NEW YORK—At first blush, the data from benefit surveys is often overwhelming given the sheer magnitude of information included in the survey. It seems like every benefit insurance broker, consultant, carrier, and/or research organization publishes a survey.

The data is technically correct since it is usually recently acquired and it is likely the survey participants are truthful. Knowing employer contribution rates, deductibles, recent changes, and planned changes, etc. can provide relevant and valuable information to an employer. But does it really?

Like any mathematical analysis, surveys require an understanding of the principles forming the results. What does it really mean to an employer when the survey states 20 percent of employers are contributing 75 percent of cost or the average deductible is $1,500? Here are a few pointers on what to look for in a survey:

1. Participant demographics like industry, location, age/sex mix, total compensation, and the number of enrolled/waived employees is critical. How old is the data? Ask yourself this question—is the data relevant to my business?

2. Benchmarks are more useful when the data reflects the same group of participants year over year. Additionally what should employers do with benchmarks? If your benefits are below the “benchmarks,” does it mean you automatically increase benefits? The best way to view valid benchmarks is over a three- to five-year period to determine whether your results are always above or below the norm. When your results cross “the line” relative to the norms, suggests more research is warranted on your part.

3. Specific data is the best survey data. Look at the employers competing where you do business and/or where you recruit. Then, further refine the data to assess the targeted labor group, such as middle management, executives, clerical, school teachers, scientists, programmers, assembly line, quality control, etc.

A final comment: if none of your team raised concerns about your benefits package, in person, during recruitment, and during exit interviews, does it really matter what the survey states? Surveys are well worth reading and can provide insight to issues your company did not consider. However, understanding surveys and the underlying principles makes them more effective.

We encourage employers to discuss such matters with their broker/consultants and use survey material with a grain of salt when the data may not necessarily be representative of your company objectives.

Victor A. Deksnys, Contributing Writer
Alliance Partner
Aligned Growth Partners, LLC
(415) 806-0554