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Admin April 10, 2018 5 min read

Employee Feedback Is Crucial for Successful Benefits Programs

When it comes to doing things right, feedback can make all the difference. Case in point: The Swiffer mop.

Over the years, consumer goods manufacturer Procter & Gamble (P&G) watched the market for floor cleaners grow increasingly crowded with products that had changed very little. The company sought to distinguish itself from its competitors with a better way to clean floors, so its chemists got to work formulating stronger soap, but it didn’t make a difference. It was only after P&G asked consumers what they wanted that the company realized the problem wasn’t soap—it was the arduous process of mopping the floor. So P&G’s solution wasn’t stronger soap; it was an easier way to clean floors. And the Swiffer mop was born.

The same principle applies to employee benefits. Talking to your employees is how you understand what motivates them, what their goals are, and where they get stuck. It’s how you can help ensure the programs you create, the processes you put into place, and the communications you design will actually meet the specific needs of your employees.

But, too often, human resources and benefits leaders skip this step, believing that it’s too complicated or time-consuming. As it turns out, it’s neither. Getting employee feedback is easier than you may realize.

Collect employee feedback—and act on it

In Book II of our ebook series, Unlocking Successful Benefits Communication: Marketing, we explain how to get and apply employee feedback. We provide detailed and actionable instructions for designing surveys, conducting focus groups, and more. The following abridged content is intended to help you think more broadly about getting feedback, improve the effectiveness of your efforts, and provide some practical tips.

Think more broadly about the ways to solicit employee feedback

This is where companies often get stuck. They know they want to get employee feedback, but they aren’t sure how to do so.

The type of feedback you’re looking for—how someone feels about X, or how someone interacts with Y—can help determine the approach you should take to collect it. HR and benefits teams can easily and quickly:

  • Design focus groups
  • Conduct 1:1 interviews
  • Observe employee behavior through user testing
  • Launch large-scale surveys

HR teams typically default to using surveys to collect employee feedback, but we encourage you to try focus groups, user testing, and interviews to get more nuanced and specific information.

Know who you’re talking to

Regardless of the topic you’re researching or the method you use to gather feedback, who—and how many people—you gather feedback from are important.

Decide if you need a broad or narrow audience.
For some topics (e.g., Medicare enrollment), your group will be tightly defined. For broader topics, such as attitudes about health care or saving for retirement, you’ll want a good cross-representation of age, tenure, and gender to reflect for multiple viewpoints.

Determine the correct number of people to talk to.
You already know it’s not prudent to make decisions after talking to just a handful of people. However, the right number of people to solicit feedback from varies widely according to topic. Let’s say you want to talk to parents who are returning to work following an extended leave of absence. You may find there are only 60 employees who fit that criteria. In this case, 6–8 interviews are more than enough for themes to emerge. In fact, talking to just 6–8 individuals about any topic can be quite eye-opening!

Conversely, if you want to survey employees who recently enrolled in your new health plan, you may need at least 10% of that population to complete the survey—just to get a robust idea of their motivations and any barriers they experienced with the new plan. Remember—your results don’t need to be statistically significant; they just need to be generally representative of the larger population you’re interested in learning more about.

Easier, quicker ways to gather employee feedback

These tips will help you collect feedback more effectively and efficiently, whichever feedback method you employ: 

  • Say “thank you” and provide context. Remind participants why they are there, thank them for their time, and allay any concerns about confidentiality.
  • Don’t ask leading questions. Not sure if your question is a leading one? Here’s a tip—if it can be answered with “yes” or “no,” it generally falls into the category of a leading question.
  • Moderate the conversation. In focus groups, make sure everyone has time to speak. In interviews, that might mean reframing the question if you’re not getting substantive answers.
  • Conduct focus groups in teams. With larger focus groups, arrange for another team member, in addition to the moderator, to be present to take notes.
  • Keep your usability testing simple. The goal of usability testing is to give employees a sample of something that you’re thinking of putting out into the world, and then watching to see how they interact with it. A prototype can be anything—a drawing, poster, group experiment—even a crude model.

Remember—feedback is essential because it helps you uncover insights you wouldn’t have otherwise, so that you can design smarter communications and benefits programs. Read about the impact employee feedback had on a final program launched by one employer’s benefits team.

For other insights on engaging employees with effective benefits communication, read the full ebook series. Book I: Foundation teaches you how to get your benefits communications up and running by creating a comprehensive strategy, a strong brand, and a website where employees can find all their benefits information. Book II: Marketing covers how to take a marketing approach to your communications by collecting and using employee feedback, simplifying your communications, targeting and segmentation, and using a variety of channels to communicate throughout the year. Book III: Resources emphasizes the importance of choosing the right partners, and it empowers you to make the business case for getting the budget and resources you need to make it all happen.

We're proud to work with large employers who recognize the business value of engaging employees in benefits. If you want to learn more, contact us.