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Job: Benefits administrator

The role: To manage an organization’s employee benefits services, such as health care coverage, retirement and financial planning, insurance, and other employee perks. That may entail researching benefit plan options, adding new employees to benefits programs as part of the onboarding process, negotiating with vendors, managing vendor relationships, performing audits, reporting administrative costs and responding to employee issues and inquiries related to their benefits.

“The role essentially serves as customer service for employees, as well as co-ordinating all of those services with vendors and suppliers,” says Alina Owsianik, the director of talent acquisition for Randstad Canada. “They’re the go-to person for benefits-related issues, so if anyone calls them they have to be ready and available to help.”

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Although the responsibilities once fell to human-resources administrators, the competitiveness of the talent market coupled with the increased expectations of millennial employees has led larger organizations to hire dedicated benefits administrators in recent years.

“It became more popular in the last decade as millennials started to join the workforce, and it became a more complex role as companies started to compete for talent by offering better benefits packages,” Ms. Owsianik says.

She adds that in organizations with less than 500 employees, those duties typically fall to general human-resources professionals, rather than a designated benefits administrator.

Salary: According to research conducted by Randstad, the average starting salary of a benefits administrator is between $45,000 and $50,000 annually. Depending on the level of responsibility, salaries can reach as high as $85,000 or more after a few years of experience. Benefits administrators often enjoy competitive bonuses and benefits packages as well.

Education: Benefits administrators are typically required to earn a bachelor’s degree in human resources or a related field. Earning a Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS) designation from an accredited college or university can also be an asset, although it’s not mandatory.

“Usually in order to become a benefits administrator you are required to have a bachelor’s degree in human resources, or at least a CHRP [Certified Human Resources Professional] certification,” Ms. Owsianik says, adding that most people spend a few years working in the HR industry before specializing as a benefits administrator. “Usually companies will require you to have three to five years experience working as a generalist in human resources.”

Job prospects: The number of Canadian companies with more than 500 employees has been growing steadily in recent years, from about 6.8 million in 2013 to almost 7.2 million in 2017, according to Statistics Canada. The increase means both a more competitive hiring landscape as well as an increase in the number of employers with work forces large enough to necessitate a designated benefits administrator.

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“We have very good market conditions right now, and we’ve been moving in that direction for the last three years, so we see an increase in openings in that specialization,” Ms. Owsianik says. "There’s been a lot of economic growth in Canada, and many startups that were created in the last 10 years are now reaching that size, so we’re seeing more demand for the role.”

Challenges: Dealing with sensitive and personal information is not without its challenges. Ms. Owsianik explains that benefits play an important role in an employee’s health and well-being, and when issues arise they need to be taken very seriously. “The most difficult part is resolving people’s issues, specifically issues related to monetary compensation, benefits or pensions,” she said.

Why they do it: Despite the occasional conflict, benefits administrators enjoy spending a majority of their time working toward improving the lives of their colleagues.

“The best part of the job is the satisfaction of helping employees,” Ms. Owsianik says. “You’re working with rewards and benefits that make people’s lives easier, helping them with their financial health, medical needs and even wellness at work. Over all, the demeanour of the role is super positive.”

Misconceptions: Since benefits administrators help new employees set up their benefits plans, many fail to realize that their role extends beyond the onboarding process.

“People think that benefits administrators are just plugging in the data at the beginning of their employment, but don’t realize they can come to the benefits administrator during the course of their employment when they have issues as well,” Ms. Owsianik says.

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