Designing a Successful Employee Benefits Program

From ChamberChoice & Smart Business Pittsburgh

Let’s face it, one of the most important and costly issues for employers today is implementing and managing a successful employee benefits program.

“When it comes to retaining and recruiting quality employees, your benefits program is a critical component, and in most cases, it can account for 40 percent or more of total compensation costs,” says Ron Smuch, Insurance and Benefits Analyst at JRG Advisors. “Employers should take the time to implement a strategic, well-thought-out benefits program that meets the employee needs and the business objectives.

Smart Business spoke with Smuch about what employers need to consider to achieve a successful benefits program.

How do the objectives and budget shape these programs?

A successful employee benefits program has clearly identified objectives. If you’re offering benefits just so you can say that ‘we offer benefits,’ you’re missing the mark.

Identifying clear objectives will lay the groundwork and guidance to establish the selection and design of your benefits program. Keep in mind, the objectives should reflect both the employer and employee needs. Additional factors also to be considered include employer size, location and industry. Unless you have an open checkbook, budget is an equally important factor. If you already have a benefits plan in place, current benefits costs and projected costs should be analyzed.

Why are the employees’ needs important?

A survey or needs assessment should be conducted to identify the coverage, cost and network that reflect the needs of your employees. Benefits are by no means one-size-fits-all in today’s diverse workforce. Gaining feedback from your employees will increase motivation and satisfaction with the benefits program. Employee feedback can also help to prioritize which benefits would be most helpful in achieving satisfaction with the plan.

How can employers use survey data?

After analyzing the employee feedback, employers should prioritize the survey findings. For example, the cost of providing the prioritized benefits can then be evaluated and compared to the overall budget and cost sharing methodology.

This process can involve many factors. For instance, should changes be made to the current benefits plan design to promote cost savings? Can underutilized benefits not important to employees be eliminated? What cost containment features can be implemented? These are all important points to evaluate when considering the design of the benefits program.

Where does communication come into play?

Developing effective communication channels should be at the forefront of the planning and management of any employee benefits program. The only way to get employees on board is to ensure that they fully understand their benefits and coverage. Without employee support and satisfaction, an employer’s efforts could prove futile. If employee feedback was used as a determining factor in the benefits program design, employers should make employees aware of how their feedback influenced the design.

Additionally, communications with employees about benefits should extend beyond legal requirements. A good communications strategy and dialogue create awareness and appreciation, provide a heightened understanding of the benefits and promote wise use of the coverages.

What about ongoing evaluation?

Review and assessment of the plan throughout the year will ensure you are meeting employer and employee objectives. Many factors can impact the benefits program, such as the economy, regulatory environment and workforce demographics.

Set the measurements on your goals in order to assess the benefits program and quantify adjustments. The use of benchmarking data and periodic employee surveys further assist employers in evaluating the effectiveness of the employee benefits program.

United Way Cuts Ribbon on New Office in Downtown Bloomsburg

(L-R): Cindy Powers, The Gate House; Fred Gaffney, Columbia Montour Chamber; Adrienne Mael, United Way of Columbia and Montour Counties; Rebecca Stender, Central Susquehanna Opportunities, Inc.; Dave Kovach, Columbia County Commissioner

The United Way of Columbia and Montour Counties held an open house for members of the community to stop by its new office building in downtown Bloomsburg on Thursday, Sept. 12, and to kick off the event, a ribbon cutting was held. 

Earlier this year, the United Way moved from its previous location at the Chamber office on Market St., to a new location a few blocks down Main St. next to Fog and Flame at 36 East Main St. The move was made necessary by the agency’s growth, as an increase in its scope of services led to an increase in staff. Two agencies that the United Way often collaborates with have also set up auxiliary offices at the same location: Central Susquehanna Opportunities, Inc. and The Gate House. This has enable better and move efficient collaboration between the organizations. 


Lawmaker Unveils Innovative, Controversial Property Tax Reform Plan that Includes Taxing Retirement Income

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

Rep. Frank Ryan, R-Lebanon, held a news conference two weeks ago where he discussed yet-to-be-introduced legislation (H.B. 13) that calls for the elimination of school property taxes in the Commonwealth with new revenue derived, in part, through a retirement income tax.

Specifically, the proposal intends to generate $15 billion annually in replacement revenue for the state’s school districts through:

  • A 4.92 percent retirement income tax, excluding Social Security benefits
  • A 1.85 percent local Personal Income Tax (in addition to the state’s 3.07 percent PIT)
  • A local Sales and Use Tax of 2 percent on items that are already subject to the state Sales Tax; and
  • A local Sales Tax of 2 percent that would be added to most food and clothing, which are currently exempt from the state Sales Tax.

Property tax reform is an ongoing, hot button issue in Pennsylvania, as these tax rates have risen precipitously in certain areas of the state, making it difficult for some homeowners to continue affording their properties.  One of the most debated legislative “fixes” has been a proposal to replace school property taxes with increases to the Sales and Personal Income Taxes, along with the expansion of the Sales Tax base to additional goods and services.  The PA Chamber stands in opposition to this proposal because it would simply “shift” the tax burden from one segment of taxpayers to another and target renters, small businesses and young families; and would rely on volatile taxes that tend to fluctuate more with the economy.  Tax experts and school officials have warned this framework would put school districts and the entire Commonwealth on financially shaky ground.

As noted by PA Chamber Vice President Sam Denisco at a recent property tax-focused public forum, Rep. Ryan’s bill presents an outside-the-box way of approaching the state’s property tax issues and should be discussed by lawmakers.  At his news conference last week, Ryan stressed that his plan is unlikely to pass without the support of Pennsylvania seniors, admitting that “this is not going to be an easy sell.”

Rep. Ryan’s news conference was covered by various media outlets, including Pennlive which noted the PA Chamber’s previous comments about his proposal.

Member News – September 11, 2019

  • Bold Gold Media Group’s Northeast PA based FM rock station, ‘The River 105 & 103.5’ made radio history recently by surpassing 1,000,000 Likes on Facebook, @TheRiverNEPA. The River has become the most followed social media page based within Northeast PA and one of the most followed radio station social sites in the United States. Although The River is based in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre market, its social following has exceeded that of radio stations based in larger markets such as New York, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. Known for its rock music news, humor, arts and entertainment updates and local information, the station’s online following has seen rapid growth locally, regionally, nationally, and more recently, internationally. Bold Gold Media Group owns and operates 14 full power radio stations throughout the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Northern Poconos of Pennsylvania and the Catskills/Hudson Valley region of New York. 


  • The Ken Pollock Auto Group will hold a car seat safety check in conjunction with the PA State Police on Thursday, Sept. 19, from 2-5 p.m., at its Tire and Auto Center, located at 88 Wyoming Valley Mall Blvd, Wilkes-Barre. 


  • The Danville Area Community Foundation, an affiliate of the Central Susquehanna Community Foundation, will hold its grant awards breakfast on Wednesday, Oct. 9, from 8:30-10 a.m., at the Meadows Community Center at the Maria Joseph Continuing Care Community. This event annually celebrates the investments made to community organizations through the work of the DACF. Local nonprofit organizations will be presented with 2019 grant awards during the breakfast. Reservations are required but there is no cost to attend (see printed invitation). To reserve your seat, please contact Katie Simpson by email or at 570-752-3930 by Oct. 2.

American Pickers to Film in Pennsylvania

Mike Wolfe, Frank Fritz, and their team are excited to return to Pennsylvania! They plan to film episodes of the hit series American Pickers throughout Pennsylvania this November.

American Pickers is a documentary series that explores the fascinating world of antique “picking” on the History Channel. The hit show follows Mike and Frank, two of the most skilled pickers in the business, as they hunt for America’s most valuable antiques. They are always excited to find sizeable, unique collections and learn the interesting stories behind them.

As they hit the back roads from coast to coast, Mike and Frank are on a mission to recycle and rescue forgotten relics. Along the way, the Pickers want to meet characters with remarkable and exceptional items. The pair hopes to give historically significant objects a new lease on life, while learning a thing or two about America’s past along the way.

Mike and Frank have seen a lot of rusty gold over the years and are always looking to discover something they’ve never seen before. They are ready to find extraordinary items and hear fascinating tales about them. American Pickers is looking for leads and would love to explore your hidden treasure. If you or someone you know has a large, private collection or accumulation of antiques that the Pickers can spend the better part of the day looking through, send your name, phone number, location and description of the collection with photos to:

[email protected] or call 855-OLD-RUST.

facebook: @GotAPick