For any HR leader, strategies that increase attraction, retention, and productivity are a gold mine.
A well-designed benefits package can contribute to all these things. But what exactly do employees today want and need from their benefits packages? Well, it depends.
In our 2022 data report on financial well-being, we found that race, income level, and generation have a substantial impact on what kind of benefits people value. Additionally, our data shows that nearly one in three workers think that current benefits packages favor management and not the frontline. That perception of injustice can cause headaches for the HR team, from high turnover to more complicated situations like unionization.
We know that different employees are looking for different benefits, but how do you know what your employees need? That’s where employee benefits surveys come in.
Employee benefits surveys offer companies feedback on their current benefits program and allow employees to recommend additional benefits in a democratic manner. These surveys are cheap, easy to run, and can revolutionize the impact of your benefits offerings. That is, when done right.
In this blog, we’ll explain step-by-step how to create, administer and analyze an impactful employee benefits survey.
Looking for more general information about employee benefits? Try our 101 guide to employee benefits for HR leaders.
1: Determine Objectives for the Employee Benefits Survey
Before you begin designing your survey, it’s critical to understand what your unique objectives are. What do you hope to learn from your data and what will this insight enable you to do?
For example, you may consider any of the following objectives for your survey:
- Learn about how employees feel about their current benefit offerings, including health care, retirement planning and more.
- Determine if there is enough financial support for certain aspects of your company’s benefit plan—such as dental insurance or flexible spending accounts (FSAs).
- Understand what types of additional services workers would like included in their employer-sponsored plans
- Find out whether there are any gaps in coverage between your healthcare offerings and what workers can access through state exchanges under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
- Determine whether your benefits package is successfully addressing the key pillars of employee well-being. This may cover physical health, mental health, financial health (which in particular has seen a surge of interest amidst the pandemic and economic uncertainty), and in some cases community or spiritual health.
Whatever objectives are most important to your organization, your survey will enable you to make changes based directly on feedback from employees, instead of relying solely on industry trends or guesswork.
2: Determine Your Employee Benefits Survey Questions
With your objectives clearly defined you can begin designing your survey. As you develop your questions, aim to be clear, concise and purposeful with your language. You want to gather as much relevant information as possible, without being redundant.
To promote participation, most surveys should aim to take no longer than three minutes to complete. First, divide your questions into categories.
- An ‘about you’ section
- Overall benefits satisfaction questions
- Health & wellness benefits questions
Collecting demographic information can be extremely useful, both for supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives and for diversifying benefits to address different segments of your workforce. It’s critical to ensure that this data is anonymized, randomized and aggregated so that no individual can be identified in the results.
For benefits-related questions, we recommend a mix of:
- Scaled questions (eg. “To what degree do you agree that your current health care plan meets your needs”)
- Multiple-choice questions (eg. “which of the following benefits is most important to you”)
- Open-ended questions (eg. “what are your top three most desired health and wellness benefits”).
This will provide you with both qualitative and quantitative data to inform your decision-making.
Questions that capture employee preferences are good, but questions that go one step deeper and capture intent are better. The example below illustrates this point:
Instead of: do you want an emergency savings account?
Ask: which of the following financial benefits would motivate you to join or stay with a company
- Emergency savings account
- Paid parental leave
- Health savings account (HSA)
- Paid volunteer time
Open-ended questions can help you avoid leading respondents, which can skew your data. As much as possible, try to avoid putting answers in the question, and instead prompt respondents to share their own ideas. For example:
Instead of: Do you want a mental wellness app to help you reduce stress?
Ask: What are the top three tools or resources you’d like to access to reduce stress?
Once you have a list of questions, carefully consider whether every question is necessary. Avoid burdening your survey respondents with unnecessary or repetitive topics, and focus on questions that address your survey objectives.
3. Get Feedback on your Survey Content and Format
Before you distribute your survey, make sure that you provide opportunities for company stakeholders and other professionals to share feedback. This can improve the quality of your survey questions, ensure all critical learning objectives are addressed and confirm your survey is in good legal standing.
Who should review your survey?
Stakeholders within your company may be able to provide a new perspective that can improve your survey. It’s also valuable to get buy-in from leadership at the earliest stage possible, in order to best make use of the insights gleaned once the survey is complete.
Your Benefits Broker or Consultant
Lean on your benefits broker or consultant to share insight into the latest trends and benefits offerings. These professionals have a broad view of what many companies are doing, and can provide suggestions that you may not have considered.
While the purpose of an employee benefits survey is to get insight into the needs of your unique workforce, it’s helpful to understand what other businesses are doing. Tapping your network can help you to ensure that you’ve got all your bases covered.
Your Legal Team
It may be wise to also have your legal counsel review your survey to mitigate any legal issues, particularly where sensitive information is concerned. A legal opinion can ensure your questions are written in a way that’s legally sound but also accessible to employees who may not have a law degree. Your legal team may also want to have input on certain topics within your survey.
4. Figure Out How You’ll Administer the Survey
Once you’ve implemented feedback and carefully reviewed the content and format of your survey, the next step is to create a plan to distribute it.
Building Your Survey
There are several survey tools available to help you create easy-to-use surveys, ranging from free solutions like Google Forms and Typeform, or even specialized HR survey tools like Sunny Day Fund’s Sunflower™ Workforce Financial Well-being Diagnostic. It’s critical to ensure that your survey tool provides anonymized answers, and communicates this clearly to respondents.
We recommend choosing an option that’s simple to use to minimize friction for your employees. If possible, use a tool your employees are already familiar with and avoid requiring everyone to set up an account to participate.
Choose a tool, add your survey questions, and have a couple of people outside your organization test it out before distributing widely to ensure there are no confusing questions or errors. Double-check that your survey responses are anonymized and easy to review as well.
With the important work of developing your survey complete, your next task is to get your team to complete it. Your survey is only as valuable as the responses you get, so create a communications plan to promote participation.
Let your team know that the survey is coming before it officially launches. You may even want to offer the opportunity to provide input for the survey to increase employee buy-in from the beginning.
Depending on the size of your organization, you may want to use multiple communications channels to distribute the survey. In addition to email and other digital communications like Slack or Microsoft Teams, consider printing flyers with a QR code to leave at high-traffic areas of your office, like a break room or entry/exit.
Remember, the easier it is for employees to participate and the more confident they are that their responses will not be traced back to them, the more likely they will be to take the time to participate.
5. Manage Expectations of Results and Timelines
While you can’t always control the results of your survey, you can always manage expectations before your survey goes out. Rewards are helpful, but information can be an equally powerful incentive.
Make the following points clear in your communications:
- Why you’re conducting the survey. Be transparent about the objectives of your survey.
- How the information gathered will be used. Explain how the data will impact employees by improving their benefits packages.
- Realistic expectations. Make it clear that not all of the employees’ demands/desires around benefits can be met. Frame the survey as fact-finding, not binding.
- The value of participation. Communicate up front what percentage of the team you need to see responses from, and why.
- How the data is anonymized. Explain that confidentiality is guaranteed unless an employee chooses not to take part in the study by revealing their identity on the form itself (and then only if required by law).
- How long the survey will take to complete. Emphasize ease of participation, expected time commitment and/or the number of questions.
- What incentives or rewards are offered. You may want to offer an incentive for participation, such as a chance to win a draw for a gift card, or a smaller reward for all participants.
- Deadlines for completion. Over-communicate on survey timelines and closing dates.
- Sharing results. Provide as much transparency as possible, and let everyone know how and when you will be sharing the results of the survey.
Congratulations, you’re ready to launch your survey! By now, your employees should be aware that the survey is coming, why it’s important, and what they need to do to participate.
Notify all employees that the survey is live, share an easy-to-access link to take the survey, and highlight the deadline to complete it. At this point, you may want to reiterate the points listed above, keeping in mind that some employees may have missed prior communications.
If possible, ask leadership to mention the survey during team meetings or in company-wide newsletters or other communications.
As your deadline approaches, send out reminders, and thank everyone who has participated so far. This is a good time to emphasize the value of the survey to employees, including how the results will be used and what incentives are offered.
7. Learn & Report
Once your survey deadline has passed and your survey is complete, the learning begins.
Reviewing Your Data
Start by creating data groups based on demographics from your survey. It can be helpful to compare company-wide results with specific subsets such as gender, age, department, location or career level.
Next, begin analyzing quantitative data from your scale-based and multiple-choice questions. These responses will allow you to quickly identify trends and patterns. Consider visualizing this data using graphs or charts.
Open-ended questions provide deeper context, but also require more manual analysis. As you read through responses, look for patterns, highlight common phrases or requests, and compare priorities across different subsets of your organization. This qualitative analysis will add colo
ur to your report and will likely provide inspiration for further exploration.
Sharing Your Results
If your survey was well-designed, you should now have plenty of information to inform your key survey objectives.
After reviewing and analyzing all of your data, build a report that makes it easy for stakeholders to digest your findings and understand key takeaways. This comprehensive report should include both qualitative and quantitative data, along with analysis to make it actionable. Charts and graphs should be accompanied by a story to bring out the bigger picture.
Distribute this report to leadership, including executives and team managers, and ask for feedback. This should open up conversations about policy changes when the time comes to review your employee benefits packages.
In addition to sharing results with leadership, create a snapshot of your results to share with employees.
This snapshot should be quick and high-level, ideally with visual interpretations to make the key data easy to understand. You don’t need to showcase all of the results of your survey, rather focus on sharing key insights that are most likely to impact employee benefits in the future.
Transparency can go a long way toward building trust and encouraging participation in future surveys.
Concluding Tips for a Successful Employee Benefits Survey
When you’re creating a survey, it’s important to remember that the point of the exercise is to gather data that will be helpful to your organization.
You can do that by following survey design best practices:
- Keep the survey concise and easy
- Keep it relevant
- Don’t ask leading questions
- Keep it anonymous
Think about what would best serve both parties—your company and its employees—and make sure each question is geared toward achieving that goal. Refer back to your survey objectives frequently to ensure that your survey is focused and purposeful. Remember, an employee benefits survey is not the same as a workplace satisfaction survey.
Finally, take advantage of the remarkably valuable information you gather and take action on your results! If you’ve done the work to get buy-in from leadership and employees from the beginning, you’ll be well positioned to create positive change within your organization.