All collection firms and collection departments like to believe they offer staff members a good career opportunity. We work hard at creating a public perception and an internal culture that embraces the wants and needs of the contemporary workforce. We strive to understand what employees really value relative to the dynamics of their careers and daily work experience. When we are fortunate to develop a good pool of employees we want them to stay with us for as long as possible. But, what are the triggers for making your office a place that people want to enjoy for the long haul?
One of the most common topics that arise in managementlevel programs surrounds a popular discussion on benefits and what other companies are doing to attract and maintain a happy, productive and loyal team. Years ago, most firms offered a salary or hourly wage, health insurance, sick time and vacation time. There wasn’t a great deal of variation from one firm to another, especially with collection related positions. Now, times have changed and organizations struggle to find the right formula for benefit success.
What benefits do firms offer today? Here is some information I have compiled from feedback in seminars over the last two years:
There have been dramatic changes in what companies offer relative to health insurance over the past 20 years. Many firms at one time covered 100% for individual plans. As time went by and premiums rose sharply firms reduced their share to 50% and increased deductible and copayments to lower premiums. Some organizations simply could no longer afford insurance and dropped plans all together. It is a rarity today to find firms that cover the entire premium. With the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, many agencies dropped company plans and allowed employees to obtain coverage at lower rates in the marketplace. Wage increases were then offered to cover the expense. As premiums are dramatically on the rise once again, this continues to be a focal point of employers throughout the industry.
As a service to staff, a growing number of companies are offering access to supplemental insurance plans through companies like Aflac. These plans may include dental, life, cancer coverage and can often be introduced in such a manner that premiums can be paid prior to payroll taxes resulting in tax savings that, in many cases, fund the premiums. HR coordinators often have no cost other than coordinating the programs.
The overwhelming majority of attendees at my seminars have stopped offering sick time separate from vacation time and have lumped into paid time off or PTO. There are some states that have mandates on sick time so consult your HR professional.
Like sick time, most firms just offer a set number of PTO days a year that you can use for any purpose. The number of days varies due to position and tenure and firms can choose between loading PTO every January 1 or an accrual method where PTO hours accumulate based on hours worked year to date.
This is a benefit I feel is very important. Due to the nature of our industry, we need to impress upon our employees the critical need to invest in their retirement futures. There are many types of plans available. The most common are 401K and Simple IRA programs. They often include a company match of 1% to 3% of the staff member’s annual salary. At a 3% match for an employee earning $40,000 per year, you would match contributions dollar for dollar up to $1200.00 for the year. A staff member could double their money annually by just investing $100 per month. As the math works, if a young employee is 25 and invests just $100 per month for 40 years until 65 in mutual funds that historically perform at 12% annual growth, they would have over $1 million when they retire!
Many firms today find that wages for collection staff are rather similar in a specific job market. What differentiates employers are often the physical facilities, general location (in town or out of town) and the attractiveness of benefit packages. Give careful thought to your benefit offerings in 2017. It could mean the difference between your firm being a good place to work or a great place to fulfill an entire career!
We encourage our readers to submit a “best practice” idea for inclusion in this column. Until next time, I’m in a collection office near you!