Confessions of a benefits manager: Candid deals with benefits unrest


I dread going in there, and I worry if I am going to come out unscathed. I am talking, of course, of our IT department.

More specifically, there is a group of specialist developers we inherited when we bought out a fintech start-up. Word on the third floor, Big Bad Boss has heard, is that they are not happy with their benefits, so he has sent me in there to talk to them. If you have ever tried to have a conversation with a millennial whose first language is obscure programming code, you might understand my trepidation.

I start with the manager, Brad, the one making the most noise about benefits with the Higher Beings on the top floor. Brad is from California and was one of the founders of the start-up we bought out. I’m guessing he didn’t make much from the sale, as he is still working here.

I shake hands and give him a confident smile and he smiles back. I call it a smile, but really he sort of bares his front teeth like he’s about to give them a good scrub with a toothbrush.

Better benefits required

Brad says his team is threatening to leave because the benefits before the takeover were so much better. Tell me more, I say, leading him on with a nice open question. The benefits before the takeover were better, he says, doggedly. In what way, I ask. The benefits were more, like, more relevant, and like, more current, he says slowly, like he is talking to someone particularly dim-witted. I have seen the benefits package and it was nothing special. I need to know more.

These guys are creatives he tells me, waving towards his team. They don’t look particularly creative, or even productive. Just rather interested in their phones. Did they get better work phones previously, I ask? He rolls his eyes, and admits that they had an even lower spec’ before. Not that, then. Brad agrees to let me talk to one of the team leaders.

Jessica maintains eye contact with a fierce intensity that drills into me through her large round glasses. Jessica only has 10 minutes, she tells me, through a nice smile. She needs to leave early today because she worked over half an hour late yesterday. Gosh. Don’t overdo it.

Table football

Tell me about the benefits at your last place. Oh, they were lit, she tells me. Lit? Tell me more, I try. Well, we had table football in the office. I mean here, it’s just basic.

We both look round the office. It looks like every tech office I’ve ever worked in. No table football, it’s true, but it’s painted quite cheerily. Shiny desks. New laptops and screens. A few brightly coloured beanbags, even. Jessica has to rush off because it has been such a long day already. Bye, Jessica.

I guess I am getting old, because the rest of the team just seem like big children who drink coffee. I wonder why we bother pandering to this arrogant bunch.

Next up is Michael, who has his own You-Tube channel. It’s his side-hustle. Do I know what a side-hustle is, he asks? Does he know what patronising is? Michael isn’t really interested in the ‘whole benefits discussion’, because as soon as he has enough sponsorship on his channel he will be gone anyway. I ask him if he is an influencer, then. Yes, he says, finding enthusiasm at last.

And he’s pretty good at technology, right? Perhaps then, before he moves on to bigger things, he could help us out by surveying the team on the ‘whole benefits discussion’. Michael is interested. Yeah, he can easily write something up, meaning programme, in case I didn’t get it.

I prime him with a few sample questions on our main suite of benefits and the non-cash benefits they have been talking about. I could probably do it faster myself in Excel, but why keep a dog and bark yourself? I look forward to seeing the results.

Benefits survey results

After a week, because he had a lot to do on his You-Tube channel as well, Michael presents me with the results of the survey. Actually, it seems they are not at all worried about our benefits, and even the football table and snooker scored pretty low. What they really want is fruit.

Fruit? Yes. They used to get free fruit, so they could come in and make breakfast smoothies, you know. Yes, I’ve heard of fruit.

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I point out that we already have fruit in all the offices. It’s not great for smoothies though, is it? Mostly oranges and apples and stuff. Hard to peel. So tiresome, he shrugs, defeated by all that pesky rind. The guys are used to, like, berries, he says. He goes on to tell me what they want more than anything: bananas. I should have guessed.

Next time… Candid looks at market data.