Benefits Officials under the Gun

February 28, 2002 ( - Under enormous pressure to accomplish many more tasks with fewer resources, corporate benefit managers say streamlining employee benefit plans would be a big help, a survey found.

The survey, conducted for the Group Insurance Division of John Hancock Life Insurance Company, found that:

  • 56% of the beneftis managers surveyed wanted to deal with fewer vendors,
  • 48% were interested in having benefit programs address more than one employee risk, and
  • 55% wanted benefits management software to accompany new insurance benefit relationships

Having the technology to allow employees to accomplish as much in the benefits area as possible was also popular in the Hancock survey. A majority or 58% say such self-service technologies are a must, and a further 37% admit their trimmed benefits staff couldn’t handle the employee load without the help of technology.

Another idea that gained backing in the survey was taking human resources functions to outside vendors. Services currently outsourced include:

  • renewal bid processes by 57%,
  • new benefit bids by 57%,
  • benefits communications by 43%, and
  • payroll by 36%

Changing HR Environment

Respondents to the Hancock study said workplace changes had affected their jobs with 33% reporting a heavier workload due to HR downsizing. Three-fifths of the benefit managers said their work is harder because their employee base is more diverse and more mobile than before.

More than half of respondents complained that they’re forced to put out fires on short-term issues rather than spending as much time as they’d like dealing with long-term human resources policy.