What Does a Benefits Specialist Do?
A benefits specialist is responsible for managing and administering the employee benefits program for an organization. They work as part of the Human Resources department and oversee the allocation of employee benefits packages. They must be well-versed in retirement and insurance plans and have solid communication skills to explain benefits to employees.
They typically handle inquiries from employees about company insurance and retirement benefits. They need good attention to detail to ensure that employees receive the proper benefits package. These specialists work with healthcare providers, investment brokers, and company management to identify new or better benefits and insurance plans. They also research and analyze healthcare plans, design benefit packages, and evaluate job positions to determine adequate employee classifications and salaries.
Benefits specialists manage employee pension, healthcare, and 401(k) plans and assist employees with stock options and investment opportunities. They may be required to give presentations on company benefits. They also maintain records of employee benefits. Benefits specialists solve employee disputes concerning benefits and must stay up-to-date on all state and federal regulations pertaining to insurance and employee benefits.
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National Average Salary
Benefits specialist salaries vary by experience, industry, organization size, and geography. To explore salary ranges by local market, please visit our sister site zengig.com.
The average U.S. salary for a Benefits Specialist is:
Benefits Specialist Job Descriptions
It’s important to include the right content in your job description when hiring a benefits specialist. The following examples can serve as templates for attracting the best available talent for your team.
[Your Company Name] is looking for a benefits specialist. The main role is to act as a subject matter expert on benefit and claim questions. The majority of your time will be spent managing daily benefits processing including new enrollments, terminations, and changes. Determine and regularly monitor for benefit eligibility. You will also document and maintain administrative procedures for benefits processes. As an ideal candidate, you have proven experience planning and organizing programs and activities as well as carrying out a variety of administrative and program management tasks.
Typical duties and responsibilities
- Process paperwork such as FMLA absence, disability, employee life status changes, and more
- Advise employees, answer benefit questions, and enroll employees in benefit and compensation programs
- Research, analyze, and administer healthcare plans
- Assist with new hire orientations
- Distribute benefit enrollment materials
- Assist with open enrollment
- Administer tuition reimbursement program
- Provide necessary reports for billing charges
Education and experience
- Bachelor’s degree in human resources, finance, business administration, or a related field
- 2+ years of work experience in finance, business administration, insurance, or a related field
Required skills and qualifications
- Extensive knowledge of employee benefits and applicable laws
- Excellent written and verbal communication skills
- Exceptional time management and organizational skills
- Research and analytical skills
- Strong computer literacy
- Masters degree preferred
- Knowledge of Peoplesoft or relatable software
- Advanced Excel skills preferred
- Experience with state benefits systems and retirement systems preferred
- Assists all employee benefit programs, such as medical, dental, ancillary benefits, life insurance, accident and disability insurance, COBRA, flexible spending programs, and AES’s 401(k) plan
- Serves as the subject matter expert for management and first point of contact for the Company’s employees regarding all employee benefits issues, concerns, and questions
- Ensures the successful implementation of new and/or revised AES benefits programs, including collection of employee information and timely notification to employees of pertinent changes
- Serves as the subject matter expert for processes, administers, and tracks all employee FMLA, workers’ compensation, and/or other similar leaves or absence while ensuring compliance with applicable law and Company policy
- Assists with orientations regarding employee benefits as needed and ensures eligible employees are provided necessary information in a timely manner concerning AES employee benefits
- Prepares and ensures the timely completion of medical enrollment forms and affidavits, including beneficiary information
- Ensures that employee benefits-related paperwork (e.g., Form 5500, 1095s, etc.) is prepared and timely filed with governmental entities, as required
- Assists the HR Manager with all areas of HR responsibility, when and as needed
- Generates reports concerning HR activities for AES management, when and as requested
- Verifies the accuracy of monthly employee benefits’ premiums and maintains data in order to track, verify analyze employee benefits-related costs and claim activities
- Monitors the national environment for employee benefits options and cost savings, including worker’s compensation coverage
- Researches and resolves employee benefits issues and works with employee benefits service-providers to address questions and concerns
- Stays abreast of changes in existing laws, rules, regulations, and best practices applicable to the HR field, and, specifically, employee benefits and payroll administration
- Handles special projects and all other duties as assigned by the HR Manager
- Bachelor’s Degree in HR-related field relevant to the position
- 3 to 5 years minimum of hands-on HR work experience (including employee benefits and system administration)
- Certification in HR-related accreditation (PHR/SPHR) is strongly preferred
- Highly proficient in Microsoft Office (including strong Microsoft Excel and Power Point skills) and Outlook, and substantial internet research skills
- Experience involving Workday software is essential
- Ability to work in a fast-paced environment, meet deadlines and multitask
- Exceptional attention to detail and organizational skills
- Strong interpersonal skills with the ability to communicate with a wide variety of audiences
- Strong problem-solving, analytical, and mathematical skills, with the ability to research employee benefits issues and prepare/analyze benefits costs and calculate figures and amounts
- Ensures the accuracy of all benefits enrollments in Workday to provide payroll and carriers with accurate eligibility information as qualified life events
- Performs quality checks of benefits-related data
- Assists employees regarding benefits questions, claim issues, and plan changes
- Manages the HSA suspended funds and pending accounts process
- Supports tracking and delivery of all required compliance in accordance with benefits laws and regulations
- Coordinates implementation of benefits or related policy and procedure changes, develops benefit orientation and other informational materials and coordinates their dissemination, and the promotion of benefits programs
- Responds to benefits inquiries from employees on plans, benefits enrollments, status changes, and other general inquiries
- Processes and administers all leave-of-absence requests and disability paperwork: medical, personal, disability, and FMLA
- Effectively interprets FMLA and ADA implications as they relate to leaves of absences/disabilities
- Responds to 401(k) inquiries from employees relating to enrollments, plan changes and contribution amounts
- Processing benefit and 401(k) contributions with the applicable carriers
- Assists with annual 401(k) audit
- Administer the COBRA process in conjunction with carrier
- Assists with the annual open enrollment process
- Processing of invoices, reconciliations and billing of all benefits monthly
- Extensive knowledge of employee benefits and applicable laws
- Excellent written and verbal communication skills
- Excellent organizational and time management skills
- Ability to effectively manage tasks with minimal supervision
- Must be diligent and persistent in follow-up and completion
- Capable of multi-tasking and meeting tight deadlines
- Ability to work and build partnerships across departments
- Willingness to “roll up the sleeves” and do what it takes to get the job done
- Works well on a team and collaborates with others but also be able to work independently
- Proficient with Microsoft Office, especially Excel
What you’ll do
- Oversee benefit administration management to ensure positive employee experience
- Manage third party benefits administrator relationship and partner with TPA to resolve issues, implement new plans, and maintain the enrollment platform
- Collaborate with team members to develop benefits program strategy, and identify opportunities for improvements and efficiencies
- Provide education, coaching, and consultation to HR Business Partners in order to resolve escalated employee benefit issues
- Lead Annual Enrollment, including requirements review, client acceptance testing, web & communications updates, and troubleshooting
- Partner with payroll team and TPA to manage monthly and annual ACA/ ESR processes
- Assist with designing and delivering Total Rewards communications
- Conduct routine and ad hoc audits of employee eligibility ensuring that eligibility and enrollment is correct across both internal and external systems
- Develop and implement resources to support Trinity’s wellness program
- Work collaboratively with vendor partners, finance, and payroll staff to reconcile ongoing, mid-year, and year-end plan financials, plan contributions, and related funding issues
- Prepare and analyze Total Rewards data for compliance testing and reporting; ensure testing deadlines are met and results clearly documented
- Assist in benefit plan administration in accordance with IRS and ERISA rules. Ensure compliance with governmental agencies and prepare required filings and disclosures (i.e. Form 5500s, Annual Funding Notice, SARs, and SPDs)
- Monitor and analyze financial and utilization measures of Health & Welfare and Retirement plan performance; identify areas of opportunity or significant variances
What you’ll need
- Bachelor’s degree and/or equivalent, relevant work experience
- 5 years experience with benefit plans including Health & Welfare and Retirement benefit plans with extensive ERISA and defined contribution plan knowledge
- Experience with vendor management and program implementation
- Strong project management and analytical skills with the ability to solve complex problems
- Ability to communicate effectively, orally and in writing, within all levels of the organization
- Deep understanding of data transmission processes and aptitude to identify and resolve enrollment, eligibility, and payroll issues
- Ability to influence, interact and, work effectively across Total Rewards and related functions
- Team-oriented and collaborative spirit
- Ability to learn and apply new concepts effectively in a fast-paced, dynamic and evolving global environment
Candidate Certifications to Look For
- Society for Human Resource Management Certified Professional or Society for Human Resource Management Senior Certified Professional (SHRM/CP or SHRM/SCP). This certification is designed to help human resource professionals advance in their careers. To be eligible to take the exam, candidates must pass certain education and work experience criteria. After passing the exam, they must recertify every three years by repeating the exam or completing 60 hours of professional development credits.
- CEBS (Certified Employee Benefits Specialist). This certification is earned by candidates who administer employee benefits packages. The coursework covers employee benefits principles and concepts. A series of exams must be passed to earn certification.
- Professional in Human Resources (PHR). The PHR certification focuses on the mastery of technical and operational aspects of human resource management. Candidates must have a combination of education and experience to sit for the exam. Once the exam is passed, they have to recertify every three years by retaking the exam or having 60 recertification credits.
How to Hire a Benefits Specialist
Consider the following when hiring a benefits specialist:
- Recruiting: Do you have the internal resources and tools to source and recruit for this role successfully?
- Complexity: Do you need a senior professional, or will mid, or even junior-level skills suffice?
- Duration: Is this a one-time project, or an indefinite need?
- Management: Can you effectively direct the work effort?
- Urgency: Are there any deadlines associated with this need?
- Headcount: Do you have the budget and approval for an internal employee, or should you consider alternate options?
Answering these questions will help determine the best course of action for your current hiring need. Fortunately, various great options exist for every scenario, no matter how unique. We recommend the following options when hiring a benefits specialist:
1. Use 4 Corner Resources (or another professional recruiting firm)
The heavy lifting is done for you when working with a top-tier staffing company like 4 Corner Resources. We source, screen, recruit, and deliver only the most qualified candidate(s), saving you significant time and effort throughout the hiring process while you remain focused on your core business. Understanding your needs and ensuring the right candidate for the position is the key to our success.
This is the best route to take when:
- You need to fill the position quickly
- You want access to a vast talent pool of high-quality, prescreened candidates
- Your position is suited for temporary hiring services, contract staffing, or contract-to-hire recruiting, and you intend to direct the work activity.
- You are hiring an employee as a direct placement but aren’t able to recruit effectively or efficiently with your internal staff.
- You aren’t familiar with current salary rates, market trends, and available skill sets
2. Advertise your opening on a top job board
Your best option may be to advertise your opening on a proven job board. There are many widely used job sites out there that draw visits from qualified candidates. If you have someone internally who can dedicate the time and energy to sort through applications and screen individuals effectively, this can be a great choice.
We recommend using a job board when:
- Your internal recruiting team has the knowledge and experience to assess candidate qualifications
- You are hiring a direct employee and have time to manage the entire recruiting effort
- You have a process for receiving, screening, and tracking all resumes and applications
- You are prepared to respond to all applicants
We recommend using CareerBuilder when hiring a benefits specialist:
CareerBuilder has been a trusted source for hiring since 1995. Reach 80+ million unique, diverse U.S. job seekers annually by posting your jobs through their talent acquisition channels. Through CareerBuilder, you can engage candidates and drive them into your sourcing pipeline. We recommend using CareerBuilder for hiring when you have the internal resources and processes to review, screen, and reply to all applicants.
3. Leverage your internal resources
You can utilize your own website, social media, and employees to assist in your search for top candidates.
A company website posting should be the first step in notifying prospective candidates that you are hiring. Social media can also be a powerful tool for spreading the word about your new opening. As far as exposure is concerned, this option can be as good as some job boards when you have a large enough following across various platforms, like LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter.
Current employees are every organization’s greatest asset. Encourage your internal team to promote job openings to their network by offering cash and other incentives.
We recommend these options when:
- Your brand has great name recognition
- You can consistently monitor and respond to candidate activity through your website and social media accounts
- You have a process in place to quickly and broadly communicate job openings and requirements
- You have an effective employee referral program in place
If you aren’t sure which path is best, schedule a discovery call today with our seasoned recruiting professionals. The 4 Corner team is on standby to help you find the best option for your unique hiring need.
Sample Interview Questions
- What qualities should a benefits specialist have in order to be successful?
- How do you ensure the benefits that companies offer comply with state and federal employment laws?
- How long have you worked as a benefits specialist?
- How would your past employers describe you?
- What were some of your responsibilities in your last role?
- How do you determine which employee benefits to eliminate or expand?
- How do you keep track of costs for the employee benefits?
- How do you educate employees on their health benefits?
- How do you ensure employee records are current and accurate?
- How do you research and propose new benefits policies?
- What process do you follow to enroll new employees for company benefits?