Most people are gold-star junkies; they have a real need to receive credit, recognition, and praise. However, it’s an unfortunate fact of life that most people probably don’t get the appreciation they deserve. They may be told, “thank you” or “good job” on a regular basis, but they miss the true heart-felt praise that effectively motivates and significantly impacts a company’s bottom line. According to Gretchen Rubin (, here are some tips on how to make your praise less general and more heartfelt:
  1. Be specific. Consider praising a child with, "What a beautiful painting!" versus "Look at all the colors you've included! And I see you've used all your fingers with the finger paints. You've really made your picture look like a spring garden!" This is true for adults, too. "Great job!" is less satisfying than an enumeration of what, exactly, was done well.
  2. Never offer praise and ask for a favor within the same conversation. Manipulation, ulterior motive, a setup; whatever you call it, it makes the praise seem like a means to an end (i.e. artificial).
  3. Look for something less obvious to praise. Find a new quality that hasn’t been praised repeatedly. This shows that you’re paying attention and not just an echo of everyone else.
  4. Praise people behind their backs. When you hear praise come back around (which usually does), it seems more sincere. Always repeat any behind-the-back compliments you hear to help circle them back around, as well.
  5. Match the quality of the praise to the difficulty of the task. The more challenging the task, the more descriptive and lengthy the praise should be.
  6. Remember the negativity bias. The "negativity bias" is a psychological phenomenon that says people react to the bad more strongly and persistently than to the comparable good. Think of your former boss(es); one critical comment will be far more memorable than several positive ones. Try to skip any negative remarks if you want someone to walk away feeling great.
  7. Praise the everyday as well as the exceptional. When people do something unusual, it's easy to remember to give praise. But what about the things they do well all the time without any recognition? Try to point out how much you appreciate the small services and tasks that someone unfailingly performs. Something like, "You know what? In three years, I don't think you've ever been even an hour late with the weekly report." After all, we never forget to make a comment when someone screws up.
Until you become proficient at effective praise giving, try keying-in on just one tip. Chances are you will see a significant boost in employee morale and energy within the workplace. For more ideas on employee motivation, please contact one of our ESG Human Resources Consultants at 888-810-8187.

[Read the rest of this article...]

Posted in: Newsletter
Source: Employer Health Benefits; 2011 Summary of Findings (Kaiser Family Foundation)
Read the full survey summary

Healthcare just got more expensive.  According to the Kaiser/HRET survey that reflects health benefit information for 2011, the average cost of a family plan has increased by 9%, which is significantly higher than the 3% increase seen between 2009 and 2010.  Don’t bang your head on your desk just yet though; there may be some findings from an analysis of the survey that will offer some kind of cost increase relief.

First of all, the 9% increase is an average of all health plan types – HMOs, PPOs, HDHP/SOs, etc – and is a result of varying factors such as benefits, cost sharing, and geographic cost differences.  What that means is that not all plans are created equal, especially when grouping together all survey respondents from Miami to Seattle.  The survey summary also did not break down the specific benefits provided for these plans, other than this alarming figure: 50% of covered workers in small firms (3-199) already have plans with deductibles of at least $1000.  In other words, those of you who still have rich health plans intact have a bit more wiggle room to be creative in finding cost savings.  Those who don’t may have to dig a little deeper, such as creating a health and wellness program to increase the overall health of your organization and, thereby, reduce healthcare costs. 

To break down the alphabet soup, most traditional health plans are either a PPO or HMO plan.  According to the survey, the average annual premiums for these plans in 2011 are $5467 for individual, $15346 for family.  However, the high deductible plans with a savings option (either HSA or HRA) have much lower average annual premium amounts: $4793 for individual, $13,704 for family.  What does this mean to you?  If you do not currently provide an HDHP/SO, perhaps you may want to jump on the band wagon soon, as only 17% of covered workers reported that they were enrolled in such a plan. 

As you may have guessed, healthcare reform does seem to have had an impact on the marketplace, as identified by some of the specific questions asked in the survey.  “Significant percentages of firms made changes in their preventive care benefits and enrolled adult children in their benefits plans in response to provisions in the new health reform law.”  According to the survey, an estimated 2.3 million young adults were added to their parent’s coverage, which certainly should carry some form of a price tag.  On the positive side of this costly light, the government’s National Center for Health Statistics recently found that “the number of uninsured people ages 19 to 25 dropped by almost 1 million in the first three months of this year.”  The Kaiser survey will monitor employer responses to health reform as firms adapt to new provisions that continue to take place over the next few years.

Through Aspen Cove Insurance, ESG provides a number of health plan agents and experts who can help you dissect your current benefit options and offer creative solutions to help save you money on healthcare.  They are also available to educate your staff on non-traditional plan options, such as HSAs or HRAs.  And the best news is you don’t have to be an ESG client to be insured through Aspen Cove!  Please contact our staff today for more information at 888-810-8187.

[Read the rest of this article...]

Posted in: Newsletter

Many employers use de minimis fringe benefits as a way of gift-giving or providing incentives to employees, oftentimes to positively reinforce behavior and enhance performance. However, some incentives do not actually satisfy the IRS regulations to qualify for the tax-free implications of a de minimis benefit. Perhaps it’s time to review your rewards and recognition practices and determine whether you are adhering to the guidelines outlined under Internal Revenue Code.

According to the IRS, a de minimis benefit is one that is occasional or unusual in frequency, and is so small as to make accounting for it unreasonable or impractical. A de minimis benefit is not taxed; as such, it cannot be a disguised form of compensation. The value of a benefit may be considered too large to be de minimis of it exceeds $100, even under unusual circumstances.

Cash Benefits
Cash is generally intended as a wage, and usually provides no administrative burden to account for. Cash therefore cannot be a de minimis fringe benefit, with one exception: Occasional meal or transportation money to enable an employee to work overtime. (See the IRS for details.)

Gift Certificates
Cash or cash equivalent items provided by the employer are never excludable from income. An exception applies for occasional meal money or transportation fare to allow an employee to work beyond normal hours. Gift certificates that are redeemable for general merchandise or have a cash equivalent value are not de minimis benefits and are taxable. However, a certificate that allows an employee to receive a specific item of personal property that is minimal in value, is provided infrequently, and is administratively impractical to account for, may be excludable as a de minimis benefit, depending on facts and circumstances.

For example, an employee receiving a $10 gift card to Subway must have this accounted for as a form of income. However, a gift certificate for two “Foot Long Sandwiches” would qualify as a de minimis benefit. A $25 gift card to Big O Tire is a cash equivalent and taxable; a gift certificate for a car safety and emissions inspection would be de minimis (non-taxable). If your organization typically provides gift cards as incentives, perhaps it may be time to up the Anny on creativity – and avoid tax implications. Otherwise, you should start reporting gift cards as compensation and taxing the employee appropriately.

If you are unsure about whether your current pay practices are legitimate, please visit or contact your ESG Human Resources Consultant at 888-810-8187.

[Read the rest of this article...]

Posted in: Newsletter
We recently included some information regarding Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) in our August Safety Newsletter. 
OSHA is anticipated to have a greater emphasis next year in regards to employers having an EAP, and specifies all employers with 10+ employees must have such a plan.  Merely writing a plan isn’t enough, however; it must actually work.  When developing your company’s EAP, consider the following nine key points to ensure your plan’s effectiveness:
  1. Do not store your Emergency Action Plan in electronic form only; make sure hard/paper copies are readily available.
  2. Determine how employees will be notified of the emergency. It is important to include alternative communication methods since some forms (i.e. phone, paging system) may not be available
  3. List the location of important utility shutoffs, and include digital photos of them so that they can be located quickly and easily.
  4. List any equipment or machinery that must be shut down in an emergency and the name of the person(s) who has responsibility for doing so.
  5. Have each department review all pertinent parts of the plan to ensure accuracy and workability.
  6. Conduct training, then periodic drills to ensure employees know what to do in an emergency.
  7. Include provisions for visitors to your facility.
  8. When writing your plan, take into account variations in emergency procedures that account for differences in shifts or days of the week.
  9. List the locations of special equipment (for example, special protective suits to be used in the event of a chemical release) and emergency supplies (food, water, etc.) in the event employees are stranded at your facility.
For more information, please contact your ESG Human Resources Consultant at 888-810-8187.  If you would like to subscribe to ESG’s monthly safety newsletter, please email

[Read the rest of this article...]

Posted in: Newsletter
Adapted from “Businesses Face an Engagement Crisis” by Bill Leonard, SHRM

Imagine every single employee working in their dream job, utilizing their best talents, working with inspired leaders, and being fully engaged in their role as an employee.  As we are witnessing an economy struggling to fully recover from a damaging recession, business leaders and top-level managers are continuously overlooking the real key to boosting shareholder value.  That key, according to Kevin Kruse, is employee engagement.  According to Kruse, employers everywhere are facing an employee engagement crisis, and proactively reengaging employees would lead to breakthroughs in productivity, customer service, profitability, and shareholder value.

In a recent webcast, Kruse cited the example of Campbell Soup Co., which struggled for a decade to survive, beginning in the 1990s.  In 2001, Doug Conant became CEO and announced his top priority was to improve employee engagement.  Many executives scoffed and pointed at more pressing issues that they believed should be the focus.   Conant’s response was to fire 300 managers who disagreed.  The remaining executives were realigned with their primary goal to be restoring employee engagement.  “Since 2008, Campbell’s total sales and revenue grew nearly 30 percent.  By comparison, the average for other Standard & Poor’s 500 corporations declined nearly 10 percent.”

What exactly is Employee Engagement?
Because employee engagement is a soft, non-tangible concept, few business leaders understand what the term means.  Kruse defined engagement as the sum of: pride, satisfaction, advocacy and retention.  Employees who are proud of their company and have a sense of satisfaction in their work naturally become advocates to the organization and are highly productive, leading to a strong bottom line.  Crucial drivers of employee engagement are growth, recognition and trust.  Examples of how managers can easily focus on these elements include:
  • Schedule one-on-one meetings on a regular basis to discuss employee goals and career development opportunities
  • Show appreciation for jobs well done.
    • Handwritten notes are best.  Emails are easily deleted, but handwritten notes are saved and oftentimes displayed at an employee’s workspace. 
  • Offer recognition in public where others will witness your praises to the employee.
  • Empower employees to make decisions to give them confidence to do a good job.
  • Avoid the perception of being a liar or trying to deceive employees by NOT:
    • Trying to stay positive all the time.
    • Becoming paternalistic by trying to protect or shield employees from bad things.
    • Being non-confrontational by trying to agree with or appease everyone.

According to Kruse, the fatal flaw of many CEOs is to let HR focus on employee engagement single-handedly.  However, this is a function of the corporate culture that must be embraced and supported by all levels within an organization.  “Everyone within your organization is a leader. They might not supervise or manage a team or projects. However, they can lead by demonstrating their commitment to doing their best.”

For more ideas on how to engage your employees to make your investment more profitable, please contact your ESG Human Resources Consultant at 888-810-8187.

[Read the rest of this article...]

Posted in: Newsletter
Adapted from “Making Strengths-Based Development Work; Effective implementation and support are vital to a program's success” by Jim Asplund and Nikki Blacksmith,

A number of organizations have discovered that focusing on their employees’ strengths and talents can lead to a highly engaged and productive workforce. Gallup has researched strengths-based development work and has discovered that companies achieve superior performance when employees are deeply involved in such a culture. “Great managers know how to do this instinctively,” says Gallup. “But it's no easy feat, and organizations usually have a wide variation in management talent.” So how to organizations begin? And what can managers do to ensure performance improves?

The first step in strengths-based employee development is to help employees identify their strengths. Managers then help align employees’ strengths to the roles, responsibilities, and expectations of their jobs. The overall attitude of a workplace will determine the success of this development initiative. According to Gallup, “Teams that encourage and support these efforts can reap substantial rewards, while teams that take a hands-off approach can expect much less success.”

After observing and interviewing a number of employees and managers who use the strengths-based approach, Gallup determined four essential components to the success of such a program:
  • Employees became aware of their strengths and their colleagues' strengths.
  • Employees began to experience success through more intentional application of those strengths.
  • Employees perceived shared commitment to the strengths philosophy among coworkers and managers.
  • Employees perceived shared commitment to the strengths philosophy from company leadership.
According to Gallup’s analysis, “Employees who perceive that their organization is committed to building the strengths of each associate are much likelier to know what's expected of them at work.” Organizations who are interested in learning whether or not their strengths-based philosophy is truly shared throughout the organization should survey their employees with the following checklist developed by Gallup:
  1. Every week, I set goals and expectations based on my strengths.
  2. I can name the strengths of five people I work with.
  3. In the last three months, my supervisor and I have had a meaningful discussion about my strengths.
  4. My organization is committed to building the strengths of each associate.
There is ample opportunity for companies to improve employee engagement and enhance productivity by implementing a strengths-based development program. As discovered by Gallup, “An employee who feels that someone at work cares about him, who feels a sense of progress, and who is encouraged to make the most of his unique personality for the benefit of the company usually pays back that attention many times over. If he thinks his employer takes an active interest in him personally, he is much likelier to repay the company with the work ethic, enthusiasm, and commitment it wants from him.”

To learn more about strengths-based development work, visit To learn more about how to engage your employees, please contact your ESG Human Resources Consultant at 888-810-8187.

[Read the rest of this article...]

Posted in: Newsletter
Page 6 of 24First   Previous   1  2  3  4  5  [6]  7  8  9  10  Next   Last