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What Have You Done For Me Lately?

General Business News

January 2001

What Have You Done For Me Lately?

In our November and December articles, we discussed traditional methods of providing incentives to keep employees. In November, we discussed health benefits and in December we discussed retirement benefits. There’s one problem with offering these benefits – they’re not considered benefits in the minds of prospective employees. Rather, they are almost expected of employers in today’s tight job market.

This brings us to our “other employee benefits” discussion this month. It seems these days that employees sometimes have a “what have you done for me lately” attitude. Sure you pay for all or some of their healthcare and retirement benefits. Sure, they get a good salary plus overtime pay. But let’s be honest, a lot of employees consider this their due, not something the company willingly gives them.

Right or wrong, it has become our duty, as employers to create new ways of recognizing and rewarding our employees beyond the traditional methods. The following paragraphs will help you design new programs to assist you in you toughest job – employee retention.

Tangible rewards – Keepers

When we think of tangible rewards, we think of something we can put our hands on. That may be a trophy or certificate, a CD of the employee’s favorite music or something else that can be held in our hands.

Whatever business you’re in, there is nothing quite like a trophy or plaque to hang up on your wall. It is something you, and your employees, can point to as recognition for some accomplishment. You may wish to give a trophy to the highest grossing salesman of the month, or year, or perhaps you may wish to reward a person who tried hardest, but didn’t sell the most. Maybe you want to recognize an office worker as having the most pleasant disposition in the company. The reason for the award is not as important rewarding the employee(s) for something that is meaningful to them as well as you. If you don’t know, ask them.

If you don’t want to give plaques, trophies or similar items, think about merchandise. We’re not talking about a big screen TV here, unless that’s what you want to use. Rather, we’re talking about less expensive items. Maybe you want to give a television to a valued employee for some special event, but you can just as easily give a watch (just don’t give the employee the impression you want them to retire), or a clock or any number of less expensive items. The point is you will be giving your employee something tangible along with the intangible feeling of being appreciated. We don’t want to minimize appropriate pay as one piece of the retention pie, but if an employee does not feel appreciated, eventually they will find another job, for equal pay, where they are appreciated.

Here are a few places you can go to give you ideas:

  • CTM Incentives
  • Incentive Promotion Campaign

Tangible rewards – Consumables

Aside from the rewards you employees will be able to show their friends, there are the tangible rewards that are consumed – food, vacations and similar incentives.

One accounting firm recently won a coveted recruit over several competitors. When asked why she chose the successful firm over its competitors, the new employee simply said, “When your employees have to work late, you buy them dinner.” Compared to the cost of newspaper ads, entertaining recruits and spending valuable staff time on the interview process, a simple meal doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

Providing your employees with sales or production incentives in the form of a vacation at Disneyland or a cruise in the Caribbean may also pay dividends. A seven-night cruise can be as low as $549.00. Even if the employee has to provide their own transportation to and from the point of departure, don’t worry; their spouse or kids will be happy to convince them it’s worth the cost. You can, of course, pay the whole tab yourself.

Regardless of your business, there will always be times when your employees have to work late. Providing them with meals makes perfect sense. It allows you to give them a relatively inexpensive perk, while enhancing their productivity. Working fourteen hours straight with only a lunch break will wear anyone down.

If your company is large enough, sponsor an employee softball or basketball team. Do you have a lot of golfers in your company? What about an employee golf outing? Giving your employees a chance to play together in a social setting will pay dividends far beyond the smiles you see on the employees’ faces.

No sportsmen in your office? Then consider childcare benefits or health club benefits. Employees can always enjoy a quick swim even if they aren’t athletically minded and, let’s face it; there are numerous employees who have trouble arranging supervision for their children while they are at work. It really doesn’t matter if all your employees are men. In the past, the responsibility for taking care of the kids may have fallen only to the mother, but this is a new world we live in. Dads have begun to realize they are just as responsible as moms for the care of the children.

Intangible benefits

Last night, that good hard-working George pulled an all-nighter and he’s still at work this morning. Not only that, the project he put together for your best client was a hit. The client was ecstatic when you delivered the widget report.

Yes – good old George did it again. No wonder your company has such a good reputation with the clients.

By the way, did you tell George what a good job he did? You didn’t? Well, he probably knew he did a great job. Or did he?

Sometimes it’s not the tangible rewards people receive that keep them coming to work. Sure, everybody likes to get paid well and get little goodies during the year, but eventually money is not enough. Anything you can do to make your employees feel appreciated will pay you big dividends. In fact, your rewards will be better than anything the employee receives.

It doesn’t hurt to tell someone they did a good job. In fact, you’ll feel better about the day because you made someone happy and your employee will feel good because the boss noticed their hard work.

There’s nothing like a win-win situation, is there?

We mentioned childcare benefits a little earlier. Did you know you could help provide childcare benefits for an employee and save money?

You can with a flex plan. Flex plans allow you as an employer to withhold money from an employee’s paycheck to be used later by the employee to pay eligible expenses. The plan can be as simple as a premium only plan (where employees have funds withheld to pay health insurance premiums) or as complicated as a cafeteria plan that allows the employee to have funds withheld to pay for childcare expenses, medical expenses and other qualified expenses.

The employees benefit from the flex plan because they pay no tax – income or social security – on the amounts withheld. You benefit because you reduce your payroll tax expense. What could be better?

There are some drawbacks – administration expenses and the employee either uses the funds or loses them. However, on balance, flex plans or premium only plans are great for most employers and employees.

Time off benefits can be very attractive to employees. Believe it or not, there are some people who would prefer to have time off as payment for overtime rather than money.

Flexible working schedules are very attractive to many people. Unless you need an employee at work from eight to five, perhaps allowing the employees to set their own hours (again to take care of the children or for just about any other good reason) would make sense. As with all things, don’t take this to extremes, but at least consider it.

Does your company require all men to wear suits and all women to wear dresses? Have you ever thought about a casual day? Employers everywhere, are embracing casual days, or even a policy of business casual dress as the regular dress code. The reason is simple – if they don’t, the competitor will and steal their good employees. Mergers have been called off because the successor company required employees to wear a coat and tie everyday. If it doesn’t detract from your company’s hard earned identity, business casual dress may be what you need to keep that twenty-one year old at your shop, not your competitor’s.


We have presented only a few ideas on benefits you can provide that will keep your employees where they belong – your business. With the cost of recruiting extremely high these days, it only makes sense you would want to take all reasonable steps to keep your best people.

For many employers, this is an ideal time to begin new benefit programs. It’s the beginning of the year and a fresh start for most small businesses. Give us a call and let’s kick around some ideas that will help you stay focused on running the business, not running after an ever shrinking pool of potential employees.

Happy New Year!!!

These articles are intended to provide general resources for the tax and accounting needs of small businesses and individuals. Service2Client LLC is the author, but is not engaged in rendering specific legal, accounting, financial or professional advice. Service2Client LLC makes no representation that the recommendations of Service2Client LLC will achieve any result. The NSAD has not reviewed any of the Service2Client LLC content. Readers are encouraged to contact their CPA regarding the topics in these articles.

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