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What is an Employee Pulse Survey? 7 Questions You Should be Asking

Updated: May 9, 2024 | Published May 4, 2023

Want to tap into the beating heart of your organization? Use pulse surveys and polls to have a continuous grasp on employee satisfaction, engagement, and the well-being of your employees.

We’ll tell you all you need to know about pulse surveys and how you can create these short, frequent surveys to truly uncover your business’s hidden potential.

Employee Pulse Survey Defined

So what is an employee pulse survey, anyway? We’re huge proponents of using employee surveys to gain insight into the employee experience. But not all surveys are created equal.

An employee pulse survey – sometimes known as an employee engagement pulse survey – is a short, frequent, and targeted survey. They’re designed to measure the overall engagement, satisfaction, and employee motivation within an organization.

What really separates pulse surveys from other types of surveys is the frequency and subject relevance. These routine surveys really capture the pulse of the business, giving an insightful window into the real heartbeat of a company: the employees.

By regularly checking in with workers, organizations can truly understand employee satisfaction.

Why do we think employee pulse surveys are so important? Simply, they tell a more accurate story about your employees’ lives at work. Really getting to know each staff member can be a challenging endeavor. Especially for large companies and businesses with remote staff, staying on top of employee sentiments is a continuous activity.

With pulse surveys, you can reach more employees, more frequently. They enable your organization to easily identify areas of improvement and make data-driven decisions to drive real, positive change.

What Are the Benefits of Employee Pulse Surveys?

Pulse surveys have several benefits compared to traditional quarterly or annual engagement surveys.

For the employees, pulse surveys provide a frequent and convenient outpost to give their voices a platform. Pulse surveys amplify the Voice of the Employee (VoE), and provide a way to measure what employees feel and want within the organization.

It should go without saying that employers also greatly benefit from pulse surveys. Pulse survey results can be directly used to identify areas of strength and areas for improvement in the workplace. Feedback straight from the employees can provide context and background for decision-making, and guide actions to improve employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention.

How Do You Conduct an Employee Pulse Survey?

Pulse surveys require a company-wide strategy to maximize their usefulness. Because you’ll be creating many surveys throughout the year, you have to really start with a good foundation. 

Let’s take a look at the building blocks for an effective employee pulse survey strategy.  

Determine Pulse Survey Frequency

How often are pulse surveys done? This is one of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to pulse surveys. And like many great questions, the answer depends on several important variables.

The key idea behind pulse surveys is that you want to capture up-to-date employee feedback and insights, allowing your organization to respond and address issues promptly. 

Generally, pulse surveys are conducted with a much higher frequency than typical employee surveys. Whether that means weekly, monthly, or quarterly heavily depends on an organization’s culture, structure, and industry. Conducting too many pulse surveys also can run the risk of survey fatigue – more on that later.

If an organization is going through a period of change, increasing the frequency of pulse surveys is a good idea to understand real-time employee sentiment. For more stable businesses, it might be best to keep pulse surveys monthly or quarterly.

For spontaneous employee pulse check surveys or polls – like where to go for the team lunch – there really is no maximum frequency. Talk to your internal communication team and come up with a plan that works for your employees. 

Choose the Right Questions

What questions should you ask in a pulse survey? We love pulse surveys for collecting candid, real-time, and spontaneous feedback from your employees. 

Employee pulse survey questions can really cover any topic, but the focus is typically on employee satisfaction (how happy they are at work) and employee engagement (how involved and active they are within the organization).

We’ll cover some sample questions in the next section, but we should first highlight the best answer formats for pulse surveys:

  • Likert scale: These types of questions ask employees to rate their level of agreement or disagreement on a scale, typically ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.” These types of answers are convenient and easy to interpret. 
  • Dichotomous scale: This type of survey question presents only two response options, such as, “yes” or “no,” “true” or “false,” or “agree” or “disagree.” 
  • Open-ended questions: This type of question allows respondents to provide detailed and unrestricted answers in their own words. These should be kept to a minimum for pulse surveys as they pose complications for survey analysis. 

Protect Employee Anonymity and Confidentiality

To get the most genuine answers from your employees, you have to protect their anonymity and confidentiality. Offer training sessions and Q&As to help provide reassurance that their data is handled with care.

We want to hear real, authentic answers for all employees. Making sure they feel safe to share their true feelings is imperative to generating high quality pulse survey results.

Choose the Right Survey Tool

The best employee pulse survey tools allow employees to answer from any device at their own time. Employee engagement platforms offer organizations an intuitive tool to construct and instantly disseminate pulse surveys and polls.

Providing employees the flexibility to answer the survey on their own time will help generate higher response rates. Within the platform itself, leadership teams can send reminders, prompts, direct messages, and workplace social posts.

A digital employee tool will show you direct results within the app. If you want to dig deeper, all of the pulse survey employee response data can be stored in a centralized database for analysis using software like Tableau or Microsoft Excel.

Boost Survey Participation

For many organizations, optimizing survey participation is often an uphill battle. Employees are busy doing their jobs, they can sometimes push employee surveys to the back burner. With the increased frequency of pulse surveys, low survey participation is an even greater risk.

To really boost survey participation, follow our guide for 15 Tips for Maximizing Employee Survey Response Rates. It takes dedication from leadership, L&D teams, and close collaboration with employees to really achieve a great participation rate.

What Are Some Sample Questions for Employee Pulse Surveys?

Employee engagement pulse survey questions can gather information from many areas of your organization. We’ve put together a few example questions to inspire you and spark some creativity.

  • How would you rate the effectiveness of communication within the organization?
  • On a scale of 1 to 5, how open is the communication within your team or department?
  • Are you provided with opportunities for professional development?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how satisfied are you with the level of collaboration within your department or team?
  • Yes or No: You have access to the tools necessary to perform your job effectively.
  • Do you feel that your work is recognized by your manager?
  • Are you satisfied with the level of support provided by your immediate supervisor?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how satisfied are you with your current job?
  • Strongly disagree – disagree – neutral, agree – strongly agree: Your workload is manageable and conducive to maintaining a healthy work-life balance. 
  • How would you rate the overall morale of your colleagues in the workplace?
Download 100 must-ask survey questions

How Do You Analyze and Act on Data Gathered from Employee Pulse Surveys?

Pulse surveys generate an abundance of useful data. Being integrated into an employee platform, all the results from every pulse survey are securely saved and indexed.

For analyzing large datasets and more complex pulse survey questions, it’s recommended to employ a data analyst and/or data analysis software.

At a minimum, pulse survey analysis should be used to identify trends and patterns across the organization. For quantitative data – like dichotomous and Likert scale questions – automation can eloquently produce reports, graphs, and trends. 

For qualitative questions, like open ended questions, subject matter experts and HR leaders should review and interpret each response. Artificial intelligence (AI) can also be used to streamline this process.

Communicating Survey Results to Employees

The results of pulse surveys should be communicated to employees across the organization in a timely manner using appropriate digital channels. Without clearly communicating results, employees will be less likely to participate in future pulse surveys. The leadership teams need to show their staff that their feedback, concerns, and ideas are heard.

On top of that, action plans should be developed to address issues along with assigning responsible parties, tracking progress, and measuring success.

What Are the Best Practices for Using Employee Pulse Surveys Effectively?

Now that we’ve gone over exactly what a pulse survey is, we thought it’d be useful to share best practices and tips for using employee pulse surveys effectively. 

Tip #1: Involve employees in the process

Employees are expected to participate in pulse surveys on a regular basis. Why not involve them in the process from start to finish? Work groups and individual employees can come up with questions they’d like to see surveyed. There could even be a Pulse Survey Leader within a team to really focus on the specific surveys directly related to their department.

Tip #2: Communicate survey results transparently

Try not to sugarcoat or manipulate the pulse survey results. Employees deserve to see the actual state of their answers in a fair and transparent way. This will help bolster participation rates because employees will have a greater trust in the pulse survey ritual.

Tip #3: Follow up on action plans

Action plans need to generate results. You ask your staff to contribute to pulse surveys, therefore they are owed action and follow up on issues and new initiatives. 

Tip #4: Continuously improve the survey process

The great thing about pulse surveys is that you can continuously improve the process with each iteration. If you see a certain question type or format isn’t generating good quality data, make changes and tweaks for the next one. Your pulse survey strategy should be an evolving process. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments to help generate the most useful data possible.

What Are the Potential Challenges in Conducting Employee Pulse Surveys?

With the right employee software, conducting employee pulse surveys is streamlined and efficient. There are, however, a few challenges with respect to ensuring your employees’ feedback is high quality.

Firstly, If you’re just starting out with pulse surveys, there may be a bit of internal push back. Resistance from employees or leadership is a common roadblock that affects any type of organizational change. It takes clear and concise communication to effectively explain the benefit of using pulse surveys for the business and each individual employee.

Secondly, from the organization’s side, it’s imperative to ensure survey data is not misinterpreted. That means asking straightforward questions that leave no room for ambiguity. To have usable, high quality employee responses, the questions need to be asked concisely and directly.

And when it comes to collecting and analyzing the responses, it’s in your organization’s best interest to employ a trained data analyst using an intuitive analysis program that outputs easy-to-interpret reports. Because pulse surveys are more frequent, you will be collecting a very large amount of data. Ensuring this data is handled well is absolutely necessary for successful analysis.

Lastly – and one of the most paradoxical challenges – is avoiding survey fatigue and ensuring continued participation. Obviously, pulse surveys are frequent. We don’t want employees treating them like junk mail or repetitive newsletters. Keeping the surveys fresh, asking timely and relevant questions, and encouraging engagement on employee social channels will help prevent survey fatigue.

How Do You Incorporate Employee Pulse Surveys Into Your Organization’s Culture?

If you’re just starting off with pulse surveys, it’s going to take some training and creative internal communication to get your staff accustomed to this new ritual. You can’t just all of a sudden start sending out routine, short surveys and expect a high response rate.

Pulse surveys can directly contribute to creating a company culture of open communication and transparency. Employees can more closely feel part of the forward progress of an organization. Also, through encouraging employee participation and feedback, your employees will undoubtedly generate creative and innovative ideas that make life at work better.

Most importantly, to really integrate pulse surveys into your organization’s culture, leadership needs to put into action the survey results. By incorporating survey data into decision-making processes, your staff will directly see how their contributions are shaping the future of the business.

Measuring the Pulse of Your Organization

Employee pulse surveys are the most streamlined way to get real-time, honest feedback from your employees. Using a comprehensive employee experience platform, developing pulse surveys and polls is a breeze. 

Your organization’s most important asset is its people. Harness the power of pulse surveys to truly understand how they feel at work and how they want to contribute to the organization’s future.

Learn more about digital workplace software at iTacit.

Download 100 must-ask survey questions
Teri Maltais
Teri Maltais

Specializing in digital marketing programs for industrial and commercial technology solutions.

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