make something go really right. Don’t leave that boiling emotion to just raise your blood pressure, bottle it up for a few minutes and take a quick note on just how you would go about your “I’ll show you” moment.
Don’t let anyone tell you that you are not good enough. Look to celebrities and successful business owners, many have been told since they were young teenagers that they would never amount to anything or that they are not beautiful or smart enough. Those that have to deal with rejection as part of their business know not to take things too personally and if one zinger comes along with more sharp edges than the last, they simply use those edges to help them cut away the crap and find an incentive to move up and on.
Revenge is about first making a vow to yourself then self talking yourself into success that has not yet been realized. Because of you are angry you have envisioned bragging about your new found success to your enemy. A grudge that is a motivational stepping stool until you your dream is solidified. Remember to only focus on sweet revenge when it is helpful then put it away and forget about it while you wait for your success to happen.
Working towards poetic justice we think of Shakespeare’s plays that has helped leaders unravel strong motivations such as revenge, ambition, success and power. Instead we hear about people who have suffered small unfortunate career occurences that if some are smart can be used to help them achieve greatness. A layoff, being looked over for a promotion or a client choosing another after your business has bent over backward to provide quality service. Look passed the possibilities of evil sabotage and capture the energy for goodness.
Finding incentives along the winding journey is better than a straight path to success because you will learn much more as you earn your sweet revenge. Here is to your success!
Just one year after hiring their first employee, executives at online discount site FatWallet realized they needed more staffers to handle the company’s rapid growth. “We needed IT staff and programmers, and we knew that in our area, we’d have to take them from larger companies,” says April Kunzelman, human resources director for the Beloit, Wis.-based company.
Kunzelman also knew that to lure talent from more established companies, FatWallet would have to beef up its employee benefits package. “We knew we couldn’t compete if we didn’t offer, at the very least, health insurance. So we immediately began putting an employee benefits plan in place,” she says.
Today, FatWallet boasts a progressive benefits package that includes health, dental and disability insurance, paid time off and a host of other amenities, including free daily lunches for its nearly 60 employees.
As Kunzelman and her peers have found, a strong employee benefits package is a powerful tool for attracting and retaining the best workers. In a 2011 Harvard Business Review Analytic Services survey of human resource leaders, 60 percent said an attractive benefits package is “very important” in recruiting and retaining quality employees, vs. only 38 percent who said a high base salary is very important.
Benefits play an integral role in employee satisfaction. In its most recent annual trends survey, MetLife found that roughly 49 percent of employees polled said benefits were an important reason they came to work for a company, while 60 percent said benefits are an important reason for staying.
While the cost and compliance of crafting benefits packages may seem daunting for small-business owners, experts agree they pay dividends in terms of long-term success. There are no easy formulas, because each entrepreneur needs a program tailored to his or her company and employees. But there are some universal guidelines.
Getting Started Christopher Delorey, senior vice president at employee benefits consultancy Bostonian Group, says employers typically start looking to round out a basic compensation package with benefits when they have six to 10 employees they wish to retain, as well as when they want to attract new ones. “You don’t necessarily have to have health insurance the minute you open your doors,” he says.
Medical insurance tops the list of employee demands. According to The Principal Financial Group’s benefits study for fourth-quarter 2011, health insurance is deemed the most important benefit by 90 percent of employees.
Medical and retirement plans can take many shapes and sizes to meet the goals of any company, according to Lisa Wintersheimer Michel, a partner specializing in employee benefits at law firm Keating Muething & Klekamp in Cincinnati. “From a fully insured health product to a flexible spending account to a 401(k) to a simplified employee pension plan, there are many different options and levels depending on what you’re interested in providing, what you can pay and the size of your group,” Michel says.
Once the major benefits components are in place, it’s fairly easy and cost-effective to include other popular programs such as vision insurance, life insurance and long- or short-term disability.
One benefit that’s growing in popularity, in part because it is so well-suited to small businesses and startups, is flexibility. “With so many personal demands on workers today, a flexible work schedule is a big plus in a benefits package,” Delorey says.
In fact, a study by the New York-based Families and Work Institute found that the majority of professional and nonprofessional employees–87 percent–say having the flexibility they need to manage their work and personal lives would be “extremely” or “very” important if they were looking for a new job.
FatWallet addresses that need with its so-called “no miss” guidelines, wherein employees are instructed to never miss important family or school events for work. “It doesn’t cost us any money, and people really appreciate it,” Kunzelman says. “Flexibility pays huge benefits for a small company like us.”
While some benefits may be out of reach for small businesses, a little creativity can lead to similar, less expensive options that can have just as big an impact on employee morale and loyalty.
If you can’t offer: tuition reimbursement Try: a compressed, four-day workweek that gives employees time to pursue a degree on their own
If you can’t offer: paid vacation Try: job sharing, in which two part-time employees share the same full-time position, or wellness programs that include sleep breaks and massages
If you can’t offer: on-site child care Try: negotiating with a nearby child-care center for a discounted group rate
If you can’t offer: an on-site fitness facility Try: a lunch-hour walking club or discounted local gym memberships
If you can’t offer: free parking or transportation reimbursement Try: allowing regular telecommuting days
If you can’t offer: counseling services Try: allowing employees to bring their pets to work, which has been shown to reduce stress
Outside Help No matter what benefits you want to offer, there are many resources for small-business owners to educate themselves. While valuable information can be found at websites such as the National Association of Health Underwriters and SCORE,most businesses enlist the aid of an insurance broker or employee benefits consultant to help them understand and evaluate various products, particularly as regulations and possibilities vary from state to state.
“The options can be vastly different, so you’re often comparing apples and oranges,” Michel says. “These professionals can help you compare different products and understand the costs as well as determine what makes sense for your organization.”
To make sure they find the best options and providers, Michel says employers should ask questions about each product’s cost, what it covers and how the benefit is delivered.
“You need to understand exactly what you’re getting and how it’s going to work,” she says. “How is the benefit delivered? What resources are available to help both the employer and the employees? How and how quickly are claims going to get paid? And what happens if there’s a claim dispute? It’s important to understand the entire process.”
It’s also important for employers to ask about the legal obligations they incur by offering those benefits. “When you set up these plans, there’s a set of laws you’re required to comply with, like [the Employee Retirement Income Security Act], that you must understand,” Michel says.
Of course, the most important questions to ask are the ones related to your specific business needs. For FatWallet, Kunzelman asked if she could speak to another client with the same health insurance provider to get a sense of its customer service. “The thing that drives employees insane is not being able to get their claims processed correctly,” she says. “My decision was based on customer service, because if it’s not good, the insurance is probably not going to work for us.”
Employee Viewpoint To find the package that best fits your business, it’s important to survey employees about what they really want, Michel says. “Employee interests vary depending on company size, industry and demographics, and you don’t want to offer something that no one will take advantage of,” she says.
That’s exactly what online retailer Zappos does to help achieve its goal of happy and healthy employees, according to benefits manager Bhawna Provenzano. Based on surveys of employees throughout the year, Zappos determines which benefits are most meaningful to team members, which benefits they would like to see added and which are not being used or are no longer relevant.
“We make sure we include any suggestions that have been brought to us by team members on the survey,” Provenzano says. “All of these things help us determine the direction our benefits plan needs to go.”
Michel cautions that there are laws that prohibit employers from asking about health conditions, family histories and other topics that may relate to insurance. Any survey of employees should have questions that are general and related only to benefits, and should be reviewed by an attorney before being distributed.
Once a benefits package is created, it must be communicated effectively to employees. According to the 2011 Aflac WorkForces Report, 46 percent of employees at small companies say their HR departments communicate too little about employee benefits plans.
Michel says each business must determine the best way to get the word out. “Whether you post it in the office, mail it to the employees’ homes or have a companywide meeting to roll out a benefit, you need to be sure they understand the benefits and how they work,” she says.
Delorey emphasizes that the key to a high-performing benefits package is for employers to understand their people and their mission, and to align their benefits with both. He also urges employers to realize that the more time and education they invest in finding the right program, the better the payoff will be, in the form of lower costs and quality plans.
“It’s easy for employers to say, ‘I have to go to this established insurer and take this off-the-shelf plan,’” he says. “But if you put a little more effort into it like you do some other aspects of your business, you will be rewarded.”
Benefits Babble Employee benefits programs can be confusing–in fact, they often seem to operate with a language all their own. Here’s a glossary of some key terms.
Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA): A federal law that sets operating standards for employee benefits plans.
Flexible spending account (FSA): Also known as healthcare/dependent-care reimbursement accounts, FSAs allow employees to save pretax dollars to pay healthcare and child-care expenses.
High-deductible health plan (HDHP): A health insurance plan that offers lower premiums and a higher deductible than traditional health plans. HDHPs are typically used in conjunction with pretax health savings accounts (HSAs).
Third Party Administrator (TPA): The person (or organization) responsible for providing administrative services, including processing claims, for employee benefits plans.
Wellness program: A group of services or events offered by an employer designed to lower the number of claims and claim costs by promoting improved health among employees. Such programs may include health screenings, flu shots, smoking-cessation groups and discounts on exercise classes and diet plans.
No matter what your business, incentives are crucial to your business. The driver that keeps us working each day meeting deadlines and striving to do more. There is literally not one single thing we eat, we wear, drive or experience on a daily basis that is not incentive driven. It takes motivation and the answer to “what’s in it for me” to get the process started and completed. People need to know that there is a reason and purpose to it all. Why else would we exchange hour after hour of our precious life away from our family to work if it were not for a reason that would benefit ourselves and our families?
The other day I met with a man who worked in the blood bank industry who really educated me on the blood donor business. He shared that the demands of his job to increase donors was challenging because he often had to increase donations for certain blood types in during summer months when everyone was thinking about little more than the beach. I mean who really thinks about rolling up their sleeves for a needle in June? Most of us don’t think about the need for blood except during major blood drive campaigns or natural disasters.
Well what does blood have to do with me? Ask yourself, “what would draw me to donate blood”? Is it a humanitarian response, are you motivated by the attention that you might receive when you wear your free “I gave blood today” t-shirt? Maybe you received a gift card or got entered into a drawing. You see, from the very start you were motivated by an incentive. Yes, you get it now, an incentives is a powerful tool that gets people moving!
If you perceive, you can achieve. What was considered a challenge is now a visible achievement. No matter the budget, there is an incentive out there for you. Start with someone who will act of your behalf as your Expert Advisor/broker. A good advisor will conduct a Needs Analysis learning about your business, your employees, your budget and most importantly, your goals. Advisers usually attend industry conventions learning about new incentives, new ways to apply incentives, track effectiveness and know what is attractive to employees and donors.
The latest trends is telemedicine. Telemedicine connects association members or employees 24 hours, 7 days a week via telephone and email with U.S. based licensed physicians and board-certified specialists who have independently contracted to be participating providers in this physician network. It is a convenient and affordable alternative that increases access to physician are, while lowering healthcare costs. TAccording to the Wellness Council of America, as many as 70% of doctor office and emergency room visits are non-life threatening visits. Costs and time off from work can be greatly reduced for more customary situations simply by communicating with a nurse or doctor. Rural residents who live far from doctors can be provided with care. Medical services that are offered during a consultation can range from general advice to a diagnosis recommending immediate treatment by the doctor and prescribed medication when appropriate.
When your faced with a goal, consider that benefits of using an incentive. An Incentive Broker can save you time and money.