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Employee benefits surveys: What questions to ask

13 min read
It’s not all about the money. 79% of employees would choose additional benefits rather than a pay raise. So what can you do to provide the employee benefits that really stand out in a competitive talent market? Employee benefit surveys could provide the answer.


Why are employee benefits so important?

In recent years we’ve seen a proliferation of employee perks and benefits, from onsite nap rooms to free breakfast, becoming standard at the most desirable workplaces.

Particularly in the technology sector, benefits like these form an important part of employee experience and workplace culture, not to mention providing an attractive proposition to potential candidates. Research from Glassdoor showed that for 48% of job candidates, employee benefits was a deciding factor on whether to apply for a role.

Providing excellent employee benefits can increase employee loyalty, boost recruitment efforts, and show employees that you care about their wellbeing. What’s more, their absence can be detrimental to your employee turnover. According to a 2018 study by Randstad, 42% of employees said they were considering leaving their current jobs because their benefits packages are inadequate, while 55% had left jobs in the past because they found better benefits or perks elsewhere.

You can understand what benefits your employees value most through an employee benefits survey.

What are employee benefits surveys?

Different employees value different things. Working parents might benefit most from flexible working and paid time off, while younger employees may see more appeal in away-days and free food and refreshments. As an employer, your challenge is to find the balance that’s right for your people and come up with a benefits package that not only suits your current team, but appeals to the kind of talent you want to attract in the future.

That’s where employee benefits surveys come in. They can help you dig into the details of your employees’ values and preferences when it comes to perks and benefits. They are questionnaires sent to employees, usually on an annual basis, to gauge which benefits are most important.

They ask questions about the quality of specific benefits, how they compare to other companies, and any additional benefits employees would like to see in the future. This can relate to PTO (paid time off), health insurance, parental leave, retirement, stock options, free meals, early-release Fridays, bonuses, team events, personal development allowances, dental plans and more.

How employee benefits research can help your company

Benefits play an important role in employee experience and satisfaction with your organization. Some employees may not be aware of all the benefits you offer, so employee benefits surveys also keep your employees up-to-date with the benefits your organization provides.

Comparisons and benchmarking your benefits

Employee satisfaction surveys that include a benefit assessment component provide much-needed information to your organization. Once you have data from your own survey, you can compare your organization with national baseline data through the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ National Compensation Survey (NCS).

You can also compare the incidence and detailed provisions of selected employee benefit plans in small private establishments, medium and large private establishments, and state and local governments.

For comparisons with national data, benefits data should also be qualified by establishment and employee characteristics such as:

  • Establishment size
  • Industry group
  • Profit vs. non-profit status
  • Time vs. incentive status+

What to include in your benefits survey

You should know where you stand in all benefits areas so you can adapt your policies to meet your employee’s needs and stay relevant in a competitive employment marketplace.

Be specific about your benefits

When asking questions about new different benefit areas, it’s helpful to explain how the benefit works so the employee can determine if it would be beneficial to them. For instance, if you’re considering offering a public transportation benefit, explain which types of transportation it can be used for and how an employee can use it, including any limitations and inclusions.

You can also give descriptions of the current benefits you’re offering, just in case employees don’t understand the benefit.

Choose a structure

When you set up your employee benefits questionnaire, think about which kinds of questions will offer you the best quality data. If you’re looking for levels of preference, for example, ranking questions might be appropriate. If you want to explore why someone hasn’t used a benefit, you might offer multiple choice and free text options.

For many businesses, employee benefits surveys are based around a Likert scale structure, with a list of statements and a set of options for each one: Strongly agree / agree / neither agree nor disagree / disagree / strongly disagree

You can use a mix of question types and different sections in your survey questionnaire. Bear in mind however that the more complex and effortful the questionnaire is, the greater the risk that participants won’t take or complete it, so lean towards lower-effort question formats like the suggestions above.

Benefits areas to ask about

When you start putting your questionnaire together, it can be helpful to see some employee benefits survey question examples. Depending on the benefits you currently offer or are considering, you might want to ask about these areas:

Health insurance

Health insurance can be a major consideration for employees, not just in terms of whether it’s provided but how generous it is and who it covers in the employee’s household.

Example questions:

I am satisfied with the level of health insurance provided by my employer
Strongly agree / agree / neither agree nor disagree / disagree / strongly disagree

Using my health insurance has been straightforward
Strongly agree / agree / neither agree nor disagree / disagree / strongly disagree

I feel confident that my healthcare insurance will meet my needs in the future
Strongly agree / agree / neither agree nor disagree / disagree / strongly disagree

Retirement

Whether you offer defined benefit or defined contribution retirement plans, or a mix of the two, providing for retirement is likely to be important to many employees, especially those with families.

Example questions:

I understand how my retirement plan works
Strongly agree / agree / neither agree nor disagree / disagree / strongly disagree

My employer’s contribution to my retirement funds is generous
Strongly agree / agree / neither agree nor disagree / disagree / strongly disagree

I feel confident that I can save enough to retire comfortably
Strongly agree / agree / neither agree nor disagree / disagree / strongly disagree

Stock options and equity

If you offer stock options and company equity, or if you are considering it, you may want to know what will appeal to your employees and whether they have an appetite for this kind of benefit.

Example questions:

I value being offered equity in my company
Strongly agree / agree / neither agree nor disagree / disagree / strongly disagree

I am happy to wait for my stock options in a company to vest
Strongly agree / agree / neither agree nor disagree / disagree / strongly disagree

Childcare resource and referral services

Providing support for childcare and commitments outside the workplace is increasingly seen as part of a good employer’s remit. If you can offer childcare support your employees find appealing, you may have a greater chance to retain top talent over time.

Example questions:

Having childcare support from my employer makes it easier to do my job
Strongly agree / agree / neither agree nor disagree / disagree / strongly disagree

Having childcare available through work is important
Strongly agree / agree / neither agree nor disagree / disagree / strongly disagree

Parental leave

Providing a certain level of parental leave, including maternity, paternity and adoption leave, is required by law in some regions. If you offer a package that’s more generous than the standard levels, employees may see it as a sign that you take care of your people and want to invest in them long-term.

Example questions:

My employer offers generous parental leave
Strongly agree / agree / neither agree nor disagree / disagree / strongly disagree

I understand my rights to take parental leave
Strongly agree / agree / neither agree nor disagree / disagree / strongly disagree

I understand my employer’s parental leave package
Strongly agree / agree / neither agree nor disagree / disagree / strongly disagree

Food services and snacks

Whether it’s fresh fruit in the office, a drinks fridge or a weekly lunch on the company, food and snack services are not only a welcome perk for employees, but can contribute to your company culture.

Example questions:

I am satisfied with the food and snacks available at work
Strongly agree / agree / neither agree nor disagree / disagree / strongly disagree

Time off

Like parental leave live, paid time off and sick leave allowances are at least partly determined by the laws in your geographical region, but you can enhance the experience for employees by giving them an over-and-above allowance.

Example questions:

I feel confident that I can take time off when I am sick
Strongly agree / agree / neither agree nor disagree / disagree / strongly disagree

My employer’s paid time off allowance is generous
Strongly agree / agree / neither agree nor disagree / disagree / strongly disagree

Tuition reimbursement

Student debt can be a huge weight on a person’s shoulders. Employers who offer tuition reimbursement are not only encouraging talent to develop, but could be improving quality of life for employees too.

Example question:

I know how to request tuition reimbursement
Strongly agree / agree / neither agree nor disagree / disagree / strongly disagree

I understand how my company’s tuition reimbursement policy applies to me
Strongly agree / agree / neither agree nor disagree / disagree / strongly disagree

Learning allowances

Like tuition reimbursement, learning allowances give employees a route to upskill and develop their talents, benefiting both employee and company.

Example question:

My employer offers a generous learning allowance
Strongly agree / agree / neither agree nor disagree / disagree / strongly disagree

I can use my learning allowance to develop a skill I wouldn’t have otherwise studied
Strongly agree / agree / neither agree nor disagree / disagree / strongly disagree

Gym reimbursements

Gym memberships or discounts help keep employees healthy and reduce stress. If it’s something the employee would otherwise have paid full price for, it could be a valuable benefit.

Example question:

My employer’s gym membership deal saves me money
Strongly agree / agree / neither agree nor disagree / disagree / strongly disagree

Segmentation

It’s important to segment your results into different cohorts, as it will help you understand how certain groups of your company value different benefit types. Keep in mind that you will have a lot of this data in your HCMS already, so avoid asking questions you already have answers to.

  • Age
    Example question:
    What age group do you fall into?
    Under 25 / 26 – 34 / 35 – 44 / 45 – 54 / 55 or older
  • Department
    Example question:
    Which department do you belong to?
    Drop-down list
    An open-text field should be provided too in case the employee’s role falls between two or more departments.
  • Office location
    Example question:
    Which office are you based at?
    Drop-down list of company offices
    Include a remote-working entry if applicable to your company.
  • Country
    Example question:
    Which country do you work in most often?
    Drop-down list
  • Gender
    Example question:
    What is your gender?
    Open-field response
    Radio button: prefer not to answer
  • Full and part-time employees
    Example question:
    How many hours do you work per week?
    Slider scale
  • Seniority
    Example question:
    At what level do you work?
    Executive or C-suite / leader of leaders (e.g. region or department lead) / manager of a team / individual contributor
  • Parental status
    Example question:
    Are you a parent or guardian to someone under 18?
    yes / no

Analyzing your results

When you’ve completed your survey, it’s important to analyze the results and see which benefits you need to add or make changes to, or if there are gaps in your offering in terms of satisfaction or the range of benefits you offer.

The goal is to put your money into benefits that are the most valuable for your employees. Benefits should be evaluated at least annually so you can understand if the needs of your workforce are changing. This is especially important if you are growing quickly or the makeup of your workforce is changing in terms of age, lifestyle or parental status.

Find the ideal benefits package in minutes

Our Employee Benefits Optimizer tool lets you run employee benefits research quickly and easily. It compares potential benefits packages against each other, using a guided configuration tool, predesigned survey and a package simulator to suggest which combination of benefits your employees will prefer.

Effortlessly optimize your benefits package with Employee Benefits Optimizer