EXCLUSIVE: Facebook uses engagement surveys to highlight benefits opportunities

Ross Sparkman

Employee Benefits Live 2017: Social media organisation Facebook uses employee engagement surveys to inform strategic workforce planning decisions, and support the design of a benefits proposition that increases employee satisfaction and engagement.

Addressing delegates in the opening keynote presentation of Employee Benefits Live 2017, Ross Sparkman (pictured), head of strategic workforce planning at Facebook, said: “Benefits are one of the key drivers of employee satisfaction. Benefits have a huge impact on our ability to increase the happiness of our employees, if done correctly.”

Sparkman explained how a benefits strategy that is aligned to an organisation’s overall corporate aims can help to produce a satisfied and happy workforce, which, in turn, can have positive impacts on both productivity and business gains. This could include a reduction in attrition and employee mistakes, increased staff loyalty, higher profits, and improved customer satisfaction.

“As I work through and develop strategies with the senior leaders across the organisation, one of the key levers that we use and that we try to understand is what do we have to do to make our workforce happier, and engage them in that,” added Sparkman.

Collating industry research, Sparkman noted the difference in perception between what employees value, in terms of their benefits and working environment, compared to what they are actually offered. This presents a huge opportunity for employers to close this perception gap in order to create a benefits strategy and organisation culture that will contribute to employee happiness and engagement, therefore having a knock-on impact on organisational goals. “If we don’t have a good benefits strategy in place, we could potentially be losing our talent,” he added.

He cited compensation, trust, job security, opportunities to use skills, feeling safe in the work environment, employee benefits, communications, an organisation’s financial stability, corporate culture, good leadership and the work itself as the main drivers of employee satisfaction.

Sparkman also discussed the key differences in the perception of benefits between employees and their managers, with factors such as gender, marital status, education levels and age all influencing how employees view and use their benefits. Sparkman referenced research from FRACTL, which highlighted that four out of the five most popular benefits, according to employees, were related to lifestyle. For example, the ability to work flexible hours or from home, or being able to take more holiday days.

“Four out of the five top benefits are work-life balance related benefits that really don’t cost that much,” he said. “[Employers] could conceivably start to develop a benefits strategy that’s not going to break the bank and is still going to be something that is highly valued, so [employers] don’t necessarily have to have a comprehensive benefits strategy as in Facebook, but to really hit these key four benefits that are important to employee.”

He added that benefits that are deemed valuable by employees will differ depending on an organisation’s specific workforce demographic and industry sector, so it is important for employers to be competitive in their benefits offering. This should be continually revisited.

To collect feedback on what employees view as important around benefits, employee engagement surveys as one data source, alongside tools such as focus groups, benchmarking and benefits data, said Sparkman. The questions asked in surveys should have a clear purpose to avoid survey fatigue and should be framed in order to collect the best possible data for analysis that aligns with the purpose of the survey.

Larger organisations could consider targeting smaller sub-groups with its engagement surveys, centring specific surveys around gender or age, and offering incentives could also be used to encourage responses, added Sparkman.

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Sparkman also discussed the metrics that employers should consider when measuring the success and effectiveness of their benefits strategy. This includes looking at financial metrics, such as the costs around benefits; attrition and retention metrics that can analyse the impact benefits have, for example data around how long it takes to fill new positions; or the time it takes candidates to accept jobs at the organisation once they have an understanding of the benefits proposition; and employee satisfaction metrics.

Benefits at Facebook, for example, centre around empowering employees and giving them autonomy. “It’s really important to make sure that benefits strategies align with corporate strategy,” said Sparkman. “So we talked about the importance of employee happiness and engagement, but it shouldn’t be done in a vacuum. There should be some link to corporate strategy. Our benefits strategy should be part of how we are setting the tone for our organisation culture. If you think about [an organisation] like Facebook, our benefits strategy really is a big part of what defines who we are and how we are perceived as [an organisation].”