You know what your business can afford when it comes to benefits. But, do you know if you’re spending money on the benefits that your employees want? The truth is you won’t have a solid understanding about what employees value the most about the benefits you offer unless you ask them. Furthermore, you won’t know what benefits you could be offering that would encourage your employees to stay.
Conducting a survey, having focus groups, or sending out an email asking for feedback are the most effective ways to get an honest and gauge employee satisfaction level with the benefits you offer. If your business is considering adding new benefits or changing them in 2017, this post will help provide sample survey questions to ask employees to ensure you have benefits plans that meet their needs and expectations.
The team at Human Interest was kind enough to share with me how they recently went about this process. What they did illustrates just how easy it is to gather this kind of valuable feedback.
Interested in national trends as well? I’d recommend this article that collects data from multiple sources: The Most Requested Employee Benefits at Small Businesses
Step 1: Pick a communication vehicle
What communication vehicle you use to gather feedback depends on many factors including: the size of your organization, the comfort level of employees, and the level of confidentiality required. If you want very honest feedback, the best route is an anonymous survey. (A Google form is a free and easy-to-use method for collecting feedback online, or check out this Benefits Survey template from Survey Monkey for a good place to start.) If you want to be able to ask follow-up questions and dig deeper into responses, you might consider conducting a focus group. If you don’t have many employees and want to track responses, you might use an email or paper form to gather feedback.
Step 2: Start with a message from your leadership team
Regardless of the way you’re gathering input, it’s important that employees know why leaders are asking the questions about the benefits plans, and that they also know the leadership team is listening to the answers that employees provide.
Check out this message that from Roger Lee, CEO of Human Interest, sent to employees about their benefits plan review:
At Human Interest, employee benefits are very important to us! We are considering adding some new employee benefits, and would love your feedback on whether you would use them. We are also undergoing an annual evaluation our existing dental and vision benefits.
This brief note conveys the right message—employees are reassured that providing benefits is important to their company, and that employee feedback about those benefits matters. It also gives some specifics about what areas are under evaluation and might change—that way, if there are changes, employees aren’t surprised. And, they’re reassured because they have a chance to provide input about the decisions before they happen.
Step 3: Ask the right questions
This is where the rubber meets the road—if you ask the wrong questions you’ll end up with data that doesn’t provide you with any insight. So take care to test your questions and be sure they’re clear and that the answers will help inform your decisions.
- Explain why it’s a benefit
- Provide details about how it works
- Ask what the employee thinks
Here’s a great example from the Human Interest benefits survey:
Example: Commuter Benefits
The team at Human Interest looked to the benefits experts at Zenefits for suggestions about how to explain commuter benefits and incorporated that explanation into their survey.
First, they explain why it’s a benefit:
Commuter benefits allow employees to allocate pre-tax dollars to pay for eligible work-related transportation and parking expenses (including mass transit, but not ridesharing). By using commuter benefits, employees can save up to 40% on these expenses.
Next, they explain how it works:
Any contributions you make that go unused will rollover month to month, year to year, as long as you remain with Human Interest (they don’t expire).
More info here: (they provide a link).
Finally, they ask for the employee’s reaction and response:
If Human Interest offered commuter benefits, would you use it?
- Probably not
- Not sure
Depending on what information you need or the programs you have or those you’re considering, some other benefits topics you might cover in your survey:
- Insurance: Health, Life, Medical, Dental, Vision
- Voluntary Insurance: Cancer, Long-Term Care
- Voluntary Accidental Death & Dismemberment Insurance
- 401(k) Retirement Plan
- 401(k) Matching
- Short-Term and Long-Term Disability Benefits
- Paid Time Off
- Flexible Spending Account (FSA)
- Flexible Scheduling
- Tuition Reimbursement
- Employee Support Programs (employee discounts, wellness memberships, etc.)
Questions to ask around these topics:
- Satisfaction (rate level of satisfaction for each offering)
- Level of understanding (rate level of understanding for each offering)
- Level of importance (Rank the benefit plans in order of importance)
- Level of desire (Rank in order of preference)
- Current use (Check all that apply)
Here’s one more example:
Have you used our dental insurance? (Yes or No)
Your level of satisfaction with our dental insurance?: (1 = Highly dissatisfied, 5 = Highly satisfied)
Your general feedback about our dental insurance?
Step 4: Keep it anonymous
Keeping the responses, complaints, and requests anonymous make it more likely that people will be 100% honest with you. Since benefits are so closely tied to compensation, employees may feel hesitant about asking for too much or giving negative feedback about current policies.
You might be concerned that if all the responses are anonymous, you may not have a good way to ask follow-up questions about specific responses. Don’t worry! You can have the best of both worlds: a nice way to balance anonymity with responsiveness is to add an optional field for name that says something similar to, “You may include your name here if you would like me to be able to follow up on your responses for clarification.”
Bottom line, don’t waste your time developing or changing your benefits plans without first gathering feedback from the people who will use the plans: your employees. The feedback gathering process doesn’t need to be exhaustive. (Reviewing Human Interest’s survey took me less than 5 minutes!) Gathering input not only helps you invest in the right benefits that your employees want and will use, you’re also going to gain employee trust and increase their engagement when you ask for feedback.
Liz Sheffield has more than a decade of experience working in HR. Her areas of expertise are in training and development, leadership development, ethics, and compliance.