The Complete Guide to Employee Pulse Surveys

by Srikant Chellappa Mar 17,2022

The People Strategy Leaders Podcast

with Srikant Chellappa, CEO

While there are various ways to gauge your employees’ engagement and satisfaction levels, pulse surveys are arguably the best. We say this because employee pulse surveys are easy to design, fill in, and understand. That being said, some organizations, previously unfamiliar with the format, might initially struggle to design effective pulse surveys. Teaching you how to make proper pulse surveys is precisely what this guide is here for! After finishing this article, you’ll practically be a pulse survey expert!

What Is An Employee Pulse Survey?

Employee Pulse Survey

Pulse surveys are quick and short surveys sent to employees at predetermined frequencies. Usually, they’re sent monthly or quarterly. A pulse survey contains a check-in which includes questions related to different aspects of employees’ wellbeing. 

Most staff pulse surveys will ask questions about:

  • Employee satisfaction 
  • Employee relationships 
  • Work environment 
  • Communications 
  • Job role and satisfaction 

Normally, employee pulse surveys contain only 5 to 15 questions as they’re intended to have a quick turnaround. Most of these questions are also straightforward and easy to answer. Managers and business owners use employee pulse surveys to learn what employees think about their work environment and in which areas they seek a change. 

Conducting regular pulse surveys and changing the work environment accordingly is an excellent way of improving overall employee satisfaction and productivity. 

Also read: What is the Right Organizational Structure for this Era?

Advantages of Staff Pulse Surveys

Employee pulse surveys are quick, easy, regular and insightful. When used properly, employee pulse surveys can iteratively improve your workplace over time. 

1. Quick and Easy

The biggest advantage of employee pulse surveys is that they’re quicker and easier to answer than conventional surveys. Employee pulse surveys only have 5-15 questions. In contrast, conventional surveys may have as many as 50. Fewer questions make it easier for employees to fill these surveys. As a result, employee pulse surveys have higher participation rates than conventional surveys. Some survey providers even include user-friendly interfaces with compatibility across multiple devices, making pulse surveys even easier and faster to complete. 

2. Creates Awareness

Pulse surveys are excellent for informing you about what employees think. A lack of understanding between employees and management is often one of the biggest workplace problems people experience. Pulse surveys help bridge that gap by providing employees an outlet to express dissatisfaction. You can use pulse surveys to understand employee mood, increase productivity and alleviate employee issues. They are often the best option in this regard because they create a system that lets employees regularly provide you with feedback and information. 

3. Feedback Culture

Pulse surveys create effective communication channels between employees and managers. These communication channels are vital for providing management with information. Another benefit is that since the answers are anonymous, employees will likely provide more honest information. The transparency that pulse surveys provide is absent from most other survey types. As a result, introducing them into your organization is excellent for creating a feedback culture where employees regularly provide feedback and feel that the company values their concerns. Such a culture is valuable for management since it clarifies employee sentiments to them. 

4. Rapid Data

Since they’re so easy to fill, pulse surveys provide data quickly. You immediately see results as soon as the first participation completes their submission. The advantage of quick results is that management doesn’t have to wait long before receiving information on employee sentiments. Instead, they can develop an action plan immediately for improving workplace wellbeing. 

5. Anonymity

Pulse surveys are anonymous. The advantage of anonymity is that it permits employees to experience greater feelings of trust and safety. Naturally, employees might be less willing to provide honest opinions without anonymity in fear of potential retribution or embarrassment. By making pulse surveys anonymous, employees can freely express their opinions and not worry about managers harassing them for doing so. Another advantage of anonymity is that it increases participation since employees feel safer. Therefore, it is one of the biggest reasons to opt for pulse surveys. Your employees will feel a higher degree of trust towards your organization and feel safer. 

6. Trend Analysis

Employee pulse surveys provide useful results instantly. You can use them to immediately improve your engagement levels by analyzing the survey’s data. Analyzing the data will provide you with the information needed to recognize your organization’s strengths and improve its weaknesses. Pulse surveys are also easier to analyze than conventional surveys since they have fewer questions. To obtain the most insightful results, you should analyze your pulse survey data to identify trends. Find if there are any specific issues that multiple employees keep referring to, or if there are any problems management was completely unaware about. If you use a sophisticated pulse survey application, you could analyze intra-department engagement scores in real-time. 

7. Helps in Employee Performance Review

Employee pulse survey data can be used for employee performance reviews. Pulse surveys generate regular and reliable data streams that can be used for employee performance reviews. Use the data to establish employee profiles at regular intervals and chart changes in their engagement levels. This data is invaluable for providing managers with clear, objective, and self-reported employee performance data. 

Also read: Performance Calibration Meetings: Everything You Need to Know

Employee Pulse Survey Uses

There are different pulse surveys for employees, including: 

  1. Engagement 

An engagement pulse survey is used to measure employee engagement. It will normally contain only 2-3 questions, and it will measure core engagement metrics like: 

  • Autonomy 
  • Alignment to Strategy 
  • Career Progress 
  • Percentage of Completed Goals 

2. Action Planning Follow-up Pulse 

Action planning pulse surveys for employees are used with annual engagement surveys to monitor employee progress after engagement surveys. Essentially, this type is used to determine to what extent an employee has succeeded in fulfilling the goals they outlined for themselves during their annual engagement survey. 

3. Company Values Pulse 

Company Values pulse surveys are used to determine whether employees satisfactorily adhere to company values. These are most commonly used for building workplace culture and ensuring that your organization has the culture you want. 

4. Change Pulse 

Change pulse surveys monitor employees’ sentiments over time to ensure they feel positive about their work environment. Change pulse surveys should alert managers if any employees suddenly report decreased satisfaction, deteriorated mental health or increasing workplace problems. 

Structure of an Employee Pulse Survey

Employee pulse surveys provide valuable data, so it’s important to make sure you do them right. To make your employee pulse survey as effective as possible, you need to ask the right HR pulse questions. 

Define The Purpose

Pulse surveys need to have explicit goals. So, set explicit goals for each pulse survey to ensure that you receive the right information. It is the very first step. Once you know what your survey’s meant to achieve, it’s time to choose the best layout. Specifically, think about those areas you want to focus on the most from an organization’s decision-making perspective. 

Design The Survey

Survey design mostly comprises choosing the right HR pulse survey questions. Ideally, your questions should be clear, concise, and relevant. The biggest mistake most people make at this stage is to include long questions. Long questions are not ideal for this format. One thing you could do is to think from your employees’ perspective while you’re creating questions. Doing so will increase the chances of acquiring honest and accurate replies from employees. 

Running the Survey

Once the survey is designed, you need to send it to your employees. Announce that they need to fill the survey on all relevant communication channels. Inform employees in advance before you finally email or forward the surveys. You could offer incentives or rewards like company raffle to improve participation. Be sure to follow up with employees at least once after sending out the survey. 

Analysis of the Survey

Thankfully, pulse surveys to employees are easy to analyze. Review the survey results in great detail to ensure you derive as much meaning as possible. Specifically, focus on locating organization-wide strengths and weaknesses. Organize the survey data around strengths and weaknesses, too. You could also categorize data in the following manner: 

  • Behavior patterns 
  • Psychographics 
  • Demographics 

Action Plan

Employee pulse surveys exist to facilitate improvements in employee engagement. Committing actionable steps following survey analysis is the most important step for that reason. Honestly share survey results with your organization to promote employee trust and build an honest and fair working culture. Doing so will improve organization-wide management practices and make it possible to implement positive corrective policies. 

Finding The Right Survey Tool

All organizations have different workplace cultures. As such, your workplace will have its own unique requirements that meet its needs optimally. To achieve that optimization, you need to locate the right pulse survey tool for you. Conducting multiple pulse surveys is one of the best ways to do that since the experience will highlight your requirements and the areas your current survey design lacks. 

Main Point of Interest in an Employee Pulse Survey

The following 7 are the most important areas of interest in employee pulse surveys. 

1. Communication

Improper communication cripples any organization. So, it’s vital to monitor your company’s state of communications through feedback from employees. Use your employee pulse surveys to determine whether employees feel there are any communication gaps or problems that management needs to fix. Be sure to ask about both horizontal and vertical communication since both are invaluable for your company. 

2. Relationship With Managers

Effective employee management relations ensure smooth daily operations. Include questions related to employee satisfaction with management in your pulse survey to understand how employees feel about management. Particularly, you want to determine if employees feel if management’s values are aligned with those of employees. Also, confirm from employees whether they’ve experienced any abuses of power from management. 

3. Compensation And Benefits

Economic gain is the primary motivator for most employees. That fact is undeniable, so make sure your employees feel sufficiently economically satisfied. This is especially important given how competitive modern workplaces are as companies fiercely compete with one another to acquire the best talent. You don’t want to risk losing your rising stars, so make sure they’re happy with compensation and benefits. 

4. Employee Recognition

A healthy workplace values its most productive employees and recognizes their talents. Naturally, employees like being appreciated for their efforts, so you need to provide them with the recognition they deserve. The more appreciated employees feel, the better they will perform in the workplace and maintain their loyalty to you. 

5. Personal and Professional Development

The best employees want to advance to new positions. You need to recognize that fact to ensure your employees feel they have a future with the company that involves progress. Your employees’ personal and professional development is important to ensure they remain motivated and engaged with their work. 

6. Autonomy and Alignment

A lot of research indicates a strong link between employee productivity and autonomy. Job satisfaction and loyalty also strongly correlate with employee autonomy. As such, your organization should make sure employees have as much autonomy as possible. Make sure that your employees express whether they have sufficient autonomy. 

7. Work Environment

The better your work environment is, the better your employees will perform. To maximize employee productivity, ask them how they feel about their work environment. Improving the work environment takes time and effort, so maximize work environment improvement efforts by maximizing data on the subject from pulse surveys. 

How often should you use pulse surveys?

Now that we’ve answered “what is pulse survey” and provided you with example HR pulse survey questions, it’s time to determine how frequently you should use pulse surveys. Your organization should conduct pulse surveys according to the following criteria:

  • Fluctuations 

How frequently do your pulse survey results show major changes? If they don’t frequently change, it’d be better to consider longer intervals. 

  • Engagement 

If engagement is your major concern, choose longer intervals because engagement levels change over long time periods. Employee engagement is unlikely to change over days or weeks.

  • Action Implementation 

Pulse surveys exist to provide actionable data. So, you should only conduct pulse surveys for employees as you’re able to use the data you’ve collected. Employees are also less likely to take pulse surveys seriously if they’re conducted frequently, but no action is implemented. Schedule your pulse surveys for as much time as it takes to take action on them. 

  • Other organizational metrics 

If your company conducts monthly or quarterly performance reviews, it’d be advisable to schedule your pulse surveys around the same frequency. 

In conclusion, employee pulse surveys are excellent for determining employee engagement and satisfaction levels. They are short, easy to complete, and can be used frequently to acquire reliable data. The best way to make your employee pulse surveys successful is to provide your employees with short and clear questions that provide actionable data.

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Learn how Engagedly can help you with employee pulse surveys by requesting us for a demo.

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Srikant Chellappa
CEO & Co-Founder of Engagedly

Srikant Chellappa is the Co-Founder and CEO at Engagedly and is a passionate entrepreneur and people leader. He is an author, producer/director of 6 feature films, a music album with his band Manchester Underground, and is the host of The People Strategy Leaders Podcast. He is currently working on his next book, Ikigai at the Workplace, which is slated for release in the fall of 2024.

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