Printed on: November 21, 2012

Share the wealth

By Clark Corbin
ccorbin@postregister.com

More than 260 Melaleuca employees walked away from a meeting Tuesday with a share of $2.64 million -- and they didn't even have to play the lottery.

During the annual employee meeting, company officials distributed bonuses to 264 employees who reached longevity milestones with Melaleuca.

Started six years ago, the longevity bonus program rewards employees who reach milestones of five, 10, 15, 20 or 25 years with the Idaho Falls-based manufacturer of household products and health supplements.

CEO Frank VanderSloot said the program is designed to reward longtime employees and bolster their retirement plans.

"It's one of the funnest things we do all year," VanderSloot said. "Clearly, Melaleuca has prospered, and clearly it's the employees who are really the heart and soul of the company."

The bonus program rewards all employees reaching milestones of five-year increments this year, whether they are a top executive or sweep the floors in the warehouse. Regardless of their regular wage, employees who reached the five-year milestone received a net check for $5,000.

Employees who served 10 years netted $10,000, while workers employed for 15 years earned $15,000 and so on.

The longest-serving employee honored Tuesday was return specialist Gayle Smith, who works in shipping and returns and netted $25,000.

"Gayle was one of seven employees at the manufacturing plant when we started with her," VanderSloot said.

"(That longevity) means we've gone through life together; we've been a team for a long time," he said. "It's an emotional thing. To me, it means they believed in us when there wasn't anything to believe in."

Employees are free to do what they please with the bonuses, but VanderSloot and top officials encourage them to put the money in deferred compensation plans for retirement savings.

The plan is part of VanderSloot's goal to allow his career employees to retire as millionaires. Under the plan, employees who reach 30 years of service and devote their longevity bonuses to retirement plans and take advantage of 401(k) matches would expect to retire with $1.1 million saved up, VanderSloot said.

"For a long time we tried to figure out how to make sure our employees were prospering along with (the company), so we announced the program in 2006," VanderSloot said. "It makes it possible for every employee, regardless of level, to retire as a millionaire."

Clark Corbin can be reached at 542-6761. Comment on this story on Post Talk, www.postregister .com/posttalk.