Employee Engagement

Pulse Survey: Everything You Wanted To Know [A Complete Guide]

Employee engagement has been a key priority for organizations across the globe, given its impact on the bottom line and other attributes of organizational success. Invariably, the focus has been on practices to improve the engagement quotient to augment overall employee experience. At the same time, organizations are becoming cognizant of the fact that measuring engagement score to track and monitor progress is equally important. Hence, the focus on employee engagement surveys has also been on the rise. A renewed area of importance lately has been the way surveys are conducted to make them most efficient, results-driven and impactful. It is here that an employee pulse survey comes into the picture. 

Table of contents

What is a pulse survey?

Many organizations that have been following the conventional approach to survey largely focus on an annual methodology, collecting responses to all the questions together, once a year. However, a pulse survey is a radical transformation in this space. By definition, a pulse survey is short and frequent. On the one hand, they have fewer questions, preferably under 10, to ensure that stakeholders are able to answer them without any fatigue. At the same time, a pulse survey is conducted at regular intervals, and organizations do not have to wait for the year end to gauge stakeholder experience.

Types of pulse survey

A pulse survey is an overarching term and is not limited for use to any one type of target group. Organizations are increasingly leveraging pulse surveys to gauge the pulse, opinion and satisfaction of all their major stakeholders that directly have a business impact. Invariably, two main stakeholders groups have caught most attention for almost all organizations, making them the sought after recipients of the pulse survey. 

Employee pulse survey

An employee pulse survey is a short survey with crisp and very limited questions that is shared with the employees on regular intervals. The objective is to gauge employee pulse on a set of parameters over a period of time and measure the performance of engagement efforts. An employee pulse survey aims to get data-driven insights into the overall employee experience and track whether it is transforming for the better or worse. 

Customer pulse survey

A customer pulse survey plays a similar role as the one mentioned above, albeit for customers. This involves tracking customer satisfaction with crisp, to the point questions. Obviously, the frequency of customer pulse surveys may not be as high as the employee ones. But, they are conducted more frequently than once a year, to also keep the customer engaged and gauge their relationship with the brand. 

Why do a pulse survey?

Resistance to change on anything is natural, and, therefore, organizations and business leaders frequently question the rationale behind moving to a pulse survey over the long drawn tradition of annual surveys. Undoubtedly, the annual surveys have their set of merits and benefits, providing comprehensive and deep insights into employee pulse. However, in the face of a dynamic and uncertain work environment and market conditions, a pulse survey makes a lot of sense, by the virtue of being short and frequent. Following are some of the top reasons as to why do a pulse survey.

Quick turnaround

Pulse surveys by definition are short and crisp. Not only are the number of questions less, they are also to the point and don’t require a lot of thought. Hence, they take less time to complete and employees are able to respond to a pulse survey much faster than a regular long annual survey which requires greater time and attention.

Real time insights

Since pulse surveys are conducted on a frequent basis, they are able to deliver real time insights. This is really important for organizations to address any issue from the very beginning, than to wait for the year to end. Real time insights from an employee pulse survey can empower organizations to make alterations and changes in their approach to engagement as early as possible and, subsequently, gauge whether they work on not, soon.

Higher rate of completion

Owing to the fact that the number of questions are less, the rate of completion for a pulse survey is significantly higher. The reason is simple, it takes less time and effort and prevents survey fatigue from kicking in. When employees don’t have to answer lengthy subjective questions that run into two digits, their response rate is much higher. 

Greater engagement

While the primary objective of an employee pulse survey is to measure engagement, they also gradually become a source of augmenting engagement. As contributing to these surveys becomes a part of one’s routine and employees see that their responses are actually making a difference in real time, their engagement is likely to go up and their commitment will also increase. 

Display value

Finally, frequent surveys which define pulse surveys, showcase a commitment of the organization towards their employees. More often than not, annual surveys are considered to be a tick in the box and don’t excite employees. However, when surveys are frequent, employees see that the organization is making an effort to augment their experience, which is a direct display of how it values their employees. 

What is the purpose of a pulse survey?

Simply choosing a pulse survey over annual ones based on the reasons why a pulse survey may not be enough for some business leaders and people managers. Hence, let’s delve into the purpose of a pulse survey. A very obvious answer is that an employee pulse survey will gauge the engagement quotient and help organizations capture different aspects of employee experience. However, that’s not all, there are several factors which contribute to the purpose of a pulse survey, including:

Monitor progress

The benefit of having shorter and more frequent surveys is to make sure that any challenges are addressed at an early stage itself. A pulse survey makes most sense in this case. It allows organizations to gauge the problem, identify and implement a solution and again test the same to track and monitor progress. This means that organizations no longer have to wait for the year to end to see if their engagement practices worked or not, and then another year to fix the remaining challenges. Real time insights result in real time solutions and real time increase in employee satisfaction. 

Directed focus

Another purpose of a pulse survey is to have directed focus. More often than not, an annual survey seeks to cover every aspect of employee experience and the focus on a few aspects of high importance diminishes. Pulse surveys, on the other hand, enable organizations to work at a micro level and fix one employee experience parameter at a time with a directed focus. This way, each aspect of engagement gets equal attention and is able to add to a positive experience. 

Culture of feedback and communication

Any form of employee surveys are on a macro level a tool to communicate with the employees and gather their feedback. However, when surveys are conducted only once a year, their contribution to facilitating more pronounced feedback and communication is limited. On the other hand, with pulse surveys, employees get an opportunity to share feedback and communicate with the organizational leadership on a regular basis. This will invariably foster a culture of feedback, empowering people to share their voice more frequently.

Easier to manage and analyze

Finally, annual surveys are not just difficult to complete from an employee lens, but are equally difficult to manage and analyze too. For people managers, it becomes a tedious task to comprehend responses for 1000s of questions and garner insights from them to create impact. However, pulse surveys are easier to manage and analyze as the number of questions and types of responses are limited and uniform. This allows leaders to develop the right insights and deliver impact-driven results. 

How to create a pulse survey?

How to create a pulse survey is a natural question that comes to the minds of people managers and leaders when they get all excited about conducting pulse surveys to gauge employee engagement. The secret recipe for creating an effective pulse survey lies in ensuring a fair balance for all the important parameters that make a pulse survey successful. Simply throwing in random questions to employees every month without a clear strategy will yield no result, leading to wastage of time, effort and resources. Here are some top tips to ensuring success with employee pulse surveys:

Determine length

Start by identifying the number of questions that should be a part of the pulse survey. Make sure they are on the lower spectrum of the number line, preferably, in a single digit. Some organizations have even tried having just one focused question, which has been extremely powerful and impactful.

Determine frequency

Based on the number of questions, you can decide how frequently the survey should go out. Invariably, length and frequency are inversely proportional. This means that the lesser the number of questions, the more frequently it can be conducted, without survey fatigue kicking in. For instance, if an organization just has one question, it can even send surveys on a daily basis.

Decide cadence

Determining the frequency will also help in deciding the cadence. While an organization might decide that it will send the survey once a week, but also deciding which day of every week it should go is equally important. This invariably creates a recall value for employees, and they expect the survey on that particular day and are prepared to answer. Catching them off guard on any random day will negatively impact the completion rate.   

Identify parameters to measure

To create a survey, it is important to identify the parameters that need to be measured. While a long survey might capture all parameters at once, a shorter one like a pulse survey needs to be crisp and direct. Based on the frequency and length, you can pick one theme like satisfaction or wellness or some other and share questions on the same for a particular time frame. 

Identify mode of use

Any pulse survey you create must focus on the user experience it is able to deliver. Identify the device your employees most use to answer the survey and make sure the survey is calibrated for a positive experience. This would determine the number of words in each question, the format, etc. More often than not, employees finish surveys on their phones, and, therefore, making them mobile friendly is important. 

Top pulse survey questions for employee engagement

Creating the right pulse survey questions is the key to success. As they are conducting frequently, the questions must be crisp and easy to understand. At the same time, answering them should also be simple. While some questions can be subjective, others should be objective, ratings or very short answers. Having a measurement scale of agreement and disagreement can also be useful. Here are a few pulse survey questions that organizations can use as a starting point:

  1. How happy and satisfied are you at work?
  2. Do you feel confident about sharing your opinions?
  3. How often are you appreciated for your work?
  4. Do you have a clear understanding of the benefits and incentives offered?
  5. Are you satisfied with the current wellness practices?
  6. Do you have a clear understanding of your role and responsibilities?
  7. Would you recommend others to work here?
  8. How would you rate the learning and development opportunities presented to you?
  9. How much do you trust the organization’s leadership?
  10. What do you think about the work culture?
  11. How open and transparent is the communication at all levels?
  12. Do you face any challenge in communicating with your colleagues and managers?
  13. How often does your manager take interest in your career development?
  14. How often does the leadership seek your feedback?
  15. Are you satisfied with your growth in the company?
  16. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  17. Do you have access to all the resources to unlock your potential?
  18. Do you feel motivated to give in your 100%?
  19. Do you feel like a valued member of the organization?
  20. Do you think you are a perfect fit for your role?

How to conduct a pulse survey successfully: Pulse survey best practices

The success of an employee pulse survey depends not only on the questions framed and the cadence, but on the entire process from start to finish. Unless a robust and comprehensive approach is followed, leveraging the benefits of a pulse survey will be difficult and the purpose of putting in so much effort will be defeated. To make things easier, we have compiled a list of steps that can help organizations with an answer to how to conduct a pulse survey:

Have a clear objective

The first step is to have a very clear objective of what you wish to achieve out of the survey and draft questions accordingly. Since the survey is very directed and niche, each one should have targeted questions that help give an answer to the identified objective. For instance, if the objective is to gauge wellbeing, questions on work life balance, wellness benefits, mindfulness, etc. must be included. 

Popularize the idea in the organization

It is also very important to get a buy-in across the organization with respect to the pulse survey. On the face of it, a frequent survey might come across as an added burden for employees which they may want to shirk away from. Create awareness about the benefits of the same and how it will in fact reduce the fatigue that sets in when employees have to fill those lengthy annual surveys. Across all levels of the organizations, indicate the rationale and create an acceptance for pulse surveys.

Roll out the survey

Once the survey is ready and so is the workforce, roll out the survey. However, especially for the first few times, only sending an email may not be enough. Managers must personally communicate the same to their teams and having a small company wide announcement can also be explored. Additionally, it is important to send a couple of follow-ups and reminders to get employees in the habit of filling frequent surveys.

Remove obstacles

A pulse survey can come with a few obstacles that organizations should remove beforehand. For instance, managers should encourage their team members to set aside some time for the survey, based on the frequency. This would allow them to focus just on the survey and increase its effectiveness. Similarly, making it calibrated for different devices as well as making it user friendly can remove any experience obstacles.

Analyze the responses

Conducting a pulse survey doesn’t end with collecting responses. It is extremely important to analyze the results and gauge where the performance has been decent and where there is scope for improvement. If many of the team members report poor recognition, it reflects that the organizations need to step up their appreciation efforts to augment motivation. The idea is to study the responses to get actionable insights which can be implemented. Additionally, a plan of action must be created to bridge the identified gaps.

Share the results

Being transparent is key to the success of an employee pulse survey. Therefore, it is important to share the results of the same with all team members. Often, organizations believe that sharing results might highlight their weakness. However, the truth is that employees are already aware of the same and talking about it openly will only lead to improvements. But, organizations must support the results with a potential course of action to address the challenges and open it for discussion. The idea is to not only understand the problems of employees, but also hear from them on how they would like them to be solved. Having a democratic approach can be beneficial here.

Take action

Invariably, when a plan of action is ready, there is no point delaying it. Organizations must go ahead and take action. This might involve investing in new programs or resources, offering greater training and learning opportunities, etc. To ensure that employees’ confidence in pulse surveys and organization’s leadership doesn’t decline, implementing the decided action steps is important.  

Monitor and alter

Finally, it is important to track and monitor progress based on the action taken. For instance, if an organization invested in some tool to augment communication, it is important to again gauge the employee pulse on communication to check whether the needle has moved or not. The idea is to understand the effectiveness of any new practice and make alterations to the approach to achieve the initial goal. 

Marching towards effective pulse surveys with SuperBeings

More often than not, sustaining pulse surveys overtime can be a tedious task for organizations internally. However, understanding the benefits of pulse surveys, organizations are also apprehensive about switching back to the annual mode. In such a situation, a partner like SuperBeings can address all challenges. It offers a customized solution for pulse surveys with one question a day. Helps organizations capture maximum responses, offers real time data driven insights to managers, aligned to industry benchmarks and helps track performance over different time periods to gauge progress and achieve maximum effectiveness. The bottom line is that more frequently the organizations measure engagement, the faster it will grow, contributing to an inclusive, positive and forward looking employee experience. 

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