An organization’s benefits programs can make a difference in increasing employee loyalty and reducing turnover. Benefits specialists typically work in the human resources department, where they develop and manage employee benefits programs. They focus on improving employee satisfaction and ensuring benefits programs meet federal and state employment regulations and organizational objectives. Benefits specialists can work in a variety of settings, ranging from business entities and nonprofit organizations to government agencies and educational institutions.
Using the Skills
Benefits specialists need strong analytical and decision-making skills to be successful. They use these skills to design and implement compensation and benefits programs. This involves evaluating the organization's financial status, current average industry salaries and workers' individual roles and skill sets to set the right wages and benefits packages for employees in various positions. Benefits specialists also require good communication skills to clearly inform employees about the organization's benefits policies and available plans, and negotiation skills to negotiate the best prices with various benefits providers, such as insurance firms.
A benefits specialist is responsible for creating the procedures an organization uses to administer benefits programs to its workers. The procedures should provide a clear picture of what happens to an employee's entitlement to benefits programs in the event of a promotion, suspension, termination or life change, such as divorce. For example, a benefits specialist working for a university may develop the procedures for admitting new lecturers into the institution’s benefits package. If she finds it suitable that new employees should register for health care or retirement benefits after being on the job for at least three months, she can outline procedures for doing so.
When benefits specialists are not busy designing new benefits plans or policies, they spend their time keeping employees' benefits information up to date. When an employee experiences a life change, such as having a new baby, the specialist might add the newborn as a beneficiary in the worker’s health care insurance benefits and update the firm’s HR information system accordingly.
Becoming a Benefits Specialist
To become a benefits specialist, you need to earn at least an associate's degree in business administration or human resources management. Large firms typically prefer candidates with a bachelor's degree in a relevant field. Although you don't necessarily need licensing or certification to become a benefits specialist, you can pursue the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist program, which is offered by the International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists, to improve your employment chances. You also can pursue a master’s degree in business administration or organizational development to improve your prospects of qualifying for senior jobs, such as head of industrial relations or organization development director.