A benefits manager works with a company’s leaders to research, create, deliver, and manage its employee benefits programs. This means they are responsible for finding plans and benefits that are advantageous and relevant for the company’s workers while staying within the organization’s budget. Benefits managers can also provide individual support by helping employees sign up for programs, make claims, and understand their benefits.
The programs and policies benefits managers oversee can include disability insurance, health insurance, life insurance, retirement plans, leave policies, paid vacation days, and wellness programs. By negotiating with insurance companies, they can find the most competitive rates for programs and offer advice on current market trends as well as federal and state law requirements.
Does Your Company Need a Benefits Manager?
Salary and wages are only part of the compensation and security a job offers. For many workers, job security is dependent on benefits—especially in the United States, where most workers’ health insurance comes through employment. By overseeing these key components of a job, a benefits manager can help your business in a number of ways:
- Attract and retain top talent. About 60% of employees say benefits are “very important” in job satisfaction and another 88% of job seekers say health insurance benefits are a significant consideration when deciding whether to accept a job offer. In addition, 42% of workers seeking to leave their job do so at least in part for better benefits. A benefits manager can help make sure you get the most attractive benefits for your particular sector so you can attract talent and reduce turnover.
- Make your employees happier and more engaged. About 89% of employees at organizations offering wellness initiatives describe their workplace as a positive place to work. Employees like to see quality perks at their job, and a benefits manager can ensure you provide competitive and innovative offers to satisfy their needs.
- Save money. Benefits represent 29.6% of employer costs for every employee hour worked in private industry. Benefits managers source the best benefits at the best prices, which can help companies reduce costs.
- Stay relevant. Benefits managers keep up to date about industry best practices and how to stay competitive. They conduct extensive research to help your business choose benefits tailored to its employees and candidates. They also ensure your programs follow the right administrative processes and are compliant with relevant laws, which can protect you against fines.
- Save time. Benefits managers take on the time-consuming work of maintaining relationships with insurers and researching complex benefits processes. As a company grows, a benefits manager can free up time in the HR department, which usually takes care of benefits for smaller companies.
- Manage communications. A benefits manager can make communication between benefits providers and employees smoother, ensuring workers can access their benefits quickly and easily when needed.
What Makes a Good Benefits Manager?
The benefits manager is a multi-faceted role, requiring many competencies. Ideally, your benefits manager will be experienced in overseeing benefits and employee needs in companies of comparable size and sector as your own, so they will know how to keep you competitive.
If your organization does need a benefits manager, you will also want to look for someone with these characteristics and skills:
- Familiarity with HR software. The latest software can help employees access information about, and apply for, their benefits. A good benefits manager has experience with a range of software and can make recommendations if yours needs an upgrade.
- Good communication skills. Good benefits managers will need to conduct research and then negotiate with insurance companies and benefits providers for the best terms and prices. They will also need to educate employees about benefits and prepare educational materials to help employees understand the various benefit programs available.
- Organizational skills. Benefits managers can save organizations’ time by standardizing administrative processes, such as when an employee is hired, changes roles, or leaves the team. Look for a professional who has experience creating a comprehensive benefits program using the solutions offered by multiple vendors, and who can keep documentation organized for compliance.
- Ability to conduct analysis. The benefits manager should be able to compare many programs, insurance policies, and plans to find the best benefits for your organization. They should be able to effectively analyze trends and survey employees to determine the best package to offer.
- Legal knowledge. The benefits manager needs to make sure benefits are compliant with relevant government regulations. This may mean funding benefits in specific ways as required by law or meeting the government’s reporting requirements. In case of an audit or investigation, the benefits manager may need to provide documents and information required by investigators. A benefits manager needs a solid understanding of many laws, including the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), and the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).
- Adaptability. As workplaces, employees, employee needs, and benefit regulations change, benefits managers need to be ready to adjust. They may need to adapt their approach and the company benefits program many times in the course of their employment.
Most benefits managers have at least a bachelor’s degree. They may also have completed a program such as the Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS), the Compliance Certification Board (CCP), or the Compensation Management Specialist (CMS).
Your Benefits Manager
Not every business needs a benefits manager, but for larger companies, this professional can handle the research, enrollment, renewal, and rollout of your benefits options, according to your employees’ needs. This helps an organization save money, attract and retain top talent, and supports everyone at the company in navigating and using their benefits.