As the saying goes, "April showers bring May flowers." This month, as EBN opens nominations for the 2011 i-COMM Awards, I'd like the April showers to be showers of praise for your best employee communications efforts so that you May receive bouquets of benefits achievement.

Now in their fourth year, EBN presents the i-COMMs to recognize the best in internal communication of benefits. We seek to honor communication initiatives that advance the objectives of the benefits/HR department and the strategic goals of the employer organization.

For example, did your communication initiatives increase employees' benefit participation, help them derive greater value from benefits, improve employee satisfaction or achieve cost savings for your organization? Benefits professionals strive to create a positive work environment for their colleagues, but far too often these efforts go unnoticed - until now. Here is your chance for your benefits and HR department to shine.

Submissions will be based on active websites, emails, intranet pages, print and other communication vehicles. The i-COMM Awards are open to all companies that have an HR/benefits department and/or employee communications division. The i-COMMs are awarded in four categories:

1. Best Web or Intranet Design and Usability

2. Best Print or e-Newsletter Design and Usability

3. Most Innovative Benefits Offering(s) or Internal Company Initiative

4. Best Training Program

A panel of EBN editors will evaluate nominees, and the i-COMM Awards will be presented at EBN's 24th annual Benefits Forum & Expo, to be held Sept. 25-27 at the Hyatt Regency in Dallas. Additionally, the award winners will be profiled in the Sept. 15 issue of Employee Benefit News.

All nominations must be submitted using our online nomination form at zoomerang.com/Survey/WEB22C4KZEP4GD/.However, submitted material need not be limited to the nomination form. Supporting information - documentation of achievements, or letters of support or endorsement from other colleagues/business contacts - is encouraged, and may be submitted to icommawards@sourcemedia.com. Please include the name of the company you are submitting for in the subject line.

The deadline for nominations is Friday, July 1. Winners will be notified by July 15. Please feel free to contact me with questions about the Awards.

I'd also like to remind you to nominate yourself, a colleague or a client for a Benny Award. The Bennys are presented by EBN and sponsored by VSP Vision Care to recognize excellence in the employee benefits field. Awards are granted to employee benefit, human resource or other practitioners directly involved in the management of employee benefit programs. Benefits professionals may nominate themselves, teams or co-workers, and benefit suppliers or consultants may nominate their clients. Only one person per company may be nominated.

The awards are organized into five categories:Benefits Professional of the Year, Benefits Leadership in Health Care, Benefits Leadership in Retirement Planning, Benefits Leadership - Judges' Choice and The VSP GetFit Award.

The Benefits Professional of the Year is presented to the candidate who has shown a consistent pattern of creativity and achievement in benefit plan design, administration, communication and/or staff management, as well as contributions to the benefits profession overall.

The Leadership Awards in Health Care and Retirement Planning go to professionals who have demonstrated excellence in developing and managing programs yielding measurable impacts on the cost and/or quality of these benefits.

The VSP GetFit Award recognizes the benefits professional who has led the adoption of an innovative program or approach that best exemplifies a "GetFit" organizational commitment. The program or approach should specifically promote work-life balance among employees, focus attention on superior service at every level, and generate opportunities for employees to support each other and the communities in which they live.

The Judges' Choice Award is a "wild card" category covering a wide spectrum of benefit programs and areas of specialty.

A panel of EBN editors, current Benny award winners and the program's corporate sponsor will evaluate nominees. Judging criteria include recent achievements involving innovative multiyear projects, professional recognition and depth of experience.

The Benny Awards also will be presented at EBN's 24th annual BF&E. The Benefits Professional of the Year receives a cash award of $3,000 and $1,000 in travel expenses to attend the event. The other four honorees will each receive a $1,000 cash prize and $750 in travel expenses. The winners also will be profiled in the Sept. 15 EBN.

All nominations must be submitted using our online nomination form, available at ebn.benefitnews.com. Supporting information is welcome, and may be submitted on EBN's website, sent to me at kelley.butler@sourcemedia.com, or mailed to me at Employee Benefit News, c/o SourceMedia Inc., 4401 Wilson Blvd., Ste. 910, Arlington, Va. 22203.

The deadline for Benny nominations is Friday, July 1 and winners will be notified by July 15. I look forward to reading this year's submissions and wish all of you good luck.

Send letters, queries and story ideas to Editor-in-Chief Kelley M. Butler at kelley.butler@sourcemedia.com.

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