The Loop

Survey Workers Before Your Next Renewal

Filed under: Benefits

In 2021, 43 percent of workers who quit their jobs cited poor benefits as a reason for changing employers.

All bets are off when it comes to post-pandemic employment norms. While you can roughly categorize people based on what benefits they are seeking – work-life balance, higher compensation, family-friendly benefits, work-from-home opportunity and more paid time off – the variances differ widely. One-size-fits-all benefits are going by the wayside and customized DIY benefit packages are on the rise. 

To discover what priorities exist among individual workers, employers should conduct a comprehensive survey each year in order to deliver benefits that meet those specific needs during the next open enrollment period.

Not surprisingly, needs change from year to year even among the same workers. Some get married and start families. Others become empty nesters and desire more vacation time. Still others wish to phase into their working career – or phase out of it. The only way employers know what their workers want is to ask them directly.

Affordability Issues

Since the beginning of the pandemic, much has changed that affects the lives of workers. The cost of living has increased exponentially – from housing prices and rents to gas and groceries. While wages have increased, higher inflation rates have largely negated any savings opportunities. Worse yet, these changes happened fast, so cost-sharing levels that were reasonably priced last year may no longer be affordable. Employers may need to adjust premiums and out-of-pocket costs to keep their current workforce engaged. If rates increase significantly in 2024, employers may find workers leaving for jobs with more generous benefits. Obviously, employers can’t know how well workers are making ends meet – unless they ask.

Worry Issues

When paychecks don’t cover household expenses, this can lead workers down a path of increased worry and stress, which can cause both mental and physical health symptoms. In light of rising interest rates, survey your workforce on how much this is impacting their ability to pay obligations, from mortgages to student loan payments to increased credit card debt. For a worker living paycheck-to-paycheck already, just a small increase in variable rates can bust their budget – leading to mental health issues and even substance abuse. Ask what types of benefits would help ease their mind so they can better focus on work.


Wellness benefits were a growing trend before the pandemic, but now they are practically as ubiquitous as health insurance and a retirement plan. Many employers now offer meditation app subscriptions, well-being days, time management and productivity training, in addition to discounts to incentivize wellness practices, such as yoga, tai chi, and massage therapy.

However, despite this focus on mental health and wellbeing, a recent study by the McKinsey Health Institute found that workers are experiencing high levels of stress and burn out. In fact, there are things companies can do to help prevent stress in the workplace before it gets out of control. Studies show that the single largest driver behind a worker’s decision to leave is a toxic work environment. This type of culture is characterized by unfair treatment, an unreasonable workload, cutthroat competition, low autonomy, lack of social support, and the feeling of always being “on call”.

By surveying workers to gauge their level of stress and burnout, an organization can assess whether the company itself – not individual workers  – needs to undergo meaningful systemic change.

Progressive Stage-of-Life Benefits

Even with a stable workforce, individuals change from year-to-year. They may transition from being single and using gym memberships to becoming married with mortgages. They may desire benefits ranging from family planning (fertility and adoption) benefits, to paid time off for mothers and fathers with a new child, to childcare subsidies and college planning, to retirement planning and caring for elderly parents. The best way to plan your offerings at each year’s renewal is to ask what types of benefits your workers anticipate needing in the coming year.

Work-Life Balance Benefits

Everyone can use work-life benefits, from the busy two-income family to a dedicated workaholic. For example, flexible scheduling allows workers to be present for family events, from doctor’s appointments to after-school soccer games. When a worker (or her dependent) is under the weather, she may not feel up to dressing for work and enduring the commute, but can still log into Zoom meetings and work on a laptop. The key is to ask what types of benefits would best add balance to their lives.

Trial and Error

Complicated health insurance plans can add more complexity to a worker’s life than enhance it, and they often find that the plan they have this year is not working out. Position benefit surveys as a way for the employer to make their lives easier. It’s one thing to ask whether they prefer an HMO over a PPO, but it’s another to ask if it is important to have a large network of mental health counselors under their medical plan. Request specific answers to broad questions.

Other questions that may help develop more responsive benefits include:

Do you live in a rural area and need help finding local providers? If so, telehealth or healthcare navigation may be helpful benefits.

Are you transitioning back to the office after working from home? Consider incorporating hybrid scheduling and other lifestyle benefits.

Do you consider your pet(s) as part of your family? Pet insurance could make a big impact in both cost savings and peace of mind.

The more worker data you obtain – each year – the better you can offer more personalized support.

Survey Logistics

The following are some best practices used to develop and conduct workforce surveys:

  • Survey questions should be simple, direct, and designed to meet a specific goal.
  • Ask for feedback regarding benefit utilization in the current year – what they like and don’t like about specific benefits.
  • Include the option to leave a comment with a multiple choice answer, which will give you more informative data.
  • Ask a few open-ended questions, and look for patterns in the answers that reflect the perspective of the overall labor pool.
  • Include benefit questions in exit interviews to learn if they contributed to the decision to leave.
  • Consider conducting short pulse surveys on a regular basis (e.g., three questions) in addition to or instead of, one longer survey. Maintain participation statistics to learn which type of medium gets higher engagement.
  • Set expectations for how long the survey will take to complete.
  • Be to sure to communicate that all survey responses will remain anonymous, but allow the opportunity for workers to identify themselves and even volunteer to be consulted for more information.  
  • Ensure workers have a quiet, private location to submit their survey responses.
  • Consider using automated tools to compose follow up questions regarding issues raised by individual feedback. This may involve a chatbot that asks additional questions and assures the worker of ongoing anonymity.
  • Publish a follow-up company response to the survey that summarizes findings and establishes priorities. Sending this communication to participants makes them feel heard and acknowledged. Sending it to non-participants may motivate them to participate in the next survey.
  • During the subsequent enrollment period, promote benefit changes made in direct response to the surveys conducted.

With higher inflation, higher wages, and specific demands for benefits, it is foolish for employers to spend money on benefits that are either not utilized or offer low value to the workforce. If the purpose of employer-sponsored benefits is to meet worker needs and desires, improve retention, and attract talent, it pays a higher return on investment to listen to what they say and respond accordingly.

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