Employee Recognition – Celebrating Success of Your Team

Employee recognition is one of the easiest (and least expensive) ways to improve engagement and job satisfaction.  Most people may take a new position because of the financial compensation but that’s not what will keep them with the company. And 40% of employed Americans say they’d put more energy into their work if they were recognized more often, which leads to increased productivity and ultimately corporate success. (HBR, 2016)

Employee appreciation can come in many different forms but it should make your team feel respected, valued and cared about.  Many times this starts with leadership and management, but also is important to build a culture of kindness amongst all employees.  Stronger social connections in the workplace can be formed by colleagues who recognize their peers.

Below we’ve listed “5 Ways to Recognize Your Employees”.  This list can go on for days but we thought this would give you a good start to brainstorming how best to reward your team.

1. Start with a Survey – What you believe your employees want and what they actually do may be two different things.  Ask your employees how they want to be recognized.  You can certainly provide some ideas such as gift cards, extra PTO, shout-out on social media, etc.  But start by seeing what’s most important your team.

2. Gamify Employee Recognition – There are many gamification programs in the world of employee recognition, however, KazooHR, an app that allows employees to earn “gold” from their colleagues for doing a good job at work.  Employees then have the ability to cash in their “gold” for real-life prizes like Amazon gift cards.

3. Branded Team Rewards Platforms – Sometimes communicating success amongst team members is the best recognition of all.  HighFive allows companies to offer custom recognition, simply a “high five” on your Slack Channel for a job well done or you have the option to send along a reward as well.

4. Celebrate Your Team – Set goals with your employees and when the attain them celebrate with a team happy hour or dinner.  Some times kicking back with your colleagues presents a fresh perspective on working together and your employees will feel appreciated for their efforts.

5. Make It Personal – A custom gift based on an employees personal interests will go a long way in the “caring about your employees” department.  This does not mean the gift has to have a hefty price tag.  If your employees enjoy art, send them to a “sip and paint party”.  Or if your employees enjoy baseball, send them to a game.  There’s lots of options, but the key is getting to know what’s important to your employees.

D&I: Making Employees Feel Valued, Seen & Heard

People Spotlight:  DeLonzo Rhodes, Head of Employee Experience at MoMA

Diversity and how to manage diversity within the workplace have become increasingly popular topics in the field of Human Resources. From differences in race, ethnicity, age, education, gender, gender identity or physical ability, inclusion has become the strategy to leverage the different skills and ideas that a diverse workforce brings to the table.

At the end of the day, employees are a company’s most important asset, they keep operations running. Addressing diversity by practicing inclusion is a business strategy to ensure that operations continue to run smoothly and a variety of voices are included, because when your employees feel heard and included, they will work harder for you.

We had the opportunity to speak with DeLonzo Rhodes, Head of Employee Experience at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) who has an array of experience managing diversity within the workplace. DeLonzo began his career in the field of HR with the belief that developing a connection with others starts with clear and open communication. He found success working in HR early on as a result of his ability to foster genuine connections with coworkers and employees. DeLonzo’s HR experience is wide ranging considering he’s held roles in various industries such as higher education, beauty and fashion, as well as construction. The common thread throughout all of these roles is that each company had a very specific culture that he was able to successfully leverage and build a distinctive employee experience. Currently, DeLonzo cultivates experiences for a very diverse population across all the various departments at MoMA.

Here are a few key takeaways from the conversation about managing diversity with DeLonzo.  We think you’ll find his passion for people inspiring.

  1. Invest in your people; then empower them. One of the most important things an organization can do is invest in the learning and development of their employees. When employees feel you are invested in their growth, they will inevitably feel more connected to the organization. For MoMA, creating a successful L&D strategy was key to not only engaging employees, but aligning their actions with desired organizational outcomes.  Consequently, empowering employees is a result of having strong interpersonal and corporate communication. Employees who feel like insiders and who feel like they are a part of the conversation are more likely to convey pride and enthusiasm in your brand internally and externally.  MoMA essentially shifted their communication with employees from a more frequent performance development conversation, to more all staff meetings where different departments present what they’re working on. Their goal is to keep the communication flowing and to encourage employees to be curious and ask questions.  They have visitor facing staff, which includes MoMA retail stores, so it’s important that they not only have the tools to do their jobs well, but also are empowered to go above and beyond to provide a memorable experience.
  1. Tailor D&I programs to fit the aspirations of the organization. MoMA aims to create a culture of inclusion. It’s important to first collectively define what inclusion means for your organization.  In many ways, MoMA is one of the most diverse places DeLonzo has ever worked and he says they are always challenging themselves to include all the different voices of their employees. No matter who the employee is, whether it is an executive or a security guard, employees want to feel like they matter. One thing known for sure is that a diverse and inclusive workplace is increasingly more creative and innovative. Happy employees, employees who feel valued, included, heard and seen, will take better care of your customers and your business.
  1. Don’t overthink employee engagement. Instead, listen to your employees to get a feel for who they are and what motivates and inspires them. At MoMA, it’s important to be specific in the programs offered to employees. When first joining the organization, DeLonzo went on a listening tour to better understand the needs and desires of our employees.” An easy way to start conversations is to host focus groups on a wide variety of topics.  One of the first programs put into place was morning meditations for staff. DeLonzo found that during exhibition installations or MoMA free Friday hours, it was a stressful time for many employees. Providing a space where they could find peace and clear their minds made a world of difference for their energy and disposition.
  1. Celebrate your differences. Part of MoMA’s mission is to, “celebrate creativity, openness, tolerance, and generosity. We aim to be an inclusive place – both onsite and online – where diverse cultural, artistic, social and political positions are welcome”. These words also offer guidance to DeLonzo as DeLonzo’s cultivates the MoMA employee experience and finds that employees generate some of their best ideas when they have a diverse cross section of employees at the table, allowing them to incorporate or consider different points of view that help to create programs and initiatives that make sense for their unique staff.

Inclusion is the purposeful act of welcoming diversity and cultivating an environment where our differences are our strengths.  Considering the diversity of your workforce and implementing inclusion strategies into communication, learning and development and engagement initiatives is key to making employees feel heard and feel like they belong. Taking a look at your companies diversity and inclusion strategies and evaluating what is or is not working, making the necessary changes and testing new approaches will allow you to implement the best possible programs to ensure employees feel valuable at all levels.

8 Must-Haves for Financial Wellness

Company Spotlight:  Advizr

Money is the top cause of stress in the US, according to an American Psychological Association survey. “Every employee deserves a financial plan” is Advizr’s motto, and they deliver: their tool offers personalized solutions for every employee to achieve their financial goals, whether they’re paying off student loans or saving for retirement.

Plus, their weekly email newsletter “The Financial Checkup” is a must-read for anyone in the HR and benefits world. It’s a fun roundup of financial wellness content that will surely be the least boring thing in your inbox! Sign up here for their weekly email newsletter.

One unique component of Advizr’s program is the Financial Wellness Assessment. Once you sign up, your HR team will get a unique link to assess the financial wellbeing of your population — for free! You’ll see results populate in real time in the WorkPlace Director Dashboard. Armed with this information, you’ll be able to decide what solution makes sense for your employees.

Advizr’s white papers provide in-depth explanations of various topics in financial wellness. Below I’ve shared their “8 Must-Haves for a Successful Financial Wellness Program”.

1. Senior leadership buy-in – To be truly successful, any workplace initiative must have the support of senior leadership. The tone set by your executives with regard to your wellness program means everything. Employees want and need to feel that their managers care and that their wellbeing is invested in. It is not just retirement employers should care about, but whether employees can meet their day-to-day expenses and cover unexpected costs in the event of an emergency. In its 2018 Employee Wellness Survey, PwC found two-thirds of millennial and Gen X employees(1) , along with half of baby boomers, value a company more if it cares about their financial wellbeing.

2. Availability to ALL employees – Everyone benefits from programs that empower them to take control of their financial wellbeing, regardless of their net worth or situation. While common sense may lead us to think those earning less require financial advice and guidance the most, even high-earning employees making more than $100,000 annually still worry about finances(2). In 2018, nearly half (42%) of these high earners reported ongoing credit card balances and nearly one-quarter (23%) use their credit cards to pay for monthly expenses they cannot afford with cash.

3. Ease of access beyond company portal – In the age of the app, accessibility must extend to mobile devices. Easy access to financial wellness programs and tracking functionality means employees can access these resources outside of the office, from the palm of their hand whenever they want to examine their financial picture. Mobile access also allows employees to check their balances in real time, view progress to meeting their goals and see a snapshot on where their money has gone for certain budgets.

4. Comprehensive financial wellness tool-box – In its 2017 study, Prudential found 83% of employers now offer wellness programs(3) , up from 20% just two years earlier(4) . As financial wellness programs proliferate across corporate America, how to define the most impactful programs is still up for debate. However, the most reputable programs encompass:

  1. Technology: Financial wellness assessments and associated platforms to drive financial goals
  2. Education: Access to articles, educational messaging and seminars on relevant topics
  3. Communication: Frequent touch points through promotional campaigns and in-app notifications
  4. High-touch support: Personalized guidance from a financial professional to engage and empower

5. Ability to track day-to-day spending – Employees must be able to track their progress in real time. Helping people take control of day-to-day money matters will gradually elevate their comfort level as they figure out their spending and savings, and ultimately in managing larger sums of money. Forty-one percent (5) of employees report that their employer’s financial wellness program has helped them rein in spending. Solutions that assist in the management of daily cash flow can be accomplished through the linking (and aggregating) of bank accounts to create budgets, financial education and high-touch support through one-on-one financial coaching. Having a platform that informs of when a certain budget has, or is about to, exceeded funds is also valuable to drive behavior change.

6. Long-term expense planning – While employees want financial help and guidance in many areas of their lives, half of all US employees cite saving for retirement as their top concern(6) . Beyond retirement though, employees want guidance on other long-term expenses, such as paying down revolving debt and student loans, strategies on building and growing an emergency fund, buying a home, saving for their children’s education and covering future healthcare costs. Addressing student loan debt may be the single most important priority for employees, as a significant percentage of those with such debt [baby boomers (75%), Gen Xers (77%), and millennials (81%)] say it has a moderate or significant impact on their finances(7) and negatively impacts their ability to tackle other long term goals. All of these competing priorities must be addressed in tandem through a comprehensive platform on which a user can easily view all of their priorities.

7. Relevant employer offerings and resources – Financial decisions generate stress and a proliferation of options that frequently lead to paralysis and more stress. Employees need continual “pushes” on where to put their extra dollars, what key topics they should be prioritizing and how their existing employee benefit offerings can enhance their financial wellbeing. More than half (54%) of employees surveyed for PwC’s 2018 Financial Wellness Survey(8) say that although they make their own personal finance decisions, they feel more confident if they can call upon someone else to validate and confirm their choices.  Employers must recognize their role in ensuring employees know they care about their wellbeing and are investing in offerings to help them meet goals. Implementing a financial wellness assessment allows an employee to receive a baseline of where they stand on the spectrum of being financially fit, while providing the employer real time insight into their workforce’s top concerns. Employers can then evaluate alternative or additional vendors to ensure their benefit offerings align with the requests from their population.

8. Financial coaching and guidance – Employees need high-touch, customized support specific to their personal goals and priorities. The best delivery of this assistance comes when employees can speak with a financial coach (often the financial advisor managing the company’s 401k plan) in person and during the workday. For those not yet ready for a sit-down meeting, employee financial wellness programs can also offer educational seminars and webinars in a group setting given by a professionally trained advisor with topical knowledge who can guide thoughtful decision making. The ultimate goal of this service is to engage, educate and empower employees to make decisions that help them in working toward a more financially secure future.

Advizr also offers a monthly calendar packed with budgeting and lifestyle tips that makes a great addition to the office fridge. Download July’s here and check out the June calendar below.

About the Contributing Author:
Maria Behrens, MPH, Head of Financial Wellness & Community, Advizr

Maria is the Head of Financial Wellness and Community for Advizr Inc., where she oversees the development and execution of their financial wellness program. Prior to joining Advizr, she worked in the Benefits and Wellness sector at Goldman Sachs where she created and implemented various health, wellbeing and personal finance/retirement initiatives for the employees of the firm. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Population Health Sciences from Ithaca College and a Masters in Public Health Program Design from
Boston University School of Public Health.


Sources: 1. PwC Employee Financial Wellness Survey 2. PwC Employee Financial Wellness Survey 3. Prudential Benefits and Beyond Report 4. Prudential Today and Beyond Study 5. Financial Finesse Year In Review Report 6. Bank of America Workplace Benefits Report 7. PwC Employee Financial Wellness Survey 8. PwC Employee Financial Wellness Survey

PEO Insights from Professional Benefits Brokers

Professional Employer Organizations, or PEOs as they are better known, are the one size fits “most” solution for HR outsourcing.  Whether you’re looking for a solution to address your payroll, benefits, HR, tax administration, and/or regulatory compliance assistance, its important to do a proper analysis to determine whether a PEO is right for you. So how do you know if its the right fit for your company?  Who better to provide insights on benefits  than benefits experts?

When joining a PEO, companies enter into a co-employment contract, where instead of your company being responsible for all things HR like payroll, compliance, workers’ comp, risk management, performance management, time/attendance and benefits admin, the PEO takes on these responsibilities. Additionally, PEOs provide access to Fortune 500 level benefits for small-medium sized groups that otherwise would not be accessible.

When it comes to medical, dental and vision insurance rates, the PEO harnesses purchasing power by becoming the employer of record, allowing a company to receive more competitive prices than typical. In short, the ability to access better rates with a PEO is possible due to the model essentially being group buying. For example, you’re a small 100-person company.  On a PEO, your employee count gets thrown into the pool with other companies on the PEO. Now, instead of getting rates for a 100 person company, you can get rates for a 10,000+ person company (or however large the group is). I compiled responses from our benefits brokers here at MBL to help give a better look into how PEOs function and how a PEO can support your company.

1. What kinds of companies are best suited for PEOs?

  • Any size company can benefit from a PEO, however the sweet spot would be companies with between 5 and100 employees. Those that would benefit greatly from being on a PEO are also those companies who need help streamlining their HR functions, especially startups, as well as rapidly scaling companies. Companies in all industries could benefit, though some PEOs concentrate on specific fields.

2. What are the major pros to being on a PEO?

  • Gaining access to large company rates. This includes medical, dental and vision insurance rates, workers compensation rates along with additional lines of coverage such as Life Insurance, AD&D, Short Term Disability and even accident, hospital indemnity and pet insurance, which may not have been available to them as a small business.
  • PEOs can provide access to better plan options (a statement more geared towards the ability to obtain UCR out-of-network plans at a reasonable rate).
  • PEOs are a one-stop-shop for a company’s HR needs. If a company isn’t able to dedicate someone to HR, a PEO can take on those responsibilities, allowing the company to focus on their growth.
  • PEOs may also offer additional perks to customers such as access to a 401(k), wellness perks like discounted gym memberships or gym reimbursements, and mobile phone discounts. Some may also offer access to commuter benefits so that employees can pay for their transportation costs using pre-tax dollars.
  • PEOs takes over compliance with State/ Federal laws for taxes. The PEO will assume the responsibility of adhering to the government mandated reporting requirements, ensuring companies remain in compliance with ever changing rules and regulations.
  • Streamlined employee management on one system from hire to fire.
  • Access to experts whenever needed in tax, labor law, benefits, and workers’ compensation who can help improve your company’s productivity and profitability.

3. When is the best time for a company to switch to a PEO?

  • Typically upon their renewal or the PEO’s renewal – each PEO renews at different points throughout the year. The easiest transition would be January 1st of each year being that this would be the cleanest for tax purposes.  The staff would get one W2 opposed to if they switch on or off before 1/1 because the staff would get a W2 from their company and then again from the PEO.  It’s important to understand any implications that may arise if switching to or from a PEO anytime other than during renewal periods.  Additionally, medical deductibles and out of pocket maximums would be impacted with the change to or from a PEO.

4. What is the average savings seen from switching to a PEO? 

  • PEOs can help save companies thousands of dollars as well as time. MBLs brokers have helped companies save anywhere from 15-20%. They can help you switch from a regular insurance carrier to a PEO, or from one PEO to another.
  • One broker shared that they moved an employer group from a small group high deductible health plan to a PEO that had very strong plans (ie: non high-deductible plans) which ended up saving the employee’s money by reducing the amount they had to pay in contributions and then saved the employer significant premium dollars overall. The savings for the changes was around 20% or $80,000.00.
  • Aside from significant savings for the employer and employees, switching to a PEO can result in consolidating multiple carriers/vendors, switching groups from paper to electronic and  access to more benefits, all at lower rates.

6. Any other last words of advice for companies?

  • Companies should avoid the PEO quoting process on their own and instead work with a broker who can secure the best match/rates based on the groups needs.
  • PEOs can help improve recruitment and retention of employees due to being able to offer large group Fortune 500 level benefits, allowing businesses to attract and keep top talent.
  • Co-Employment is when a business and the PEO share the legal responsibility for employees. The idea of and the words “co-employment” may insinuate that a business owner is giving up some of the decision making power that comes with being the owner of said business However, the term “co-employment” refers to when a business decides to utilize a PEO and they begin using the PEO’s Tax ID number, allowing that business to now access Fortune 500 level benefits. What needs to be conveyed to a business owner who is considering a PEO is that they are still in charge of the direction and decision making for the company. For everyday business decisions like marketing, customer service, or directing what work gets done, the business is in full control. However, anything that could raise HR-related legal issues, such as safety, labor law compliance or employee discrimination, the PEO will establish procedures to ensure both entities are legally compliant.
  • It is important to be aware that companies on PEOs will only have access to insurance carriers and plans that the PEO chooses.
  • If the group is a big risk on workers compensation (think of a job with high risk of injury), it might eliminate them. If the group is much older in regards to average age, that also could eliminate them for PEO based on rates.

The Importance of Play @Work

At first thought play and work are two words that just don’t seem to go together.  If employees are playing then they are not being productive, right?  Not quite.  You see, the right amount of playful time brings happiness, meaningful connections, alleviates stress and actually increases overall productivity.  Companies are striving to improve their culture and engage their employees, and “Play@Work” just may be the holy grail for this mission.

Building Meaningful Connections & Community

Enter, ZogCulture.  Their battle cry is to “Never Stop Playing.”  They believe to play is to be human so they built a business around it.  Their mission is to bring people together to create real personal connections, caring communities, and of course, a sense of play through fun events like summer field days and in-office game nights.

“Play” is so important studies have shown that implementing a “play@work” strategy helps your employees to be:

  • More collaborative
  • More creative
  • More productive
  • Happier
  • Better problem solvers
  • More likely to stay with the company

Having had the experience to participate in one of ZogCulture’s experiential events, we can tell you first hand that their strategies break-down inhibitions, foster camaraderie and drive happiness.  And applied to the workplace, happy employees are productive employees.

Below we share some of ZogCulture’s incredible insights:

  • Connection Questions are Key – Inspired by Adam Grant, connection questions provide a quick and fun way to get to know your colleagues.  Prior to a meeting, or during lunch or happy hour, throw some questions out for employees to explore with one another.  Below are a few examples:
    • When was the last time you sang to yourself or someone else?
    • Is there something you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it.
    • If your house was on fire, what one belonging would you save and why?
  • People Play in Different Ways – Dr. Stuart Brown identified “8 Play Personalities” listed below, when we think of diversity and inclusion its important to recognize that different groups have different preferences and all of these should be addressed.
    • The Director
    • The Artist
    • The Kinesthete
    • The Joker
    • The Competitor
    • The Collector
    • The Storyteller
    • The Explorer
  • 5 Easy Ways to Play at Work – Different workplaces have various limitations on what they are able to implement for play, below we provide a few of ZogCulture’s suggestions.
    • Start meetings with a connection question such as “2 truths and a lie”
    • Take a break to play (have a quick card game, in-office jeopardy, etc.)
    • Offer fun prizes for friendly competition
    • Get out of the office (take a walk around the block during lunch)
    • Consider activities for different play personalities

Whether “play” is a part of your culture or not, it should be something to consider.  Take small steps, maybe start by introducing meetings with connection questions.  Engaging your employees and keeping them happy will increase retention and attract new top talent to your team. ZogCulture is a partner who can make it all work together.