A company’s benefits package is a vital tool for attracting and keeping talented employees. It can also improve workforce health and engagement. But with workers who span four generations in today’s labor force, building a benefits plan can be a challenge for employers.
Baby Boomers are nearing retirement while Gen Z is just entering the workforce. Meanwhile, Gen X and Millennials are in their prime earning years. Each group has different needs based on what stage of their lives and careers.
With open enrollment coming up soon, companies have to make decisions about their employee benefits package. A plan that does not meet employee needs will result in low participation and low satisfaction. Fortunately, there’s a simple solution to making sure your plan has the right offerings: ask your employees what type of benefits they want. Knowing what to ask about and how to ask it, is crucial.
What to ask workers about your employee benefits package
Simply asking, “What do you want?” will not provide enough quality information to put together an effective plan. Most employees will respond with the basics (i.e., medical care, a retirement plan, dental, vision, etc). Others may have more specific requests, such as senior care, child care vouchers, family planning benefits, tuition assistance, and so forth. And then there are the employees don’t know enough about the current benefits plan, so they may not know what to even ask.
A survey should ask specific, personal questions that provide insights on the following:
- Circumstances of their lives that relate to employee benefits
- How employees use your benefits plan
- What people need that is not currently offered in the plan
While employees may not be able to identify specific benefits, they can describe areas of need. This allows you to understand what’s important to each demographic. With that knowledge, you can offer a range of benefits that meets their needs.
How to ask employee benefits package questions
It’s important to remember that healthcare information is very personal and much of it is protected under HIPAA, so you must ask carefully. If your questions are too intrusive, you risk getting no response or possible legal action.
Some helpful tools to gain this important knowledge can come from anonymous online surveys, focus groups and face-to-face meetings.
Online surveys are a very effective approach for several reasons. They can be easily set up online – which is particularly helpful when people work remotely. They make it easier to track and analyze results. Most important, online surveys allow anonymity.
Many people don’t feel comfortable talking about personal and family health issues in front of others. Anonymous surveys allow employees to feel safe about giving their input.
Focus groups work best when addressing specific issues, such as the enrollment process or how the company communicates plan offerings. HR personnel who are involved in plan administration are best suited to lead this initiative.
Meetings can be company-wide, departmental or by teams. Having at least one member of each age-group demographic in the meetings allows you to see the variety of different needs within your workforce. It also gives employees a better understanding of why certain benefits are offered and what their colleagues are thinking about in terms of benefits.
Building a benefits plan: Questions for an employee survey
Here are eight questions to ask that can help you make smart decisions when building a benefits plan:
1. How would you rate our company’s current benefits?
List all the different benefits you offer and ask employees to rate them on a scale of 1–5 (or 1-10). Be sure to include an N/A option for benefits employees haven’t enrolled in. It could also be helpful to leave a space for employee comments or questions.
2. Are you enrolled in any supplementary benefits?
These are benefits that go beyond the core package, like life insurance, paid maternity leave, student loan repayment assistance, and gym memberships. This question will verify which supplementary benefits are being used and which ones you can drop. You may want to let employees suggest add-on benefits to include in your plan.
3. How often did you see your primary care doctor this year?
This question gives you a picture of the overall health of your workforce. For example, if employees have frequent visits to primary care doctors it may indicate the need for preventive care or health improvement programs. Additional questions about visits to medical specialists could identify insurance needs that are not being met under your current plan.
4. Which insurance plan are you enrolled in?
High-deductible plans usually have lower premiums, but they may also offer less coverage. Lower-deductible plans tend to have higher premiums but may offer more inclusive coverage. A good follow-up question is, “How well does your current plan meet your needs?”
5. What are your anticipated healthcare needs in the coming year?
This helps to determine what employees need beyond basic primary care services. For example,
- Is the employee planning to have a child?
- Do the kids need braces?
- Is someone looking at a major surgery?
- Does an aging parent require long-term care?
With the answers to these questions, you can point employees toward the appropriate healthcare, dental, or care giving plan. Dependent Care Assistance Plans are very useful for people with young children or who care for dependent adults. Flexible Spending Accounts, Health Reimbursement Arrangements, and HSAs are excellent for covering out-of-pocket healthcare costs.
6. What are your biggest expenses beyond the basic cost of living?
Benefits are a way of showing employees you care about their well-being. Many people have significant personal expenses, such as student loans or caring for a special needs child. Understanding these needs allows you to support employees in ways that are very meaningful to them.
7. How well do you understand each benefit offered?
Many employees don’t take full advantage of benefit plans because they find them confusing. Promoting an employee education and engagement benefits program can help increase understanding, enrollment, and usage.
8. How well did we do with the enrollment process?
Many employees find open enrollment confusing due to election time frames, benefit choices, amount of information, etc. After each enrollment period, ask questions like:
- Are you satisfied with your choices during open enrollment?
- Did you have enough time and information to make good decisions about your benefits?
- What was difficult about the enrollment process?
- How could we have made open enrollment easier?
- Which benefits would you like to see added for next year’s plan?
You work hard building a benefits plan that meets the needs of your employees and your business. Asking the right questions in advance greatly increases your chances of success.