Tag Archive: employee_benefits

Ways to Engage Your Employees This Summer

Ways to Engage Your Employees This Summer.Ways to Engage Your Employees This Summer

Ways to Engage Your Employees This Summer. One summer, I interned at a law firm in San Francisco. I wanted to impress the partners so that they would offer me a job after I graduated the following year. This was back in the day when law firms really wined-and-dined their potential associates.

 

Man, I loved that summer.

 

The partners took us river rafting, invited us to fancy dinners and drinks at their homes, and yes, they even took us in a hot-air balloon. Oh yeah, we also did a little work too. Needless to say, I really wanted to work at that firm. Well, I got my chance a year later, and let’s just say that the real world was a tad different than my summer of fun. Ways to Engage Your Employees This Summer.

 

It turns out that many businesses are learning that one of the smartest things they can do, especially at this time of year, is to take advantage of the natural rhythms of the season and give employees their own summer fun. Ways to Engage Your Employees This Summer.

 

In fact, if you take a close look at the latest edition of the spring 2013 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report (SBOR), it turns out that many employers are taking this idea of creating a strong culture seriously. The Report found that almost nine in 10 small business owners offer some type of benefits to their employees.

If you want to engage your employees this summer, here are a few tips mentioned in the SBOR that will make your employees feel more engaged:

 

1. Offer flexible work hours: Forty-five percent of the entrepreneurs surveyed in the SBOR said that they reward their staff with flexible hours and/or they let them work from home. While this used to be an exotic idea, it is much more commonplace today. Between the cloud, smart phones, apps and laptops, anyone can work anywhere at any time. Ways to Engage Your Employees This Summer.

 

So let them.

 

Especially during the summer, it makes sense to give employees some flexibility and some time to enjoy the nice weather.  By allowing your employees to get work done at a time more convenient for them, they will reward you with their loyalty and hard work.

 

2. Share amenities like free lunch, massages, etc. When you visit a large, successful Internet company like Google or Facebook, one thing that is very noticeable is the amount of free (or subsidized) food available. No, it’s not cheap, but it is a benefit that keeps people at the office and not taking two-hour lunches.

 

For small businesses, one alternative might be to provide free, healthy snacks like fruit and water, which are affordable and appreciated.

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3. Lead team building events:  According to the SBOR, only about 25 percent of the small business owners surveyed used this tactic, and I think that is a mistake. In the summertime, when everyone is thinking about a lot more than just work, a fun event together away from the office is often just what the doctor ordered. Whether it is going out to dinner, a game, or a concert together, a team-building event is the best way to grow as a team and build a strong culture.

 

4. Allow social media at work: This is a tricky one. Twenty-four percent of those surveyed said they use this tactic to reward employees. However, as we all know, social media can easily gobble up a whole lot more time than one anticipates and potentially decrease productivity in the office. I recommend offering this perk to employees as it is a great way to take a short mental break from work, but certainly speak up if you feel the privilege is being abused.

 

5. Give unexpected freebies: Give employees some free time off. Have a spontaneous contest and give the winner a pair of seats to a game. Buy gift cards from Starbucks and hand them out. Give everyone an unannounced afternoon off.

 

This is the time of year when people like to take advantage of the outdoors. Let them and you and your business will both be rewarded. Ways to Engage Your Employees This Summer.

 

Revisiting Retirement Benefits: Is It Time to Sweeten Your Employees’ Plans?

Revisiting Retirement Benefits: Is It Time to Sweeten Your Employees’ Plans?By Sherron Lumley.

Whether a distant dream or just around the bend, retirement benefits hold significant sway with employees making decisions about where to work and for how long. In fact, a 2011 Mercer What’s Working survey of 30,000 workers found that, among American and Canadian employees, retirement plans placed second only to base pay among the most important employee value proposition elements.

Despite this emphasis, modern-day employees are notoriously poor at following through with retirement savings. Jack VanDerhei, research director of the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) in Washington D.C. notes, “Only 13 percent of workers now say they’re very confident about retirement,” an all-time low in 21 years of the institute’s Retirement Confidence Survey. What’s more, well over a quarter—29 percent—of workers surveyed said they have savings of less than $1,000.

Still, the expense and administrative burden often appear unaffordable to small business owners. Yet, these tangible costs should be weighed against the intangible benefits that drive employee satisfaction and performance. For example, Met Life’s 9th Annual Study of Employee Benefit Trends found a strong correlation between satisfaction with retirement benefits and job loyalty. In that survey, more than three out of four employees who were happy with their employer’s retirement plan also reported being satisfied with their job.

PQ_RetireBenefits.jpg“We provide medical and retirement benefits, though we are not obligated to, in order to attract and retain good employees,” explains Jodi Teti, small business owner of Blueprint LSAT Preparation, headquartered in Los Angeles, California. Small business owners like Teti say they recognize that to stay competitive and desirable, it’s time to revisit their employees’ retirement benefits. Below, three retirement specialists contribute their insights about the types of retirement benefits that are most desirable to small business employees today.

What employees want most: matching contributions, risk choices, and quick results

“Adequate investment choices and reasonable investment returns for an appropriate level of risk are important aspects employees want in their plans,” says Wes Rommerskirchen of Benefit Plans Plus, LLC, in St. Louis, Missouri. “Employees also look for a healthy employer contribution to assist them in reaching their retirement goals,” he says.

Peter Macaluso, Vice President of FM International Services in Melville, New York, concurs. When it comes to employee satisfaction and retirement benefits, he finds from his experience that “employer contributions affect employee satisfaction the most.”

What does this look like for a small business?

“Initially, we offered a scaled vesting period,” says Teti, whose company originally planned to match 100-percent of contributions for employees after six years of employment. “However, in today’s fluid employment environment, we found that employees simply weren’t contributing under that rubric,” she says.

To counter this trend, her company changed its policy so that employees could realize their benefits more quickly. “After an employee’s first year of employment, we match their retirement contribution up to three percent; we’re 100 percent vested after the initial year,” she says, adding, “the total number of contributions tripled since we instituted the new policy.”

Traditional 401(k) and profit sharing

With a 401(k) plan, employees contribute part of their pay into a plan sponsored by their employer. Many 401(k) plans provide for employer matching and profit sharing, which are employer contributions not taxed by the federal dovernment or by most state governments until distributed. The annual employer contribution is discretionary.

FM International offers its employees a three-percent profit-sharing contribution, which is what they recommend to their customers and clients. Profit sharing permits employers to make large contributions for employees, up to the lesser amount of 100 percent of compensation or $49,000. Employers can deduct amounts that do not exceed 25 percent of aggregate compensation for all participants. If offered, profit sharing must include all employees at least 21 years of age who worked at least 1,000 hours in a previous year.

Visit the Department of Labor’s website, Choosing a Retirement Solution for Your Small Business for more information.

Offer automatic enrollment and target-date funds

Recently hired participants in 401(k) plans, particularly those under 30, are more likely to want target-date funds (TDFs), according to an analysis by EBRI. TDFs are usually mutual funds that have a portfolio mix that becomes more conservative as retirement approaches. Small business owners should consider plans that offer TDFs for workers who want more control about the risk and return of their retirement investment portfolio. Risk-averse or conservative plans find a lower yield acceptable, whereas more risk is required when pursuing a higher yield.

The Pension Protection Act of 2006 contained provisions designed to encourage 401(k) plan sponsors to automatically enroll their workers in the plan to boost retirement savings and TDFs are often used as a default investment for workers who are auto-enrolled.

Adding a cash balance plan – the best of both worlds?

Although still quite popular in the public sector, the old-fashioned pension (or standard defined benefit) plan is out of reach for many small business owners and has been on the decline for three decades in the private sector, according to EBRI. However, cash balance plans are hybrid plans that combine some aspects of a traditional pension plan with those of a defined contribution plan (401(k)/profit sharing).

“Business owners that have the cash flows to support an additional employer contribution may want to consider installing a cash balance plan alongside their existing 401(k)/profit sharing plan,” says Rommerskirchen. “Using a cash balance plan in conjunction with their properly-designed 40(1)k/profit sharing plan could allow the business owner to contribute substantially more towards retirement than just a traditional 401(k) plan would allow,” he adds.

A cash balance plan defines the promised benefit in terms of a stated account balance, yet fluctuations in the value of the plan’s investments do not directly affect the benefit amounts promised to participants. Another advantage: Benefits of cash balance plans are protected by federal insurance provided through the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

Simplified Employee Pension (SEP), Payroll Deduction IRA or the simple IRA plan

Many small businesses that want to help their employees with retirement turn to Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), such as the Simplified Employee Pension (SEP). With a SEP, employers set up an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) for themselves and each employee, with the employer contributing the same percentage of pay for each employee, up to 25 percent of their salary (or $49,000, whichever is less).

The Simple IRA plan allows contributions by both the employer and the employee, whereas the Payroll Deduction IRA is funded by employee contributions without participation from the employer.

Providing retirement and investment education opportunities for employees

Year after year, employees surveyed by EBRI in the Retirement Confidence Survey continue to rank private employers as their most trusted institution, positioning small business owners in the role of guiding and providing for their own and their employees’ retirement savings.

“As far as sweetening the benefits, it is quite difficult for micro-companies and small businesses under 200 employees,” says Marcia Mantell, President of Mantell Retirement Consulting in Needham, Massachusetts. However, there are other things employers can do to help their employees prepare for retirement, she explains.

For companies who want to help their employees right now, but who aren’t yet ready financially to add employer contributions to a retirement plan, Mantell suggests creating non-monetary benefits for employees. Educational opportunities such as lunch-and-learn or hosted seminars about investing for retirement and retirement readiness, combined with in-house training for using online retirement preparation tools, will help employees gain a realistic view of retirement financial needs.

Don’t go it alone

“One of the most common areas overlooked in a retirement plan is the selection of an appropriate investment professional to advise the business owner,” says Rommerskirchen. With many small business owners wearing multiple hats, it’s difficult to stay on top of retirement benefit changes. Therefore it’s important to know exactly what services the financial advisor is going to provide for the plan, and how often you will meet with the financial advisor to review issues. You’ll also want to know how often the plan’s financial advisor will meet with your employees and how much experience he or she has, Rommerskirchenk recommends.

Revisiting Retirement Benefits: Is It Time to Sweeten Your Employees’ Plans?

The Pension Protection Act of 2006 contained provisions designed to encourage 401(k) plan sponsors to automatically enroll their workers in the plan to boost retirement savings and TDFs are often used as a default investment for workers who are auto-enrolled.

Adding a cash balance plan – the best of both worlds?

Although still quite popular in the public sector, the old-fashioned pension (or standard defined benefit) plan is out of reach for many small business owners and has been on the decline for three decades in the private sector, according to EBRI. However, cash balance plans are hybrid plans that combine some aspects of a traditional pension plan with those of a defined contribution plan (401(k)/profit sharing).

“Business owners that have the cash flows to support an additional employer contribution may want to consider installing a cash balance plan alongside their existing 401(k)/profit sharing plan,” says Rommerskirchen. “Using a cash balance plan in conjunction with their properly-designed 40(1)k/profit sharing plan could allow the business owner to contribute substantially more towards retirement than just a traditional 401(k) plan would allow,” he adds.

A cash balance plan defines the promised benefit in terms of a stated account balance, yet fluctuations in the value of the plan’s investments do not directly affect the benefit amounts promised to participants. Another advantage: Benefits of cash balance plans are protected by federal insurance provided through the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

Simplified Employee Pension (SEP), Payroll Deduction IRA or the simple IRA plan

Many small businesses that want to help their employees with retirement turn to Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), such as the Simplified Employee Pension (SEP). With a SEP, employers set up an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) for themselves and each employee, with the employer contributing the same percentage of pay for each employee, up to 25 percent of their salary (or $49,000, whichever is less).

The Simple IRA plan allows contributions by both the employer and the employee, whereas the Payroll Deduction IRA is funded by employee contributions without participation from the employer.

Providing retirement and investment education opportunities for employees

Year after year, employees surveyed by EBRI in the Retirement Confidence Survey continue to rank private employers as their most trusted institution, positioning small business owners in the role of guiding and providing for their own and their employees’ retirement savings.

“As far as sweetening the benefits, it is quite difficult for micro-companies and small businesses under 200 employees,” says Marcia Mantell, President of Mantell Retirement Consulting in Needham, Massachusetts. However, there are other things employers can do to help their employees prepare for retirement, she explains.

For companies who want to help their employees right now, but who aren’t yet ready financially to add employer contributions to a retirement plan, Mantell suggests creating non-monetary benefits for employees. Educational opportunities such as lunch-and-learn or hosted seminars about investing for retirement and retirement readiness, combined with in-house training for using online retirement preparation tools, will help employees gain a realistic view of retirement financial needs.

Don’t go it alone

“One of the most common areas overlooked in a retirement plan is the selection of an appropriate investment professional to advise the business owner,” says Rommerskirchen. With many small business owners wearing multiple hats, it’s difficult to stay on top of retirement benefit changes. Therefore it’s important to know exactly what services the financial advisor is going to provide for the plan, and how often you will meet with the financial advisor to review issues. You’ll also want to know how often the plan’s financial advisor will meet with your employees and how much experience he or she has, Rommerskirchenk recommends.

8 Cost Efficient Ways to Reward Employees for Your Small Business

8 Cost Efficient Ways to Reward Employees for Your Small BusinessSmall Business 8 Cost Efficient Ways to Reward Employees. While the current economic climate may not allow for more than cost-of-living-salary raises, there are many other ways to show employee appreciation. In fact, studies have shown that employee’s value praise, care and compassion more than getting paid more. If you’re looking for cost-effective or innovative ways to reward your staff, here are eight ideas to consider for your small business:

Be a matchmaker for your small business. If you’re unable to provide holiday bonuses, you might want to form a holiday savings program. Employees can have a portion of their income withheld tax-free, and you can match a percentage of their savings.

Develop leadership for your small business. Investing in an employee’s future demonstrates that you value their work and want to help position them for future success. Company-sponsored leadership training, particularly if accompanied by a weekend trip and team-building activities, can make your employees feel valued and promote loyalty.

Give the gift of good health for your small business. If you encourage employees to take care of their health, your company will reap the benefits in terms of less absenteeism and greater energy. You can foster healthy habits by giving employees time off during the day to exercise or by creating a weight-loss or healthy-eating challenge.

Make getting to work less expensive for your small business. With the cost of oil still high, offering a gas card, or the ability to work from home once a week, can save employees money at the pump.

Help launch a college career for your small business. As much as employees would appreciate bonus checks for themselves, a contribution to their children’s college funds may gain you even more good will.

Pay it forward for your small business. Create an atmosphere where employees and yourself are encouraged to donate unused vacation time or personal days to employee’s who might need them for a serious illness or family emergency. You may find that fostering a climate where employees are invested in each other’s well-being may encourage team morale and a supportive work environment.

Raffle it off for your small business. Depending on your work environment, you could raffle off various items, such as electronic goods or gift cards. Employees will appreciate the chance to win a new prize.

Reroute the “Mommy Track for your small business.” While it may seem like a big undertaking, on-site childcare is becoming a more desired perk. In fact, more than a quarter of the “Best Companies” offer an onsite childcare center. In the long run, this offer will likely minimize turnover and be less disruptive than if the same employees left the company or transitioned to a part-time schedule.

When evaluating the factors that make you an attractive potential employer, a generous salary and an annual bonus are just part of the equation. Showing respect and appreciation through well thought out perks are highly valued, and they are an important incentive to keep employees. How do you reward employees? What have you found works/doesn’t work?

If you like these articles, please share it with friends and google +. Thank you and this is another small business article provided by Apple Capital Group, Inc.

5 Tips on Creating Vacation Policies for Your Small Business Employees

What has happened to the idea of taking vacation time? Even if your small business has a formal vacation policy, the reality is this: In a down economy, many employees are afraid to take vacation time because they feel like they are leaving their employer in the lurch and that they might not have a job once they return.

Further, according to a 2010 survey from consulting firm Right Management, 66 percent of employees polled did not use all of their accrued vacation time in 2009. Further, 54 percent of American adults said they wouldn’t take a vacation at all, according to a Rasmussen poll.

Younger employees, i.e. Generation Y, seem to find it hardest to take significant time off from work. According to a Work Watch survey, 35 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds said that “giving up control of my projects, work and responsibilities” made them hesitate about taking vacation time. Sales reps, financial services employees and IT professionals are other common groups that seem averse to tearing themselves away from work.

Due to a down economy, and having to do more with less, small business owners may be relieved that employees are dedicated to their work and are spending more time in the office. However, here’s why you should not cut your employees vacation time – if other companies in your area are offering paid time off and you are not, that could put you at risk of employees jumping ship. And, staffers who have been working twice as hard in a leaner work environment may feel disheartened if they can’t take time to rest and rejuvenate.

So where do you start in crafting a formal vacation policy? The following are some tips you may want to consider:

Know that a standard approach is to have employees’ vacation time increase with their number of years at the company. For example, employees could earn two weeks after one year of employment; three weeks after five years and four weeks after ten years.
Adopt a “use-it-or-lose-it” policy, where employees can’t carry their vacation over from year to year. Don’t leave this task to human resources. Have management enforce this policy by encouraging their staff to take much-needed R&R.
Consider using one of the newer approaches, such as “paid time-off banks.” This is where employees accrue a bank of hours based on the number of hours worked. They can then cash in the hours for vacation time, or opt to redeem them for additional pay.
Think carefully about whether part-time employees are integral to your success. If so, you may want to offer them some paid time off as well.
Take a close look at your corporate culture and see if it might be a better approach to let employees manage their own vacation policy. Many forward-thinking companies are embracing the idea that, as long as the work gets done, employees should be able to determine for themselves when it’s an appropriate time to take a much-needed break.

You may have a formal vacation policy. And you may gently nudge your employees to take a week off during the summer. But do you, the small business owner, take vacation time yourself? If you don’t, you are not alone. Only 46 percent of small business owners had plans to take a vacation in 2011, down from 67 percent in 2006, according to a recent poll.

Small business owners who take vacation time often face difficulty temporarily ceding control to employees, refraining from calling the office on a daily basis or checking e-mail poolside. Just as you may tell your “Type A” employees: If you have a hard time rationalizing going on a vacation, perhaps you could view your time off as an opportunity to search for inspiration on how to grow, or make improvements to, the company. Now get packing.

3 Ways to Hire a Superstar

Let’s say you are the general manager of an NBA team and you want to win the championship (assuming of course that you solve your labor dispute and get back to playing ball). There are two ways to approach this goal. Which do you think offers you the best chance of winning it all?

First, you could assemble a team of one great player, some other really, really good players and a few OK players to round them out
Second, you could nab three superstars and fill out the team with a bunch of role players

If those scenarios sound familiar, it’s because they are. Last year’s NBA Championship consisted of the Miami Heat, with three superstars – LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. That mega-team made it to the Championship Finals their first year playing together. They were surprisingly beaten by the Dallas Mavericks, a team that no one considered to be a championship threat, mostly because they were made up of but one legitimate superstar (Dirk Nowitzki) and a team of talented role players.

You will notice that the one common trait that both teams had is at least one rock star player; teams without one don’t even sniff a championship.

The sports analogy applies surprisingly well in a small business context. Having a superstar employee can take your team over the top too – whether it’s an exceptional salesperson, a superstar marketer or what have you.

But just how do you find and hire superstar talent? Here’s how:

Be ready: Exceptional people will only go to a business that is exceptional as well. They will expect a wide berth and a lot of support. Therefore you have to be internally prepared – both logistically as well as psychologically – to accommodate the superstar, for the superstar will likely have some baggage: A big ego, demands, the need to do business his or her way, etc.

Now, maybe the person won’t be prima donna (probably won’t be, in fact) but you do need to be prepared for the fact that there will likely be some new demands made upon your organization. After all, you are recruiting the talent for some reason. They know that.

Recruit: Locating a superstar in your industry is often best left to professionals, that is, a talent recruiter. Executive recruiters are available in every industry and are great because they know both the players and the business. They will have leads, contacts and ideas that you do not. Sure it will cost you, but so will the superstar. You get what you pay for.

Of course you could try finding the person on your own – posting on Monster.com and Craigslist for instance – but it will take a lot more time and the results will probably not be nearly as great. After all, how many superstar talents are out there actively scouring Craigslist advertisements? Right.

Be prepared to pay: Superstars may expect superstar pay and benefits: Full medical and dental, a 401(k), several paid weeks off a year, paid holidays and significant base compensation with a hefty bonus structure built in.

Perks: Your rock star may also expect:

A company car
Life insurance
The ability to telecommute
Hi-tech toys like state-of-the-art laptops, smartphones, software and other tools
Ongoing training
The chance for growth within the company

Other issues: Be prepared for the fact that your regular staff may resent the newcomer, especially if the perks he or she receive are fairly transparent. That sort of inequality can’t help but breed problems. By the same token, the newcomer may expect that, for the pay he or she is getting, the place will be exceptional. Is it?

Bringing in a superstar has many benefits, but it is not always an easy fit. As with a sports team, egos often need to be finessed. But if you can mange that and get them to play together, your superstar just may lead you to the Promised Land as well.

About Steve Strauss

Steve Strauss is one of the world’s leading small business experts. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. Steve is also the author of the Small Business Bible and his latest book is Get Your Business Funded: Creative Methods for Getting the Money You Need. A popular media guest, Steve is a regular contributor to ABC News Now and frequently appears on television and radio. His business, The Strauss Group, creates unique, actionable, entertaining, and informative multi-media small business content.