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Competing For Qualified Workers: Does Your Manufacturing Firm’s Benefit Plan Help or Hurt

Jan 21, 2020 9:00:00 AM

We get asked this question all the time: “What’s everyone else doing?”

Manufacturers want to know, how do we stack up in a difficult labor market competing for qualified workers? Are our benefits good enough? Are we paying the right percentage of the premium?

competing for qualified workers

The Numbers
The average employer/employee cost share for a manufacturer in the Midwest is roughly 75/25. Breaking it down with data from The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of wages per hour worked has grown by an average of $4.51 in the last eight years.

competing for qualified workers

Further, the BLS reports the total benefits cost per hour worked — including both employer and employee contributions — has grown by an average of $2.77 since 2010.

competing for qualified workers


FREE Ebook: The Definitive Guide to Health and Benefits Plans for Manufacturing Companies


Employee Expenses
Let’s couple these government statistics with data from independent actuary and consultant, Milliman, for a closer look at how to be competitive in this space. The firm finds employees contribute to the cost of their benefits with an average of 27% of their wages in payroll deductions. Employers, Milliman says, contribute 56%. Using this data, the chart below shows the approximate benefits cost manufacturing employees pay per hour worked. Note that this does not include the additional 17% in out-of-pocket expenses employees are forking over.

competing for qualified workers

While these numbers provide some benchmarking perspective, if you’re a manufacturer looking to ensure your benefits are competitive in order to ease the pain of having positions remain empty, you need to take a look at how well you’re managing your health care supply chain.


Manageable Verticals
To fall in the high range of these manufacturing labor statistics and be among the most competitive employers, take a look at how you’re managing the 80% of annual plan costs that are variable. Milliman has studied how employers spend money under any form of benefit plan. What they found was, 20% of the plan cost is a fixed expense, such as plan administration fees or stop loss premiums. The other 80% is variable. It changes depending on what services your employees are getting, where those services are being performed, and what kind of claims you are amassing.

Of those variable expenses, 96% comes from four verticals in the health care supply chain:

  1. Inpatient (31%),
  2. Professional Services (29%),
  3. Outpatient (19%),
  4. and Pharmacy (17%).

Focusing on these four areas will have the greatest impact on plan costs. Lowering the overall cost of your benefits means you can become more competitive by paying a higher percentage of employee benefit costs. Or increase wages. Or both.


For more on how your manufacturing firm can shift focus from the 20% of plan costs that are fixed to the 80% of variable expenses that are being ignored, download your free copy of DCW Group’s Ebook, The Definitive Guide to Health and Benefit Plans for Manufacturing Companies: Control Costs by Managing Your Healthcare Supply Chain.

Healthcare Cost Containment

Robert Gearhart
Written by Robert Gearhart

BOB GEARHART JR. is the CEO of DCW Group and responsible for helping its clients better manage the healthcare supply chain - to improve benefits and increase earnings.

As a nationally recognized speaker on Healthcare Supply Chain Management, Bob frequently appears on radio, television, and in print to provide insight into the ever-changing landscape surrounding healthcare in America. Bob also co-authored the Amazon Best Selling book, "BREAKING THROUGH THE STATUS QUO: How Innovative Companies Are CHANGING THE BENEFITS GAME To Help Their Employees AND Boost Their Bottom Line."