5 Tips for Mastering the Art of the Employee Benefits Survey

5 Tips for Mastering the Art of the Employee Benefits Survey

Ilana Mauskopf

The employee survey can be a great tool for HR leaders who want to improve their benefits offering. Here are five tips to building the best survey to get clear feedback from your employees.

There’s no point in investing in benefits if your employees aren’t finding value in them. The best way to find out how your employees feel about their benefits? Ask them.

Enter the employee benefits survey.

Surveys are an art. And like other art forms, some surveys inadvertently leave a lot up to interpretation.

In other words, the questions you ask are just as important as how you ask them.

Why? Because how you ask your questions will influence the kinds of answers you get. Vague questions leads to vague answers — and too much grey area can muddle the data.

A well-executed survey offers an elusive win-win: employees get the chance to share the feedback they’ve been holding onto, and your HR team can leverage that feedback to build a workplace that supports employees in the way they uniquely need (and want) to be supported.

Read on for the top five tips to creating an effective employee benefits survey.

1. Pay attention to wording — because a minor word substitution could elicit a drastically different response.

Two questions, similar in intent, but different in perception:

  • How satisfied are you with your benefits coverage?
  • How effective are your benefits in covering the services needed by you and your family?

On first glance, these seem like the same question. But take a second look and you’ll see a vast difference in the responses you’re likely to receive.

“How satisfied are you with your medical coverage?” Hmm… Well, now that you ask, I wish I had a better option. Because who doesn’t want the best?

“How effective are your benefits in covering the services you need?” Well, I’ve been able to find good quality care to address my needs. But I have been surprised with a high bill before. So I’d say, yeah, it’s been somewhat effective, but I think there’s room for improvement.

So instead of asking about satisfaction, try focusing on effectiveness. That small switch will make the reader think about what’s really missing before they answer — and you’ll be more likely to get specific feedback.

2. Benchmarks are a survey-taker’s best friend.

“Very satisfied,” “strongly agree,” “neutral” — what does it all really mean?

We’ve all been there. We take a survey, only to second guess our responses. “Sure, this benefit effectively covered my doctor’s visits, but then again, I wish I had paid a bit less on the co-pays…”

Suddenly, a “strongly agree” becomes a “somewhat disagree” — and the survey administrator is left scratching their head.

Instead of giving vague options, set benchmarks for each answer. Here’s an example:

Rate the current network of doctors/hospitals available through your medical insurance plan.

  • Extremely satisfied – I am able to find appointments with several in-network providers in my area within a reasonable timeframe, and I have been very satisfied with the quality of care received.
  • Somewhat satisfied – I am able to find appointments with some in-network providers in my area within a reasonable timeframe, and/or I have been somewhat satisfied with the quality of care received.
  • Somewhat dissatisfied – It is sometimes challenging to make appointments with in-network providers in my area, and/or I have been somewhat dissatisfied with the quality of care received.
  • Extremely dissatisfied – It is often challenging to make appointments with in-network providers in my area, and/or I have been dissatisfied with the quality of care received.

3. Jargon smargon. Define your terms.

As an HR pro, you’re fully fluent in benefits. You probably use terms like “deductible,” “ premium,” and “out-of-pocket max” on the daily.

But your employees? Don’t count on them being masters of benefits lingo.

A recent study found that 96% of Americans overestimate their understanding of health insurance concepts. Those concepts they were quizzed on? Nothing that wouldn’t be out of place in a benefits survey — deductible, coinsurance, co-pay, and out-of-pocket maximum.

So reduce the language barrier. Instead of laying the jargon on thick, try rephrasing with layman’s terms. If you must use a specific term, offer a brief definition alongside.

4. Make space for the details with “comments/feedback” sections.

An effective survey will capture both qualitative and quantitative data. In short, quantitative data can shine a light on trends and capture the hard numbers you’ll need to make your business case.

Meanwhile, qualitative data is where the details live. Without these details, you may not be getting the full story — and you’ll have less opportunity to pinpoint the pain points.

For example, say an employee has had a tough time finding an in-network therapist who is accepting new patients in their area. They’ve lost count of how many providers they’ve contacted, and their patience has worn thin.

When survey time rolls around, they have a bone to pick with their plan coverage — but if the survey only includes ranking-style questions (”Rank your satisfaction from 1-5”), their struggles can only be captured with a response of “1 – Strongly dissatisfied”. And that “1” leaves a ton of grey area.

Instead, give your participants the chance to give that feedback where it matters to them. Try including optional long- or short-answer boxes after key questions, as well as a general “comments/feedback” prompt at the end of the survey.

Here are some examples of great questions to gather that sweet, sweet qualitative data:

  • Which benefits do you value the most? (These may be ones we offer or ones we do not.)
  • If you could add one additional benefit to our current package what would it be and why?
  • What has been your experience with finding in-network doctors?

5. Give your participants some time — but not too much.

You may think you’re doing your employees a favor by giving them a far-off deadline. And we get it — you’re just trying to respect their bandwidth and prioritize accordingly.

But the longer the lead time, the more likely folks will deprioritize it. Some people may end up forgetting about it entirely.

So how long should you accept survey responses? Depending on the time of year, we recommend sometime between 1-2 weeks.

Want to be sure you get the most responses in record time? Try setting aside company-wide time specifically for the survey. For instance, the Navanauts recently completed our survey live during our weekly Town Hall. Our MC added it to the agenda, dropped the survey link into the chat, put on a bangin’ playlist, and ten minutes later it was done!

Looking for more guidance on building the best employee survey? Check out our Employee Benefits Survey Guide for expert tips and resources, including a free plug-and-play sample survey.

About the Author

Ilana Mauskopf is the Senior Manager of People Operations at Nava. Before her role at Nava she was the Director of HR at Upfluence and additionally spent time in HR at Stack Overflow and Huxley Banking and Financial Services.

With a uniquely human and empathetic approach, Ilana leads the strategic direction of Nava’s hiring, culture, employee engagement and retention. Within this realm, she has a particular passion for helping companies (and their culture) scale and creating a psychologically safe environment for her employees.

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