Affordable Benefits Packages

When considering the implementation of a benefits package, you must look at three things: who will be offered the packages, what you believe the employees' priorities are, and the cost to both you and the employee. Here are the offerings that typically comprise a comprehensive package.

Health Insurance: Within your staff, there may be a wide continuum of needs, including single, married with families, hourly employees and management. These groups have different needs, which will come at substantially different costs.

For example, the young, entry-level, single employee may be embarking on his first insurance plan. This individual will most likely be looking for a basic plan to cover routine medical costs and emergencies. Keeping the cost low will be the most important factor to this employee.

Continuing Education: Benefits offered here may range from offering a leave of absence with a guaranteed position upon completion to scholarship funds available to encourage continuation of studies. The costs in these areas vary. Certainly reimbursement for certifiable workshops and seminars can be relatively inexpensive while being perceived very positively by an employee. The only caution here is to make sure the workshop is productive and pertinent and not just a paid day off.

Savings and Retirement Plans: Many employees are interested in a vehicle to plan for their futures. This can include profit sharing, stock options and 401K plans or life insurance plans that provide both insurance and savings growth. Here merely the access to such vehicles at competitive rates may serve the employees. These options may not be accessible to them individually or at least not at an affordable cost.

Tangibles and Intangibles: Items that are of low or no direct cost can be considered a perk of employment and can give you the competitive edge in recruiting or maintaining employees. Examples include a family membership to the club and free or discounted childcare.

Now that I have listed many options from which you may choose, the hard part comes down to who qualifies for what benefits and how to control the enormous cost. Many employers take a streamlined approach by contracting with an employer services company to provide and administrate their program. You must know that these companies are paid by charging administrative fees tied to your payrolls. These companies are better suited for companies of 50 employees or more. For the smaller groups, your insurance agent, who is already providing business insurance and workman's compensation, can be the often-overlooked answer.

Now you must consider who should be offered which benefits. Most companies choose full-time (32 hours per week) workers having been continually employed for at least six months. If you are in a seasonal market, you will let that dictate your waiting period. A manager or director coming from another club or company may require insurance much sooner and expect the employer contribution to be much higher than the hourly employee. Employers are allowed by law to create employment classes. This allows you to have different waiting periods and contributions depending on the position of the employee.

In the end, always know that benefits packages are a "cost of labor," just like salaries, and must be marketed as such to employees. My recommendation is to contact a professional who designs business packages. What I have outlined here will help you ask the right questions.

Frank J. Margarella is president of DEMAR Consulting Inc., based in Tampa, Fla. He specializes in all apsects of club management. He has been a speaker at Club Industry Trade Shows since 1987. You can contact Mr. margarella at P.O. Box 46937, Tampa, FL 33647, (813) 973-1481.