Benefits programs help companies to attract and retain talented employees. They can also improve workforce health and engagement. But with four generations (perhaps even five) in today’s labor force, putting together a well-crafted plan that meets the needs of all employees can seem nearly impossible.
With the rising cost of and focus on employee benefits, employers must find a benefits package with options for everyone. A plan that does not engage employees or meet their needs will result in low participation. Fortunately, asking your employees what benefits they want can help ensure that your programs include resonating options. However, it is critical to consider what questions you will ask and how you will ask them.
What to ask
Simply asking employees, “What do you want?” is not enough. Most employees will request the basics like medical care, a retirement plan, dental, vision, etc. Others will request senior care, child care vouchers, fertility benefits, education assistance, etc. Still others may not even know what to ask for and need more information.
The solution is to ask targeted, personal questions that provide the necessary information. For example, ask questions that encourage employees to:
- Describe the circumstances of their lives that relate to employee benefits
- Provide data about how they use your benefits plan
- Identify areas of need that are lacking in the plan
With these answers, employers can help identify what’s essential to each demographic and construct a package that addresses as many of these necessities as possible.
How to ask
Before we get to specific questions, remember that healthcare information is very personal, and much of it is protected under HIPAA. Employers must proceed carefully to avoid non-responses or possible legal action if questions cross boundaries.
Online surveys are the most effective approach for several reasons. They are easy to set up and make tracking and analyzing results easier. Most important, online surveys allow employees to be anonymous.
Anonymous surveys can help employers gather feedback on employee benefits without making employees uncomfortable by having to talk about personal and family health matters in group settings. This option will allow employees to safely give the type of feedback employers need to develop an effective employee benefits package.
Focus groups effectively address specific issues, such as the enrollment process or how the company could communicate plan offerings more effectively. If focus groups are pursued, HR personnel involved in plan administration should lead them.
Meetings can be company-wide, departmental, or by teams. If possible, having at least one member of each generation in each meeting will help you discover the various needs within your workforce. These meetings also give employees a better understanding of why certain benefits are offered and what their colleagues are thinking about in terms of benefits.
8 Important Questions
Keeping all of the foregoing in mind, here are eight specific questions to help you make informed decisions about your employee benefits package.
1. How often did you see your primary care doctor this year?
The number of primary care visits may indicate the overall status of workforce health and uncover the need for better preventive care or health improvement programs. It’s also helpful to ask about visits to medical specialists to identify any gaps in insurance coverage.
2. In which insurance plans are you enrolled?
This question can illuminate whether cost or coverage is the more significant issue. A good follow-up question is, “How well did your selected plan meet your needs?”
3. What are your expected healthcare needs next year?
This answer helps to determine what employees may need beyond essential primary care medical services. For example:
- Are employees starting families?
- Do their children need braces?
- Is someone looking at a major surgery?
- Does an aging parent require long-term care?
Answers like these can help you include appropriate types of benefit accounts. For example, Dependent Care Assistance Plans are great for employees with dependent children or parents who need care. Flexible Spending Accounts, Health Reimbursement Arrangements, and HSAs are excellent benefits for covering out-of-pocket healthcare costs.
4. Have you enrolled in any of our supplemental benefits?
Once you’ve addressed core medical, dental, vision, and retirement offerings, benefits packages may include adoption assistance, life insurance, pet insurance, student loan repayment assistance, family leave, and more. This question will help identify which supplementary benefits are considered the most helpful. Employers may also ask about supplemental benefits not in the program that employees would like to have.
5. What are your highest expenses beyond the basic cost of living?
Employees’ wages should sufficiently cover daily living expenses. However, they may struggle to cover additional expenses like student loan debt or care for a special-needs dependent. By understanding these financial challenges, employers can identify high-impact opportunities to support workers in non-medical ways.
6. How would you rate our company’s current benefits plan?
List all your benefits and ask employees to rate them on a scale. Be sure to include an N/A option for employees who have yet to enroll. Also, provide space for employee comments or questions.
7. How well do you understand each benefit offered?
Many employees don’t take full advantage of benefit plans because they don’t understand them. Again, ask employees to rank their level of comprehension on a scale system, leaving space for comments and questions.
8. How well did we do with the enrollment process?
Many employees need help understanding open enrollment time frames, benefit choices, and other factors. After each enrollment period, ask questions like:
- Are you satisfied with the choices you made during open enrollment?
- Did you have time and information to make good decisions about your benefits?
- What did you find challenging about the enrollment process?
- What other information could we have provided to make open enrollment easier?
- Which benefits would you like to see added to next year’s plan?
Employers work hard and go to considerable expense to create an employee benefits package that meets the needs of their employees and their business. Asking the right questions in advance can increase both employee satisfaction and employer return on investment.
DataPath, Inc. has been a full-service TPA business solutions provider for nearly four decades. Our cloud-based Summit platform is the industry’s first all-in-one solution for CDH, HSA, Well-Being, COBRA, and Billing administration; plus, we offer comprehensive Operations BPO and award-winning Marketing Services for users of all administrative platforms. Please enter your email (above right) to be notified when new blog articles are published.