Episode 2: Years of Service and Safety


In this episode, Scott and Nelsa cover current topics and the impact to employee engagement.  Special guest, Jeff Ross, CEO/CFO of CA Short Company joins the show to discuss the impact of engagement programs.  This show also covers safety incentive programs and how they impact your employee performance.  

Join us bi-weekly as we analyze key tactics and trends in employee engagement, YOS, and safety programs, while we discuss relevant news topics affecting your workforce. Listen to the episode below or continue reading for a full transcript. 




[00:00:07] Welcome to the All in Employee podcast. I'm your host, R. Scott Russell, and I'm right here with my co-host, Nelsa Webber, and we're from CA Short Company. And you can find out more about us at cashort.com.


[00:00:26] Nelsa I want to talk a couple of very current topics right now. OK. Let's do it. I'll crack it open. So, of course, with everything that's going on, I thought this was really interesting in the news this past couple weeks is that Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference, which has taken place since the 80s, for the very first time, has gone all virtual. Wow. By nature of what we're dealing with over the COVID crisis right now. Do you think what are your thoughts? I mean, do you think that this is going to be the ongoing trend for some time to come? Or do you think this shift to virtual is going to be short-lived and it's really just going to be 2020, maybe into 2021 or until there's a vaccine or whatever? Or do you think we're going to see organizations and companies taking more of their in-person events online for the future period?


[00:01:21] Well, you know, I'm a real human touch kind of girl. Like, I enjoy human interaction. I never really enjoyed online classes when I was in college for the few that we had back in the dark ages. But I find it really kind of funny that Apple, who is a tech giant, has only just now gone virtual. I know that's also a surprising headline. I mean, that to me, first of all, is like crazy, like they haven't been doing it. But I do think that we're going to see probably more of a hybrid. I don't think that it will go completely virtual long term just because I think as human beings, we still need time to see each other and engage with one another. And, you know, I know right now we can't touch virtually and what not. But just being able to shake hands with a colleague or, you know, to have a meal, you know, as a group or what have you. I think those things are still important in human interaction. And we're at our jobs, what, eight to 10, some people twelve hours a day. And to think that we would not have that contact, there's still some jobs that you're going to have to be on-site for. So. But I think we are seeing more of this at our companies on a day to day basis. I know I've got friends and relatives who, even though the state's opened back up, their companies chose to stay virtual. Sure. And I think the time like bringing time back with family, that balance work-life balance is such a big deal. You know, millennials and Gen Xers have brought that into the table where that flex time is so important that I do think it will be more of a hybrid than we've ever seen before. But I don't necessarily see us going 100 percent virtual just in every job yet either.


[00:03:07] I you know, I actually agree with you. I agree with you wholeheartedly. Pretty much everything you stated, I was as interested on your opinion when they thought we were going to see I'm I'm like you in that I sort of craved human interaction. I saw a statistic this past week that six percent of some survey respondents, I can't just can't tell you which survey it was or where I saw this. But six percent said they would never go back to hugging or shaking hands again. And that's a low number, considering. Yeah. But I still look at that and think, yeah, it's just not I don't think I would. And I could imagine not shaking somebody's hand. I guess I'm just I mean, right now I'm doing the elbow the fist pump or whatever it is, but it's not as sincere to me. It's just not as intention. You know, with the handshake, it's eyes in hands. You know, this idea, if you don't get it right, you've grown up learning how to do that all your life. So, you know, that's interesting. That's interesting. And so it really plays into my second piece here today I want us to look at. Was that a lot of places are reopening their doors. Right? We know that around the country and numbers don't look great. But there we're moving through it.


[00:04:18] One of the things that hasn't really been talked about that I have interest in is how do we think this situation this COVID situation and the changes to our work environment affect a highly engaged employee.


[00:04:34] We know that highly engaged means that person is in it. They're all in there when we're talking about, they are they're giving you more than you're paying them, right? You pay them the salary. They give you more than that back in a return. But I wonder, through the changes with COVID, what those effects are on a highly engaged employee. Is it as easy to stay highly engaged? Is it more difficult because of the distractions of society? Did you have your job in an office and then you went to your house and now you're coming back to an office and that has created a difficulty for you. Did you spend the last several months with your kids and now you have heartbreak because you're not with your kids? Like, I wonder about how all those things affect an employee who, generally speaking, would be the most focused, the most engaged, the most in it. What kind of effects does this have? I don't know if we're going to see that data anyway for another year or two.


[00:05:28] So it's surprising with employee assistance programs. I would be curious. Which I haven't seen any data to. You know, we've got other fish that we're frying right now, so I'm not sure what research is being done there.


[00:05:40] But to see, like how many employees have had to go through some form of therapy with the upheaval that we've seen. You know, I know it was really hard for me at first when we went remote because I was always with people, always in the office around everybody. And to be alone for a good portion of my day was very difficult. And then, like you said, you know what? My children would come in and we'd be able to be together in the same space. And I didn't feel the guilt sometimes that I have experienced before. Where I left my children, had to go to work and come back. It was a nice sort of blending of my worlds. But then the other problem was work was always there. You did not get the...I can remember hearing a guy talk about that hour home, the drive on the commute. He didn't get a chance to decompress anymore because. Yeah. Stop work at home. Kids were already in a space. He didn't have a chance to kind of calm down and change gears before going into the next, you know, portion of his day. And I think that's, you know, causing some grind for people as well who are still probably working remotely.


[00:06:53] My dog knows when I don't have time to decompress.


[00:06:56] So I fully understand. Right. I like the distinction. I want my 30 minutes in between to change my brain and to change our way of thinking. And I just I didn't even think about that.


[00:07:07] You know, I don't think as companies, as a society, I really don't think we've changed gears because we're still sort of in the middle of things like we're in the thick of things where we don't have a vaccine. We don't know what the implications of somebody who is asymptomatic, walking around, how that's going to impact. As you know, people are still going to the beach on vacation and everything. But, you know, there are some after effects to all of this that we don't even know yet.


[00:07:35] Right.


[00:07:35] We don't we may all be wearing masks in the U.S., by the end of summer, I think we really don't know. Fear is really underlying a lot of people's work right now because there are people who really are afraid to shake hands and go out to eat lunch or be in the office with other people feeling like I don't want to be sick. But I am a big fan of Law of Attraction. And I do think, you know, the energy that you put out is what you attract to yourself. And I think as a company, you need to be aware of where you people stand engaged with them.


[00:08:06] You know, you can't make false promises and reassure people something that you don't know. But I think you create a positive place for people when they're at work. You create a place where you don't add extra stress in an already hard situation. You recognized people for being safe, for their service, for, you know, showing up and being here for work through it. Yeah. For staying dedicated throughout this process. And I think as we help people stay positive at work, then we do get through it a little bit better than we would have if we just dissed everybody, go to their separate corners.


[00:08:39] And, you know, a final thought there is that I think I would tell you that a highly engaged employee will be affected by the way your company handled this crisis.


[00:08:47] Yes.


[00:08:48] Because if I am as a highly engaged employee and I'm doing all that I can and I believe in the work that we do, a crisis is really what shows me whether you're giving me what I deserve as the employee. Yes. Did you treat me properly? Did you do this? Did you have a good plan? Did you have this? And those are the things I think are highly engaged employee looks at. Right. Right. They look at those pieces. All right.


[00:09:15] So what did you ever say? I think you can recover? You know. Yeah, I did. I think it's important to know that. Yeah. Everybody didn't have a good plan.


[00:09:24] But were you clear with your people that we're trying to to do it in lifetime as best I can? And, you know, maybe you didn't handle certain things as well, but moving forward, do they see you making the change for the better, communicate and engage with your employees?


[00:09:41] I mean, that's what we talk about all day, and that is our key. So we're going to come back and our very next segment and we're going to talk about years of service.


[00:09:50] Awesome. I have a guest. Sounds great. Looking forward to it. Hang in there, everybody. We'll be right back.


[00:09:59] All right Nelsa, so we're going to talk a little bit about years of service of war. Yeah, yeah, we talked a little bit in our last episode and we're gonna continue that conversation a little bit more today. Awesome. And we have a guest.


[00:10:14] Our first.


[00:10:17] And our first guest is the CEO, president, CFO. All things great. Mr. Jeff Ross, all-in employee.


[00:10:28] Jeff's been here twenty-seven years, twenty seven years.


[00:10:35] So we know that Jeff has seen these programs in and out, in and out. So we wanted to bring him in today to talk a little bit about, you know, why you should have one. First of all. Right. What's he seen? Why would you want to do this? And then what are those? Are there any special benefits or implications, anything special around years of service?


[00:10:54] So welcome, Jeff. Yes, thank you.


[00:10:59] Episode two, so honored to be the first guest today.


[00:11:11] We have a good time. We have a good time.


[00:11:13] So, Jeff, we're talking years of service today. We started it last episode. We want to continue that a little bit. That's a major line of business for our company. But it's also just one of the largest, if not still the largest program in recognition that is prevalent around the country, around the world. Right. So talk to us a little bit about your perception of a year of service program and why you think somebody should do it. Like, why should that be a part of your mix?


[00:11:40] Yeah, I think you definitely should have a year to service program just because it shows that, you know, again, as we've talked about engagement and expanding, you know, the evolution of engagement. When I first came down here, the years of service programs were really based on getting a tie tack, a lapel pin, a bracelet with your company's logo on it. And we were one of the first companies in the industry that was not a jewelry manufacturer to give in to years of service. And we thought that, you know, there was an avenue there because, as you know, people evolved.


[00:12:17] You know, the company that I worked for was not like my grandpa's company right now where I grew up.


[00:12:23] He went to work in the rubber factories. And you were playing I'll be there, you know, from the time you got out of high school until the time you retired. It was a nice safe, you know, you know, career path, if you want to call it a career path to be in. People took pride in organizations.


[00:12:41] So, you know, you came on board expecting to retire from there.


[00:12:47] You know, as we know and as I can tell you can get much different.


[00:12:53] You know, if you look at that generation compared to the millennials, you know, the 10 year plan of being, you know, in a company, just cause, you know, you could make, you know, decent pay, you know, have benefits. You know, the safety of knowing that you had a job that


[00:13:14] probably wasn't going anywhere has changed to you know, now, you know, people take jobs because they think that jobs give them a purpose.


[00:13:23] And, you know, they want to feel that doing something more than just a job.


[00:13:29] And we know with today's, you know, world economy, events of the day, especially, you know, as crazy as it's been lately, that, you know, people's wants and needs change, which certainly had an effect on the Career paths of people. I mean, what they like today might be different six, four, six months from now. So you don't see that whole. You know, I'm going to this company and I'm going to be there forever.


[00:13:58] So five years might be a long time for some people now.


[00:14:04] Like I said, were, you know, my grandfather knew my father. You know, they planned on working for one company their entire life. Now, you know, most people are going to work for seven, eight, nine, ten different company. So, you know how to service awards, play into that. And to me, you can tie it all back to that


[00:14:25] overwhelming concept that people don't leave companies because of pay. They don't leave, you know, because they can make a nickel more down the street. You know, the studies show that most people leave organizations because they don't feel recognized. And to me, that whole years of service type program is really all about recognition. To me, it's showing appreciation.


[00:14:50] It's actually honoring these people. I mean, you know, companies should be honored when they have employees that stay at their organization a long time because it's so easy not to.


[00:15:01] So, I mean, I think that's really changed.


[00:15:06] You know, where, you know, it is honorable, you know, to stay at a company for a long time.


[00:15:14] You know, like I was talking how, you know, people like job hop.


[00:15:18] But if you can stay at an organization for a long time, that organization can provide a career path that can provide growth opportunities.


[00:15:28] And those companies change with the world. You know, we all know based on the Gallup studies and all that, that if you can reduce turnover, you can increase productivity, you can increase your bottom line, you can increase efficiency. Everything ties into that.


[00:15:43] I think where a lot of companies struggle and well, where we've lost a lot of productivity is the constant changing of the employees.


[00:15:51] So I think that, you know, that's why it is important to have that year to service program.


[00:15:56] You know, I'm a bean counter by trade came up through the finance side. I certainly can't sit here and tell you that there's a huge economic benefit that, you know, if I've been in a company six years, I'm going to wait another four years and not go anywhere else because I'm going to get this next, you know, award level, you know, because, you know, in dollars, you know, if the average is twenty, twenty five per year in service, I'm going to stay at this company for four more years to get another extra one hundred dollar gift.


[00:16:30] It sounds nice, but you know the bean counter. And he says, probably not. But.


[00:16:36] By having a years of service program and recognizing those people and showing appreciation, I think it increases their performance even to the mindset that, you know, to me, years of service programs are evolving more into the performance programs.


[00:16:53] True. So it's just not tenure.


[00:16:57] That makes you beneficial to the organization, but is being productive and being proficient and, you know, becoming more important in that organization and not just, you know.


[00:17:09] I go back and forth on this quite a bit. You know, sometimes I'm thinking, hey, if you have a 20 year employee, that's great.


[00:17:17] But then, you know, between your employee who sits and does the same thing over.


[00:17:21] And does an author and it anyhow, you know, stays out of the limelight, doesn't push themselves and, you know, just lays low. Is that good for the organization? I would probably argue that it's not.


[00:17:32] So, you know, we've really seen us change from being a tenured employee. You know, it's equaling longevity to being a more productive employee. 


[00:17:44] Yeah. You know, and I've worked I say I've been on both sides of the fence. So I've worked for an organization that was very career-minded, career forward, but did not put effort or emphasis in their tenure and their years of service program. And I thought it was awful lucky. My personal opinion. I really did.


[00:18:04] I felt like I think there's got to be a balance between even if you're a pay for performance organization, you still need to have a balance.


[00:18:12] And so for me, you know, you'd have employees that that would be there, you know, five, 10, 15, 20 years. And they were lucky to get a card from HR like on their anniversary.


[00:18:26] It's almost. To me, it was all those you don't matter. Yeah. It almost felt like we care about what you do now, but not who you are. Right.


[00:18:34] I think you need to balance the message. And I think years of service can do that where you're saying we appreciate you, the person, you've been here for us. We appreciate that. And then the other recognition is about their performance or about other safety, other pieces.


[00:18:49] But I will just tell you that that experience, I always felt like it just felt lacking. Like I said, like you're missing that book. Is this your point? I mean, people mean for somebody to stay five years anymore is a big deal in our society. So why not make it a big deal? All right.


[00:19:09] Yeah, well, and I think about my dad who worked at a plant at my grand grandparents. You know, we had generations of family members who worked to this one plant. And I can remember he would bring, you know, the gift book back in the day. Yes. Yeah. And he'd bring that gift book home and he'd let us pick, you know, my mom and I what we wanted out of the gift book. And it really did mean something because that was hard work. It was you know, it was good money, but it was hard work that, you know, you earned every dime. And so to be acknowledged in that way for sticking with something that was so difficult, your whole family was a part of the process, not just the employee. So it it really made us have good feelings about it as community members and other people. So it's not just the employee that you're impacted with those recognitions that you're really sending out goodwill into your community because other people see you're being recognized for your efforts as well. So just a personal point.


[00:20:05] And that's one of the you know, we talk about the five elements of, you know, recognition or service for and that's certainly one of them, that family involvement. So it becomes bigger than just that employee.


[00:20:18] But now and again, that's another thing. You know, we weren't a manufacturer of jewelry or anything like that's, our whole thing was we'll plug anything that people want. So let's put a useful, functional gift, you know, in these programs so that, you know, the family can get involved, you know, next time. Right. You know, hey, dad has this tie tack and no one worse ties anymore versus, you know, the family goes out and barbecues in the grill they got came from their fathers and mothers organization. It's like every time, you know, that person lights that grill. They know my company is cool. You know, they care about me. You know, my family is enjoying this. You know, it's brought joy to all of us. And so set up just getting that one time bang, you know, their 10 year, 15 year anniversary. It's literally every time that they cook out, their family knows. You know, the main ties that back to the company and caring for that employee.


[00:21:18] And the implication, too, of recognition programs. You know, while it's still years of service and maybe some companies still have in their mind that type in those crystal vases or, you know, all those things from a long time ago that things have evolved, especially here at CA Short where we are looking at what are useful things that people want, not just. Right. We give you something. But given the employee the opportunity to choose and have a voice in how they want to be recognized.


[00:21:49] So, you know, having those levels in different, you know, different varieties of things, I'd like to I like to know how many of those crystal vases in the 80s ended up in somebody's yard.


[00:22:00] Right. Right. There were probably four bucks at a yard sale. That's a hundred dollar Crystal vase. Don't forget about the puter one. No one knows that they're even worth anything to this day.


[00:22:10] No, I think that was great. The other thing, Jeff, that I would ask you about, because you just know this way better than even i'll ever explain it. But there is a tax benefit to a year as a service program. But tell me how that really works.


[00:22:24] Yeah. The tax benefit comes into play in the years of service program as long as you're giving tangible gifts. OK.


[00:22:31] And this touchy feely. Got to be something. Got to be something you kind of get picked up. Got to be able hold it your hand kind of thing.


[00:22:38] Not a cash equivalent. Not a gift card, not a gift certificate. And the whole premise behind that is, you know, it's something that I value. You know, you've no gift card. And all that is that's a cash equivalents. So the IRS views that as, hey, are they trying to disguise compensation by giving that? Sure. You know, as what?


[00:22:59] As if you give a tangible personal property item, you know, the TV, the toaster, you know, if they sell it after you didn't do Air France far. Right. But, you know.


[00:23:13] That leads to, again, that whole you know, you give someone cash for a service award, it's not tax-deductible. Give a gift card and they go and they you know, we all use that for a phrase. They might buy diapers and cigarettes with it. Well, within a day or two, that diaper's been used, them cigarettes have been smoked. And, you know, the company gets no lasting value for what they gave that employee. And so, you know, they don't get that every time they light the barbecue or every time they turn on the TV, you know, they don't get that. Hey, my company is great because of this. Sure. A gift card. Cash equivalent, you know, and then it becomes something that's expected, you know, that they don't feel that they earned it if it's not there.


[00:23:58] You know, they get mad about it type thing. That's a thing. Yes. Very much so.


[00:24:05] I learned a lot today. Did you learn something Nelsa? A lot.


[00:24:08] Yes, I did, especially about the tax value, because it makes sense when you think about it. Why are people getting bonuses or whatever? But I used to think about it. You know, back in the day, you get a bonus. Well, the tax would eat up half the amount of almost half of what you would get. So it felt like, you know, where did my bonus go? So, you know, being able to keep those tangible gifts, the lasting value of the gift moves forward with the employee.


[00:24:32] So so, you know, at least we know that, you know, years of service, if you need to do a program with this little impact to the employee is possible. Look at that one first. Right.


[00:24:43] Because of the tangible benefits out of that, if they get back with family involved, measure family, a meaningful presentation, you get recognition from your peers again.


[00:24:52] I mean, we're not naive here. Everybody loves cash. But as an organization if you want to keep the brand of your company and appreciate this to that employee. Sure. You know, cash and gift cards and gift certificates come and go immediately, whereas you know that the personal or tangible item continues.


[00:25:15] All right, great stuff. Thank you so much, Jeff, for being our guest today. I'm honored to be the first guest.


[00:25:22] All right. We'll be back in a minute. We're going to talk about safety.


[00:25:34] Nelsa, it's the summer of safety here at CA Short. So even though June is safety month and that was just around the back corner from us. We were going to talk safety all summer. We're definitely gonna talk about safety all summer. So this time this week, I thought we would share or I would share with you the 10 elements of safety awareness. OK. Let me see if I know any. You get a good 10, right? Simple and well-defined rules. Yes. Because, you know, if it's too complicated, people will not do it. And this is safety. You don't want to complicate your safety. No. Right. Accumulation design. OK, what's that mean? Well, so that means.


[00:26:17] And a program in which you can accumulate points or otherwise. Right. Right now the more safe I am, the more I could be rewarded. OK. Short term recognition periods. Definitely because people have. And I might be a 90 day event, might be a six month event. And they need, they need something new. So individual recognition, for sure. Right. Because we're all different people. Right.


[00:26:41] And I might take safety ways more seriously than the rest of my team.


[00:26:45] So, yeah, I'm I walk under a ladder four times a day and you don't ever know I might be that guy, right? I don't think so. Not like I would do that. OK.


[00:26:55] Human interaction and peer recognition. I mean, that's huge. Yeah. Human interaction is huge. Peer recognition is huge and safety. You want your peers to know what you've been recognized for especially in a safety program. Right. So that they would encourage you. You got it. You have got it. Useful and desirable awards.


[00:27:15] Yes. Because nobody wants stuff like those crystal vases. We talked about.


[00:27:20] Sorry if that's what your getting. What do you have in your program? Right. Sorry. But anyway, you know, I've won.


[00:27:27] Right. And I think, you know, we heard this in another one of our segments that those things that you tangible that you can talk about, that you can do things with. That's what you're going to go and talk about. So when you say, hey, because of my safe behavior, I was able to get this camping gear for my family. We went on the best camping trip this summer. Those all tie together? Well, and your company gets my nice bump out of that. Positive reinforcement and continuous communication. I mean, if you can't do it, can't keep can't keep it up. A family involvement for the off the job awareness. Yes. So that's just keeping your family involved, knowing that this is how you earned and what you need to do to stay safe. Right. And your job. Immediate gratification. Yes, absolutely. Oh, and safety. Can you imagine? You have to be immediate. You have to be on the spot. Right. Somebodies. I'm that guy about to walk under a ladder. Move me out of the way. Right. That's not a good idea. That's I mean, I'll give you it on the spot card. Exactly right. I mean, by help, it's about I mean, I think it's being immediate looking for opportunities to recognize and reward someone for doing the safe behavior. Right. And we'll talk about, you know, years of service. This is a great middle ground where you keep those, you know, opportunities to recognize employees going until they get to those years of service milestones. If they're not safe, they're not going get there. There it is. Right. And then number 10, management buy-in and ongoing support. You know, Nelsa, no program we have, but especially safety without management buy-in and support, it won't succeed. Exactly. Safety especially has to have the involvement of the leadership. They have to be bought-in and they have to be engaged in the process. Right. To make this work.


[00:29:13] Yeah. Cause you're not going to be immediate. You're not going to recognize. You're not going to do the things that you need to do to ensure that employees are all in when it comes to safety.


[00:29:22] If you're not brought in as a male and you know and safety is not a nice to have right now, it's a must. And I know that safety is a must have. Yes. So having that buy-in and having that ongoing support, it's extremely crucial to the success of a safety program. Right.


[00:29:38] And why it should be not just all summer long, but wherever your company is, there should really be a part of your everyday value system. So, you know, we're talking about it all summer. But I think companies should make sure they're having those conversations and doing those things all day, every day.


[00:29:55] I agree. It's been a great episode, too. What do you think? So far, so good. Yes. Then had our first guest has been awesome. He did like a pro. And of course, your energy always makes me feel like I'm like, yeah.


[00:30:08] Yeah, I have on my running shoes. So it is all about, you know, I'm in my running shoes today. Oh, I'm ready. All right.


[00:30:16] Thank you, everybody, for listening to us on this episode of the All in Employee podcast. And we'll see you next time.


R Scott Russell, CRP, CEP

About the Author
R Scott Russell, CRP, CEP

R Scott Russell is a video host, public speaker, and a sought-after thought leader in the world of employee engagement and recognition. At C.A. Short Company, he is responsible for producing engaging content, helping clients maximize the effectiveness of their programs, and providing ongoing training and education.

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