Confessions of a benefits manager: Candid ticks the box


I’ve now had two reminders to fill in our employee engagement survey, so I can’t put it off any longer. It says it will only take 10 minutes. That may be true for most, but not for me. You’ll see why.

Since employee engagement now falls under the new vice president of talent, the reward team have not had any input into this survey. I have used our survey tool before, and despite all the soothing words about answers remaining anonymous, I know they are not. As an administrator, I could drill down on each comment and see exactly who said what.

I learnt this lesson the hard way at a previous organisation. I was new and a bit shocked by the unethical way HR operated. I couldn’t raise it with my boss as she was one of the worst offenders. So, in my innocence, I called out a few things in the ‘anonymous’ survey. Well, it became clear very quickly that I was outed and in deep trouble for my comments. I didn’t lose my job, but things were awkward for a long time. I am a lot more careful about survey answers these days. Call me paranoid, but we are all being watched.

Tick-box test

The first few questions are on general satisfaction. Would I recommend working in this organisation to a friend? Only a friend I didn’t like much. But then, I’d have to spend more time with them, so perhaps not even then. I tick the ‘not likely’ box but then change it to ‘quite likely’ in case that would single me out as a troublemaker. I vow not to make any extreme choices that would draw attention to myself.

Am I proud to work here? Well, in a way. It is a good name on my CV, but anyone with any inside knowledge of the chaos here would know that doesn’t mean much. I suspect I am overthinking this, so I tick the second highest box.

Am I excited about coming to work? Well, let me just think. When I am coming into the office, I will sit on a train for an hour risking infection, and when I am working at home I am dangerously near the fridge. Excited no. Relieved to have a job in a difficult climate, yes. Middle box it is.

The next few questions are about leadership. Do I have respect for my boss? Strangely enough I do respect Big Bad Boss; I just don’t like him. He has a superpower when it comes to dealing with the Higher Beings. I risk standing out with a tick in the top box. I can’t be fired for respecting my manager, surely. Then I am asked: do I respect the leadership team in general? Oh please. That’s like respecting a room of toddlers. My curser hovers over the ‘not at all’ box. Too dangerous. I tick the second worst.

The following batch is about diversity. First, I am invited to select my ethnicity from a multiple of choices. Then I am asked if I think I am treated differently because of my ethnicity. Like having my survey results analysed based upon it? I realise I am being difficult, but wouldn’t it be nice if ethnicity made no more difference than having long nails or thick ankles or wearing socks? We are all human and categorising differences doesn’t seem to be helping us remember that. A whole page of middle boxes gets ticked.

Stick to the middle

Finally, we get to the compensation and benefits section. Or what used to be the compensation and benefits section. The reward team has its own little section of questions which we use to monitor how well the reward communications are landing and to inform if we need to tweak the pay strategy.

This time there is one question. One lousy question: am I satisfied with my compensation and benefits? Of course, I am not satisfied. What kind of lunatic would answer yes to that? It is question guaranteed to produce a huge response of people like me saying they are not satisfied. That’s probably true, but this question alone will make my department look bad and leave us without anything actionable. Generally, we craft the questions with more subtlety, in such a way that gets to what can be done better without actually dissing the status quo. There is little I can do about that now. If I put exactly how unsatisfied I really am, that will just add to criticism to come to my team. Middle box it is. I look for somewhere to add a comment on flexible benefits. There isn’t a comment in this section anymore. Sigh.


The next few questions are future orientated. Do I see myself working here in three years’ time? Well, I’ve been here a while already. Three more years is unthinkable, but I don’t want anyone to know that. I tick the middle box ‘maybe’. Do I see a path for career advancement? It depends on the definition. If Big Bad Boss left, I might be in with a chance for his job, if only because I know where the bodies are buried. I wish I had access to the answers to see if he plans to be working here in three years’ time. Another, final middle box is ticked.

Sign up to our newsletters

Receive news and guidance on a range of HR issues direct to your inbox

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

It takes a couple of weeks for the survey results to be communicated, but the results say very little of what we need to know about engagement. It seems, like me, most people stuck to a middling response. Big Bad Boss gets a major telling off for the fact that 90% of employees are unsatisfied with their compensation and benefits, and the rest are ‘quite unsatisfied’. Big Bad Boss doesn’t take that lying down, he simply smooches the Higher Beings until they agree to a more detailed survey on reward. Here we go again.

Next time… Candid gets some resilience training.