Insights on the Benefits Survey

-from a colleague with some expertise who prefers to remain anonymous

“The survey company is paid by the regents, ultimately, and so presumably is acting according to the regents’ strategic goals. This is standard practice for short-term consultants in the business world. In my opinion, the regents want empirical support for the notion that UW employees would gladly relinquish the current level of benefits (pension, income continuation, and family/sick leave) in order to gain other tangible and intangible goods. So the survey asks people to rank the relative worth of benefits against other goods (e.g., salary, job flexibility, the opportunity to perform meaningful work, desirable location, etc.). That is really the basic template of every single question. The questions differ from each other only insofar as they give respondents different opportunities to devalue benefits — many different comparisons (pensions vs. A, B or C) and many different hypothetical scenarios (Why did you choose to work for UW? What keeps you at UW? etc.).

“The survey company will be able to mine this data and present it adroitly in order to support the (foregone) conclusion that UW employees would be willing to trade off benefits for other goods. Well, that’s my cynical reading, but survey design does involve the ‘dark art’ of slanting the questions, in order to run a biased analysis, in order to reach the desired conclusion.”