Document 180048

December 2004 • • Employee Benefit News
The growing trend of outsourcing (lie enrollment process
to an online administrative service provider brings the added
benetlt of allowing benefit prolessionuls to spend less time
doing paperwork and data entry,
and more time on ensuring
good benefits participation levels and well-educated employ-
ees. The payoff is already staring to show.
"One of the things we're seeing is the types of questions
we're getting on consumer-driven health plans are much more
thoughtful because we spent a
lot of time on education last
year, so workers have more of
an understanding about how
they work." says Robin
Downey, head of product development at Aetna. "They really
do get it now."
What's more, these tools are
available to companies in all
sizes and in all industries.
Companies using online enrollment and decision support tool
providers include blue and gray
as well as white-collar workers.
Employease handled several
municipalities this year, providing online enrollment services
for firefighters, policemen and
sanitation workers alike.
"If you think about it from a
benefits professional standpoint,
in the old way of doing things
you would fill out Ihe paper-
work for all the employees, and
your job around enrollment was
very transaction and processing
oriented," Jeff Beinke,
Employease vice president,
explains, "Today, the techn{)iogy and tools we provide allow
HR professionals to be much
more consultative and less
iransactional."" — S.B.
How to make the most of employee surveys
By Leah Carlson
questions has to be
ities and investment products.
when the organization thinks through
thought through very
Like most forms of
Employee satisfaction surveys preswhat they will do with the information
carefully, so it's very
communication, employee
ent a few privacy and legal issues for
once they receive it."
vanilla, very objective
attitude surveys only
employers to consider. Of course, no
Insights at IBM
and also respectful of
appear to be simple. In
company wants to be sued by employthe respondent,"
fact, developing and anaees who claim they were fired because
Using a work-life survey. IBM disSnyder notes.
lyzing employee surveys
they submitted negative
covered that 27% of its work"If nothing is
require benefit managers
comments or because
Carter advises
ers served us caregivers for
to reason like statisticians
they admitted to having done with the
employers to frame
an elderly relative. In
and react like socioloa certain disease. Klein
questions in a way that
response, the company
feedback, it
gists, which is no small
advises companies to
makes workers prioriexpanded its eldercare benefeat.
deal only with aggregat- can really be a
tize and rank options,
fits. IBM. in Armonk. N.Y.,
ed data. "Any informaso they understand that
Ceridian last year to
However, the payoff
most things are a trade- tion like that has to be
provide eldercare managelor a well-crafted, wellkept confidential. It's
ment services, such as facility
conducted survey is great.
gathering and visits
Companies can achieve
Jim Klein, president
better retention, better
of the American
communication through- work-l'rfe and women's
Benefits Council,
Ceridian. an information technology
out the workforce and the initiatives for IBM, says
stresses keeping quesSurveys lose their value when workcompany, gathers workers' opinions
employee surveys help IBM
opportunity to make the
tions germane.
ers view them as a privacy invasion.
about their work-life benefits, their
understand workers' needs
benefits structure more
workload and their ability lo balance
and demographics.
efficient. Employee satisresponses confidential, doesn't create
work and personal responsibilities. It
doesn't want to ask
faction surveys also can build trust
survey reports for work groups of fewer
also inquires about personal circumpersonal information that's not relevant
between managers and workers if
stances, such as whether workers are in
to the purpose of the survey," he advises. than five people and doesn't ask openemployees feel they are being heard.
"Steer clear of things that might be inter- ended questions that could allow workers dual-professional marriages, whether
to complain about their colleagues.
they are single and whether they need
esting to know but are irrelevant to the
"The primary benefit of doing an
chlldcare or eldercare services. The
employer's mission in sponsoring
employee survey is to provide an oppor"We don't want it to become a forum
response rate for IBM's work-life survey
employee benefits."
tunity for the employee to give feedback
tor personal attacks," Hill notes.
is about 4-'i%. which is considered good.
to the organization,'" Dave Snyder. senior
In addition, experts recommend
After the feedback comes in. compavice president at Aon Consulting, comavoiding misleading questions.
nies should review the data, form an
Maria Ferris, manager of work-life
ments. "The opportunity to provide some
action plan and tell workers about what
"You don't want to ask questions that
and women's initiatives for IBM. says
structured feedback can be a very, very
steps will be taken in response to the
you already know the answers to, and
the survey helps IBM understand workgood thing."
feedback. This can be accomplished
you don"t want to ask questions that are
ers' needs, track demographic trends and
likely to raise expectations that you can't through a letter or staff meeting.
form a strategy for addressing various
However, with increasing attention on
fulfill," says Ted Hill, assistant vice preswork-life issues. "Over the years, the
soaring health care costs, many employ"We tell clients. 'Don't do surveys.
trend has been that men are more and
ers aren't focusing on surveys. The nummore reporting work-life difficulties,"
ber of employers conducting employee
observes. "Wt)rk-Iife [balance] is an
satisfaction surveys has dropped in
issue around the world."
recent years, mostly because of cost concerns, according to Michael Carter, vice
In contrast. Acacia Companies gauges
1. Keep the survey short.
president of the Hay Group, a
satisfaction with their work
2. Ask specific, unbiased questions.
Philadelphia-based consulting firm.
environment, job tasks and opportunities
3. Don't ask for personally identifiable information.
for career advancement, but it doesn't
Snyder estimates that at least 50% of
ask about benefits or compensation.
companies conduct employee satisfac5. Don't let the survey information sit unused.
"The reason is, if you ask anyone
tion surveys, but many don't ask specific
whether they're paid enough, they're
questions about benefits and compensa6. Keep the responses confidential.
going to say, "No.' Then what you end
tion for feiu- of opening tbe proverbial
7. Frame questions in terms of trade-offs.
up with is a lot of information that's precan of worms. "It's a very delicate time
dictable." Hill explains.
in that arena," he observes.
unless you're prepared to respond and do
The survey's response rate averages
ident in charge of organizational develBest practices
something about it, because they do raise around 80%. To ensure a high response
opment for the Ameritas Acacia
rate, the firm stresses the survey's
expectations.'" Carter asserts.
Survey questions should be specific,
Companies, a firm that distributes a satanonymity, potential benefii to employSnyder agrees: "If nothing is done
unambiguous, neutral and not personal
isfaction survey to its workers once
ees and support from company execuwith the feedback, it can really be a deenough to make the respondent identifievery 18 months. Based in Lincoln,
tives. — LC.
motivator. The power of it comes from
able, experts say. "The wording of the
Neb., the firm provides insurance, annu-
Tips on conducting surveys: