Does Your Benefits Program Truly Benefit Your Employees?

A few years ago, Newmeasures went through a period of rapid growth wherein we more than doubled our headcount. Our organization had changed significantly, and we needed to evaluate whether the way we’d always done things was still working for our business and for our employees. One area in need of investigation was our compensation and benefits strategy. For years, we had equitably distributed year-end bonuses to our teammates when the business had exceeded financial targets, creating a shared sense of ownership in the success of the company and ourselves. This worked well when we were smaller, but the sustainability of this approach was no longer guaranteed at our new size.

So, at that time, our leadership team took a step back and asked every individual at our company what was most important to them in the realm of compensation and benefits. We learned that people appreciated bonuses but were prepared to sacrifice that unguaranteed possibility in favor of modest base pay increases. Asking this question and changing course accordingly demonstrated a real commitment to aligning our benefits with what teammates really cared about – while also balancing the financial health of our company.

It was a beautiful reminder of why I continue to build my career here, and a great example of why gathering employee feedback about benefits is not just a wise move but a strategic imperative.

Organizations devote significant budget to their employee benefits. Leaders understand that a competitive package is a key factor in prospective employees’ decisions to join their organizations and stay for the long haul. Newmeasures’ research shows that when employees feel their benefits meet their needs, they are 5.8 times more likely to plan on staying with their current employer for the next year.

Proactively uncovering what is truly meaningful to employees helps companies curate benefits packages that really resonate, ensuring finite resources are not laid to waste on things people don’t really care about. Moreover, aligning benefits with employee preferences is a tangible demonstration of a company’s commitment to the well-being of its workforce. Our research shows that this helps to foster loyalty, reduce attrition, and ultimately contributes to a happier and more productive team.

One way to assess employee sentiment around benefit preferences is leveraging surveys – particularly those with built-in analytics regarding the trade-offs of specific offerings. For example, would free lunch make employees more productive and engaged, or would employees more deeply appreciate pet insurance? Surveys that leverage these analytics also give leaders the ability to provide more tailored offerings, as a one-size-fits-all approach increasingly fails to support a diverse workforce with unique lifestyles, priorities, and aspirations.

We’ve worked with dozens of clients to design effective benefits surveys. Here are some key takeaways we’ve learned from this work:

Communication is Key
As with any employee survey, effective communication before, during, and after the administration period is essential to the process. With benefits surveys in particular, we find that employees can easily jump to conclusions about what will or won’t happen next in the absence of information. As soon as they are asked to provide input on their benefits, they can either a) believe that your benefits team suddenly has a magic wand that can make all their dreams a reality or b) react in fear or suspicion that the benefits they hold dear are soon to be axed. In light of this, we encourage our clients to develop a thorough communication plan to set realistic expectations with employees for what will happen with the data collected.
Be Realistic
We’ve worked with several clients who bring lots of creativity and ideas to the survey design process, imagining which novel benefits their organization might be able to offer to gain that competitive edge. The survey process is a great opportunity to explore new ideas, but it must be balanced with a sense of realism for what is feasible. Our strong recommendation is to only include benefits in your survey that you are actually open to implementing or changing. If something is beyond the realm of possibility, don’t mention it as a potential option, as doing so can cause employees to lose trust in the process overall. Open-ended questions provide a great avenue for employees to share their own ideas of what would be meaningful, without needing to position these to them up front!
We’ve found many of our clients to be optimistic about how quickly data will translate into decisions regarding benefits. Running a benefits survey only a few weeks or months before open enrollment generally does not provide sufficient time to make changes to offerings. We recommend building in buffer time if you would like benefit survey data to inform decisions around open enrollment or otherwise. Inevitably, something will happen to slow you down (vacations, leaves, emergencies - you name it!), so building in additional time is always wise. We also recommend scheduling the survey administration outside of busy periods or holidays when participation may be lower.

As Jay Choi, Qualtrics’ vice president of EmployeeXM, emphasizes, “Organizations spend millions of dollars to create a benefits and compensation package for their employees,” so it is important to “ensure that the money they spend is driving impact across the entire organization.”

In the end, a tailored benefits strategy isn’t just an investment in employees, it’s an investment in the company’s success.

Three Methods of Understanding Benefits Preferences

Standard Surveys

A great place to start when assessing benefits is a standard survey. These surveys leverage traditional question types to gauge things like:

  • Satisfaction with an overall benefits package or components
  • Knowledge and awareness of benefits offerings
  • Utilization of specific offerings

These surveys may also include open-ended comments for employees to share ideas of what is most valuable to them at present and what would be most valuable to them in the future. Depending on the types of questions asked, external benchmarks may be available to add a comparative lens to the results and help organizations assess how they stack up to the rest of the market.

Advanced Surveys (Conjoint & MaxDiff Analysis)

While rich insight can be gleaned from standard surveys, we sometimes see different results when employees are asked about individual components versus looking at a total package. With these advanced survey types, combinations of benefits are presented to employees, where they are asked to make trade-offs and select what would be most or least valuable to them. The results are then automatically analyzed to surface the best possible total package for your people.


Bear in mind that this type of analysis is most accurate and predictive when at least 300 responses are in the dataset.


Employee benefits surveys provide a way to obtain anonymous, honest feedback from current members of your team so you can make reliable assessments of where and how your current benefits program meets the needs of your workforce. Additionally, we encourage our clients not to overlook the value of dialogue. Engaging team members in personal conversations about options and trade-offs builds trust and drives higher levels of employee engagement, both of which are critical to long-term employee retention.

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Callie is passionate about using data and best practices to help organizations improve the wellbeing of their employees, achieve strategic goals, and create awesome places to work. Connect with Callie on LinkedIn.

Callie Rushton
Director Implementation