How to build an effective benefits survey

Whether you’ve been sending out employee benefits surveys for years or you’re starting fresh, taking a thoughtful approach to surveying employees is worth the effort. Employee benefits surveys can reveal valuable insights around which benefits your employees are using, which could use additional resources, and where employees are seeing gaps in support. With the rise in remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic, employee priorities may have shifted even more than usual, too. By taking a closer look at the questions you’re asking, your survey’s format, and how you’re promoting your survey, you can help your team uncover gaps and find more actionable results for this year and beyond. 

How to create an effective employee benefits survey 

Determine your questions and phrasing 

As you begin planning out your benefits survey, SHRM suggests starting by looking at your questions from prior surveys and considering which to keep, which to rephrase, and what questions you might like to add. Ask yourself:

  • Are there questions from previous surveys that should be included again?
  • Are there questions from previous surveys that need to be rewritten because they were vague or confusing?

If your company hasn’t conducted a survey in recent years and you’re starting from scratch, use resources such as SHRM and Qualtrics for inspiration. Your questions should cover your main benefits areas and ask about satisfaction and usage. Survey design experts suggest using a numerical scale from 1 to 5, with 1 being “strongly agree” and 5 five being “strongly disagree,” to simplify analysis and allow for easy tracking year-over-year. For example, questions around fertility and family-forming benefits may include:

  • I am satisfied with the level of fertility and family-forming benefits provided by my employer (Strongly agree / agree / neither agree nor disagree / disagree / strongly disagree / not applicable)
  • Using my fertility benefits has been straightforward (Strongly agree / agree / neither agree nor disagree / disagree / strongly disagree / strongly disagree / not applicable)
  • I feel confident that my fertility and family-forming benefits will meet my needs in the future (Strongly agree / agree / neither agree nor disagree / disagree / strongly disagree /not applicable)

Next, consider whether you’d like to ask questions about employee benefits you’re not currently offering. Research the employee benefits your competitors provide. Are there any benefits coming up consistently that your company isn’t currently offering? As you build your benefits survey, consider gauging interest in these benefits, as well. If you’re concerned about complicating your data with open-ended questions, you can conduct follow-up focus groups with your employee resource groups (ERGs) or other interested employees to gather more qualitative data instead, SHRM recommends. Finally, decide how long your survey will be. Unsurprisingly, the longer a survey is, the less likely employees will complete it. Typical employee surveys have no more than 75 questions and take around 20 to 30 min, according to SHRM

Consider how you’ll segment responses

Including segmentation and demographics — while considering anonymity — can help deepen your understanding of your results. HBR recommends placing demographic questions at the end of the survey, and making them optional to help protect employee privacy. Segmentation can be based on demographics like age and gender, and employer-specific demographics like location, remote work status, and department. Again, especially for smaller companies, combining certain demographics can sacrifice anonymity, so keep your company size in mind as you design your survey. 

Set a timeline 

The timing of your survey can help ensure its success — holidays, bonus season, or the end of quarter or sales cycle may impact how employees respond. Your company should also consider the timing of when change can be implemented. If you cannot make changes for some time, you may want to hold off on a survey to avoid frustrating employees. On the other hand, if you can make changes in a benefits cycle, consider a survey sooner to show your employees their values in action. 

Common employee benefits survey mistakes

After you’ve drafted your questions, one way to improve your survey is to double check for common mistakes in question phrasing. Typical mistakes include:

Double-barrelled questions that combine two questions within one question or two topics within one question. This can confuse the reader and make it unclear which question or which topic they are answering. 

Example of a double-barrelled question: 

How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the current benefits package? 

Instead, ask one question at a time: 

How satisfied are you with the current benefit package? 

Leading questions are statements that are written in a way that sways the reader. Try to write questions that don’t lead the reader to a specific answer. 

Leading question towards positive example: 

My team is helpful (Agree/Disagree) 

Instead, ask questions that aren’t all positive leaning, or a offer a mix of options: 

I find my team to be (multiple choice) 

Using absolutes like always or never. They are too limiting for the reader and force the reader to answer in a way they might not otherwise. 

Absolute question: 

I would always choose health benefits over wellness stipend 

Instead ask: 

How important is a health benefit to you? (scale of not important to very) 

How important is wellness stipend to you? (scale of not important to very)

Next steps after a benefits survey 

Evaluate year-over-year changes and identify issues

When analyzing your survey results, pay attention both to overall themes as well as trends by demographic, such as remote employees vs. in-person employees. Commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity (DEI) is also more important than ever for employees. You will likely send out a separate survey related to DEI objectives overall, but inclusive benefits can be part of your efforts. Consider analyzing your responses for trends by demographics to identify whether certain groups are less satisfied with your existing employee benefits. Again, SHRM recommends keeping questions around demographics voluntary to help employees feel more comfortable responding. 

After your team has analyzed your survey results and decided on next steps, the American Management Association recommends including a few key talking points when you follow up with employees:

  • Thank employees for their feedback and for taking the time to respond to your survey.
  • Share back what you heard on a high level, emphasizing the confidentiality of the survey process and noting that results reflect trends and themes, not specific responses. 
  • Describe two to three high-level areas that are in need of improvement, as well as high-level positive takeaways.
  • Share what the company has decided to take action on, and identify next steps.

When employees believe that actions are being taken in response to an employee survey, they are 26% more likely to view their manager as an effective leader, according to the American Management Association. Designing a good survey can reveal insights, but what your company does with those insights ultimately is what impacts employees. 

Plan for your next survey 

Benefits should be evaluated every year to understand the needs of your workforce and how they change. As the makeup of your company changes in age, lifestyle, and parental status, what your employees value in their employee benefits may change as well. Planning for the next survey will ensure you create benefits that address your employees’ needs and continue to grow with your workforce. 

Creating and promoting an effective benefits survey can be time-consuming, but when done thoughtfully, you’ll find actionable feedback that you can immediately incorporate back into your strategy and boost morale, retention, and recruitment, too.

Want to learn more about how fertility benefits can support your workforce? Get in touch with us.

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