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3 Ways to Engage a Remote Workforce

Andrew Answers / 7 Aug 2019 / Business

graphic conceptual image of laptop connecting a remote workforce

In today’s digital age, more people than ever are working from home.

In fact, a recent survey revealed that 70 percent of professionals across the globe telecommute at least one day a week.

A remote workforce opens a business up to benefits like finding a wider breadth of talent and experience, not to mention potential cost savings. But with less in-person interaction, how can HR professionals and business owners engage their employees without sacrificing their firm’s unique culture?

The balance doesn’t have to be difficult to navigate and implementing these three concepts can help your business and employees thrive.

1. Set ground rules

When you first consider starting a remote workforce, the road may seem paved with speed bumps. For example, how will you know if your employees are really working and if goals are being met? Setting ground rules can help quantify your employees’ success. Finding a way to measure how and when work is getting done helps ensure your team is being productive and contributing to the bigger picture. Start with establishing objectives and key results with all employees and updating them every six months or so. This allows employees and managers to quantitatively set goals and deadlines, providing concrete results that can be measured and analyzed. While this data is a great start, tracking employee success can’t stop there. Two-thirds of working remote is being qualitatively available. It’s one thing for your employees to accomplish the tasks on their daily checklist, but it is another thing to feel like they are engaged and available throughout the day. The level of communication your employees provide is typically a good indicator of their commitment to the job, so it’s best to encourage an environment of overcommunicating. For instance, knowing that a team member has a doctor’s appointment at 12 p.m. is helpful, but often not enough. Instead, encourage employees to share more detailed information like when they’re planning to leave, how long their commute is and what time they expect to be back online. After all, there’s a big difference between someone being unavailable for three hours versus one or two.

2. Stay connected

Technology is a great way to foster a culture of collaboration for your remote employees. With hundreds of online messaging and organizational platforms available, it is relatively easy to find one that will provide your employees the tools they need to stay connected. When our company, Ubiquity, transitioned toward having a full-time remote workforce, we saw the need for an instant messaging and video conferencing platform that enabled everyone to communicate at the drop of a hat. Email just won’t cut it when you are telecommuting, so it’s helpful to provide several avenues for communication among employees that allow them to quickly and easily access anyone within the company. That way, quick chats can seamlessly transition to full-on video conferences and no one feels left without a way to be seen and heard. Consider making virtual meetings a consistent weekly or monthly priority. Host formal “town hall” meetings where all employees can share their performance progress and accomplishments. Stay connected on a personal level by sharing birthdays, work anniversaries and other notable milestones or by setting up a “virtual break room” where people can talk about their lives outside work and whatever else is on their mind. These outlets can all help spur collaboration and relationship-building among employees who have limited in-person contact.

3. Show appreciation

The first word in “human resource” is human, so it’s crucial to recognize your employees as individuals and ensure they feel celebrated for their unique contributions, even from a distance. To keep a finger on the pulse of your employees, start by introducing an employee engagement survey. These can reveal not only how employees think about their jobs, but how they feel. From there, consider utilizing a digital employee engagement tool to check in on the overall mood of your employees on a regular basis. This presents a great opportunity to start a conversation and hash out any pain points or show appreciation for their hard work. We take employee appreciation very seriously and go even further by doling out virtual “high fives” when we see a job well done, sending small seasonal gifts to all remote employees (tea and honey for the fall, flowers for the spring, etc.) and encouraging random acts of workplace kindness such as offering unsolicited praise or mentorship. These can all be huge motivators and help employees feel noticed during the daily grind.

As the American workforce grows increasingly remote, HR professionals must be ready to keep their employees engaged. You cannot build a company culture overnight, but setting ground rules, staying connected and showing appreciation can foster a workplace culture that is reflective of the people who work there.

Please note: this post originally appeared on Workforce on August 6, 2019.

Small businesses have a big retirement problem. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, at companies with fewer than 50 workers the not even half the employees have access to a 401(k) or pension. At companies with 500 workers or more, 90 percent of employees have access to a retirement plan. Setting up an employee retirement plan can seem daunting for small business owners—if not impossible. Let’s clear up some misconceptions and review a few of the many reasons why offering an employer-sponsored retirement account is a great idea for small businesses of all types.

Investing in Your Employees Creates An Invested Team

How badly does your team want retirement? According to a 2015 Glassdoor survey, 31 percent of workers valued a workplace retirement account, such as a 401(k) or pension plan, over an increase in pay.

Even your team members who would prefer a wage pump want help preparing for the future. The Employment Benefit Research Institute found that two-thirds of employed workers not currently saving for retirement say they would be likely to start if automatic paycheck deductions ranging from 3 to 6 percent were used by their employer.

By offering a retirement plan, small businesses may be able to attract more talent—and retain the valuable team members they already have.

Low-Cost, Low-Hassle Plans

There’s a toxic myth floating around that retirement plans have to be clunky, expensive, and require an annual 1.5-2% fee to a provider. That’s a misconception! Nowadays, there are low-cost options, specifically designed for small businesses. (Full disclosure, we think our plans are pretty great. Check them out here)

Besides providing lower costs, choosing a third-party plan provider allows you to delegate certain plan responsibilities to let you focus on what you do best—running your business.

Use Plans to your (Tax) Benefit

Did you know those fees to set up and run a retirement plan may be tax deductible? Using Form 881, eligible small-business owners can claim a credit of up to $500 for qualified setup and administration fees, and costs to educate employees about the plan for each of the first three years of the plan. Just keep in mind that whatever plan expenses you use toward this credit, you can’t use as business expense deductions.

In 2017, the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that nearly 73 percent of workers not currently saving for retirement would be at least somewhat likely to start if contributions were matched by their employer. The good news for employers is that the IRS usually allows them to deduct these matches, subject to contribution limits on qualified employee plans (including the employer’s own plan).

Remember that all deferred employer contributions, including earnings and gains, are tax-free for employees until distributed by the small-business retirement plan. This is why an employer contribution is so valuable.

Bottom Line: Start Saving Today

As a small-business owner, it makes sense to look into offering an employee retirement savings plan. It’s an easy to implement perk that your team will value, is available through lower cost options, and provides tax breaks to both employees and employers. Sponsoring an employee retirement plan attracts and retains the best talent for your business. Showing your employees you have their interests in mind creates a happier, more engaged, and ultimately more successful team.

Learn More:

Download our Definitive Guide to Small Business 401(k)

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© 2019 Ubiquity Retirement + Savings
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44 Montgomery Street, Suite 3060
San Francisco, CA 94104
Support: 855.401.4357

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© 2019 Ubiquity Retirement + Savings
Privacy Policy
44 Montgomery Street, Suite 3060
San Francisco, CA 94104
Support: 855.401.4357

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