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

Get the whole picture about Pulse Survey. Learn from what, to how to conduct Employee Pulse Surveys with the right questions and following the best practices.

7

min read

Leading the culture for your organization, employee engagement must have been a key priority for you, given its impact on the bottom line and other attributes of organizational success. While you may be focusing on augmenting experience, are you paying close attention to measuring engagement score to track and monitor progress as well? Invariably, the focus on employee engagement surveys has also been on the rise. To increase the efficacy of surveys, you must ensure that they are conducted in a way that makes them most efficient, results-driven and impactful. It is here that an employee pulse survey comes into the picture.

What is a pulse survey?

Have you been following the conventional approach to survey largely focused on an annual methodology, collecting responses to all the questions together, once a year? If yes, then, a pulse survey is a radical transformation that you must explore. 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. Furthermore, you should conduct a pulse survey at regular intervals, and not 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. You may leverage 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 that may be most relevant to you include:.

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. You can use an employee pulse survey 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. You can conduct them more frequently than once a year, to also keep your customers engaged and gauge their relationship with the brand.

Why do a pulse survey?

Resistance to change on anything is natural, and, therefore, your business leaders might 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, you may want to experiment with a pulse survey, by the virtue of being short and frequent. Following are some of the top reasons as to why you should leverage a pulse survey.

1. 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.

2. Real time insights

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

3. 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, you are likely to get more responses. 

4. 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.

5. 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 you are making an effort to augment their experience, which is a direct display of how you value your 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 you to create a leadership buy-in. 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 you 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:

1. 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 can enable you to gauge the problem, identify and implement a solution and again test the same to track and monitor progress. This means that you no longer have to wait for the year to end to see if your 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.

2. Directed focus

Another purpose of a pulse survey is to have directed focus. Your annual survey is likely to cover every aspect of employee experience and the focus on a few aspects of high importance diminishes. Pulse surveys, on the other hand, can help you work at a micro level and fix one employee experience parameter at a time with a directed focus. This way, you can give equal attention to each aspect of engagement to add to a positive experience.

3. Culture of feedback and communication

Employee surveys can be an effective tool for you 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, you can offer employees 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.

4. Easier to manage and analyze

Finally, annual surveys are not just difficult to complete from an employee lens, but may be equally difficult for you to manage and analyze too. It is likely to be a tedious task for you 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 will help 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 is likely to come to your mind when you are 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. You cannot simply throw in random questions to employees every month without a clear strategy. This will yield no result, leading to wastage of time, effort and resources. Here are some top tips to ensure success with employee pulse surveys:

1. 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. You may even have just one focused question, as we have seen that can be extremely powerful and impactful.

2. 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.

3. 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.   

4. 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. 

5. 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 conducted 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. You can also experiment with a measurement scale of agreement and disagreement. Here are a few pulse survey questions that you 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 you follow a robust and comprehensive approach, 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 you to conduct a pulse survey successfully:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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. You must encourage your managers to personally communicate the same to their teams and having a small company wide announcement can also be explored. Additionally, send a couple of follow-ups and reminders to get employees in the habit of filling frequent surveys.

4. Remove obstacles

A pulse survey can come with a few obstacles that you 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.

5. Analyze the responses

Conducting a pulse survey doesn’t end with collecting responses. You must 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 you need to step up the 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.

6. Share the results

Being transparent is key to the success of an employee pulse survey. Therefore, you must share the results of the same with all team members. If you feel that sharing results might highlight your weakness, think again. Your employees are already aware of the same and talking about it openly will only lead to improvements. But, you 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.

7. Take action

Invariably, when a plan of action is ready, there is no point delaying it. You should go ahead and take action. You might need to invest 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.

8. Monitor and alter

Finally, it is important to track and monitor progress based on the action taken. For instance, if you have 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

Sustaining pulse surveys overtime can be a tedious task for organizations internally. Fortunately,  a partner like SuperBeings can address all your challenges. It offers a customized solution for pulse surveys with one question a day. It can help you 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 the more frequently you measure engagement, the faster your organization will grow, contributing to an inclusive, positive and forward looking employee experience. 

Suggested reading:

Custom Pulse Surveys to Enhance Employee Experience

How to Choose the Best Employee Pulse Survey Tool in 2022

Like what you read? Now see it in action in your team, book a free demo with our experts today!

Garima Shukla

Marketing, SuperBeings

Hello world! I am Garima and I research and write on everything we are doing to make the world of work a better place at SuperBeings

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OKRs
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x
min read

Agile and OKRs: What You Need to Know to Thrive in a VUCA World

It is no longer an assumption that the traditional approach to annual goal setting and review has run its course. The VUCA world demands more quick and adaptable business models.

While the agile values and methodology was initially created for software delivery, you can apply the same to transform how you set and achieve your business goals. 

In this article, we will focus on:

  • Relevance of agile and OKRs in the VUCA world
  • Importance of leveraging agile techniques for OKRs
  • Best agile and OKR framework for growing organizations

Why you need to reimagine goal setting in the VUCA world

Traditionally, goal setting has been a very static and long-term process for organizations. Here are a few key components of traditional goal setting and performance management:

  • Annual or multi-year goals with little or no interventions at regular intervals to realign on changing priorities
  • Top-down approach — goals being set by those at the top with minimal inputs from those working on the ground
  • Only annual feedback cycles and the inability to identify or address challenges in real time
  • Lack of flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances or situations, which are uncertain and ambiguous

This form of goal setting and performance management had relevance for organizations operating in steady and stable market conditions. 

However, in today’s VUCA world, the pace of change is skyrocketing and organizations unable to tide with the same are finding it extremely difficult to survive, let alone thrive. 

Some of the reasons to reimagine goal setting for VUCA world include:

  • Increased globalization requires businesses to be agile and adapt to changes at all times
  • Focus on creating short term goals and action plans
  • Need to relook at business priorities due to changing market conditions and customer expectations 
  • Need to incorporate constant feedback from diverse stakeholders
  • Need to focus on collaborative goal setting over top down command

Relevance of agile and OKRs for growing organizations

While it may not be apparent in the first look, agile and OKRs are quite complementary and combining the two can be a great step for growing organizations. Here’s why —

  • OKRs can help you understand the end goal and envision what success will look like. 
  • On the other hand, the agile methodology can enable you to create the right roadmap with frequent experimentation to reach the OKRs successfully. 

Here are a few reasons why you should combine agile and OKRs for your organization:

  • Set shorter goals for each quarter with the flexibility to look at the results in real time
  • Agile iterations based on learning which can be communicated across teams 
  • Shorter feedback cycles which prevent investment losses that might occur if the whole project/ goal has to be reworked
  • Continuous improvement with frequent retrospectives which can enable you to reflect on what is working well
  • Focus on collaborative goal setting and performance management with team autonomy
  • Agile approach to progress tracking

How to use agile techniques for OKRs

Now that it is clear why working agile and OKRs together makes sense for growing organizations, let’s quickly explore the top ways in which you can apply agile techniques to your OKR framework to make goal setting and performance management suitable for the VUCA world. 

Agile Value 1: Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

  • Ensure collaborative OKR setting, assigning OKR champions and the right team members to execute the same
  • Facilitate clear understanding and communication of the intention and expectation behind each OKR and the responsibility for every team member

Agile Value 2: Working software over comprehensive documentation

  • Focus on clear outcomes and key results instead of comprehensive literature on why something is important
  • Facilitate shorter feedback cycles to gauge challenges early on and ensure feasibility of the OKRs
  • Reduce administrative overheads and complex processes related to OKR setting and progress tracking by using a simple, integrated OKR tool

Agile Value 3: Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

  • Ensure continuous development by taking real time feedback from internal customers i.e. stakeholders in the leadership

Agile Value 4: Responding to change over following a plan

  • Facilitate dynamic planning over a static plan with quarterly OKRs
  • Ensure adaptability to change, uncertainty and ambiguity
  • Promote short cadence to gauge achievability and relevance of key results early on

Best agile and OKR framework

In this last section of agile and OKR for better goal setting and performance management, we will uncover the top framework. 

We have combined the best components of different frameworks like waterfall goals, delivery agile, scaling, full stack agile, into a single framework with 5 major components that can help you enhance the complementary potential of agile and OKR 

This approach can help you leverage the benefits of agile methodologies and OKR framework to impact all aspects of organizational structure for achievement of goals, including the culture, strategy, initiatives, tactics, etc. The framework is premised on:

1. Create value based OKRs

  • Focus on creating value based OKRs instead of activity based
  • Activity based OKRs are effective for specific projects, but for organizational goals, the focus should be on value
  • Instead of focusing only on the outcomes, have a clear understanding about how each of the outcomes can create value for the organization
  • The activities for each OKR should be a part of the agile roadmap and not the end destination

If you are struggling with combining agile and OKRs for your organizations, chances are you are focusing on activity based key results which often resemble agile steps, leading to confusion and inability to meet goals. 

2. Facilitate horizontal alignment for shared OKRs

  • Encourage collaborative OKR setting with realistic timelines and short intervals
  • Make OKRs team/ department specific and acknowledge avenues for collaboration and alignment between teams on shared OKRs
  • Acknowledge OKR dependencies between teams and facilitate transparency and horizontal alignment
  • Avoid splitting OKRs for a shared goal between teams, rather create opportunities for working together

For instance, if you have an event coming up and wish to successfully execute the same, the objective will be common, with specific value based key results for each team.

Objective: Successfully execute the 7th edition of our annual event

Key Results

  • Get 1000+ unique registrations
  • Raise INR 20,00,000 in sponsorship
  • Curate 5 high impact panels
  • Get 10+ media and affiliate partners
  • Get 5000+ impressions on social media with organic promotion

If you look closely, while the objective is shared, key results are spread across sales, marketing, and even product/ services teams

3. Combine quality and quantity results

Your agile and OKR framework should enable you to get the best of both worlds when it comes to results. Agile results by nature are qualitative in nature and focus on the features that you wish to ascertain in a specific period of time. On the other hand, OKRs are driven by metrics. Thus, you can use a combination of the two for effective results:

  • Use OKRs to validate goals set using the agile methodology
  • Ensure each key result has a quantitative (data) and qualitative aspect (value)
  • Use a combination of agile and OKRs to ensure that your progress is positively impacting the organization

The combination can help you create an ideal balance between outputs and outcomes which are both critical when it comes to goal achievement and performance management. 

4. Promote use of data

  • Leverage data and evidence to create your agile based OKRs
  • Instead of creating OKR based on leadership opinion alone, validate the same with market study
  • Don’t rely completely on hypothetical representation, undertake primary and secondary research to ensure relevance and perceived achievability

Pro-tip:

Using data and not relying solely on opinions will help you set agile OKRs which don’t under or over estimate the goals. For instance, if the market data on traffic to a new website in your industry is 20,000 clicks in one week, your OKR can focus on reaching 25,000 to make it aspirational but achievable up to 80%. 

However, if you set the target at 50,000 or above, it will become too far fetched and the team might not even strive for it. On the flip side, if the target is only at 10,000, it will not encourage your employees to push the boundaries. Thus, you need to replace opinions and command OKRs with data backed experimentation.

5. Build self organizing teams

  • Provide you teams with a clear idea of what the larger vision looks like
  • Encourage them to set their own OKRs and help with a direction to achieve the same
  • Facilitate team autonomy and empower your team members with the right tools and resources like SuperBeings to not only set OKRs, but also track progress in real time and grade them at the end of the cycle. (Learn more)

Self organizing teams are important for growing organizations as they proactively take onus and ownership of achieving OKRs and lead to a greater degree of success. Step away from controlling detailed plans for each OKR and encourage the leadership to provide direction. 

Wrapping Up

To conclude, if you combine agile and OKR, you have for yourself a clear model for success which you can easily apply to goal setting and performance management. Furthermore, leveraging the right technology resources can help you stay on track and enable you to thrive in the VUCA world. 

OKRs
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min read

How to Create a High Performance Culture Using OKR Methodology?

Like most fast growing organizations, you might also be leveraging the OKR methodology to set, implement and facilitate effective goal setting to maximize growth. If not, you should start using OKRs ASAP.

OKRs not only provide an excellent goal setting framework but also drive high performance when implemented strategically. Most importantly, with enhanced goal visibility and transparency, OKRs ensure that everyone is on the same page which is the foundation of a cohesive and high performing culture. 

In this article, we will discuss 8 ways in which you can adopt the OKR methodology to build a thriving company culture.

Use OKR methodology in 8 ways

1. Focus and clarity

A high performance and thriving company culture is based on the foundation of clarity and focus. When there are 100 things to focus on, your employees will eventually lose sight of what’s actually important and might feel burdened with non-priority tasks. This will lead to a poor employee experience and limited productivity, both situations that prevent an impactful culture.

However, when you apply the OKR methodology, you will be able to limit your focus on 3-5 top priorities which will attract attention, energy and efforts across the organization. You will then be able to create a high performance culture by dedicating all your resources to the key priorities to realize impact. 

2. Collaboration and alignment

A culture that thrives on collaboration, teamwork and alignment is one which creates maximum impact. The OKR methodology can help achieve this in an effective manner. On one hand, everyone is clear about their role in the OKR achievement, which makes collaboration seamless because everyone is on the same page and no one steps on the shoes of others. 

On the other hand, OKRs can help your employees align their responsibilities and tasks with the overall vision of the organization, motivating them to contribute to the big picture. 

To learn more about how to align teams using OKRs, read this

3. Agility and resilience

Recent times have shown that uncertainty and ambiguity will continue to mark the new normal. Thus, a culture of agility, resilience and responsiveness is critical for fast growing organizations. The OKR methodology can help achieve the same. 

OKRs are cognizant of the changing environment and have the flexibility to be adapted to the same. 

More importantly, you can leverage the OKR methodology to foster a culture that focuses on outcomes and is not fixated on the tasks to achieve the outcome at hand. 

4. Continuous engagement and reflection

One of the top challenges of building a great company culture is a siloed approach and annual reflection. This leads to surfacing of major risks and problems which result in high rates of attrition, absenteeism and lower levels of motivation, productivity, etc. 

However, the OKR methodology adopts an approach of continuous engagement and reflection. You can create a regular cadence to check OKR progress for each of your team members, even daily is effective. 

This continuous engagement and reflection can enable you to preempt risks before they surface and leverage the power of communication to address them in real-time. Invariably, a culture built on continuous engagement leads to greater impact and high levels of performance as well as employee satisfaction. 

5. Transparency 

The lack of transparency is one of the key obstacles for many fast growing organizations that seek to create a thriving company culture. A way out often seems difficult to navigate. Fortunately, the OKR methodology can help address this challenge as well. When you use OKR, especially with the support of an effective OKR tool, you can facilitate high levels of transparency. 

Everyone in the organization will not only know their role, but also will have a complete view of the level of performance for others. Such transparency can help you increase coordination of efforts and give everyone the visibility of what’s happening across the company. 

6. Non-hierarchy

You may agree that most fast growing organizations these days seek to replace a strict hierarchy with a more flat organizational structure that facilitates inclusion of diverse ideas, thoughts and opinions. However, many struggle when it comes to actually implementing this thought. 

Adopting OKRs can solve this problem.

By nature, the OKR methodology is based on a collaborative foundation where a top-down approach compliments a bottom-down approach for goal setting. 

This suggests that while the skeletal structure of the goals might be laid down by those in the top leadership, you can give all employees the freedom and autonomy to create OKRs for their teams and verticals. 

When your employees participate in setting the OKRs they have to execute, the level of ownership is much higher. Thus, you can leverage the OKR methodology to create a thriving culture built on greater ownership and a flat organizational structure. 

7. Open communication and feedback

With a focus on continuous engagement and reflection, the OKR methodology can help you facilitate open communication and feedback. Many studies have shown that a culture that facilitates regular feedback along with open channels of communication is more likely to thrive than one which does not. 

In the OKR methodology, when you constantly track your OKR progress (download our free template for tracking OKRs), you will be armed with data backed insights to offer regular feedback for your employees. Furthermore, you can also leverage the same to start meaningful conversations with your team members in case you feel that there is any kind of disconnect. Such open communication can help you create a truly inclusive culture when employees feel their voice is heard. 

8. Accountability and recognition

Finally, a company culture that thrives has two major components supporting it, accountability and recognition.

  • On one hand, only when your employees are accountable will they give in their 100% to create a high performance culture. 
  • On the other hand, if you don’t recognize the efforts of your employees frequently and in an effective manner, they are bound to feel demotivated with a lack of encouragement, leading to a poor employee experience and culture. 

The OKR methodology is an answer to both these challenges. 

  • First, being regularly reviewed, tracked and organization wide visibility makes accountability a given for fast growing organizations leveraging OKRs. Since everyone knows what the other person is responsible for, there is a development of a culture of accountability. 
  • Second, with regular tracking, monitoring individual progress becomes seamless for managers. Invariably, they can track the performance of their team members and recognize efforts in real time. This leads to a culture of recognition which is bound to see high levels of engagement, motivation and satisfaction. 

Empower your culture with the OKR methodology

Now that you know how the OKR methodology can help you in many ways to create a thriving culture, it is also true that as a fast growing organization with multi-pronged focus, leveraging OKRs is a challenging task. To address the same, you can collaborate with an integrated OKR tool like SuperBeings to automate the OKR adoption and maintenance.

With SuperBeings, you get to — 

  • Keep OKRs at the center of your business activities by aligning everyday tasks 
  • Reduce friction in goal management with zero context switching (by integrating Slack, Teams and Gchat)
  • Stay ahead of risks with a bird's eye view on key OKR status as well as compare progress over time with automated daily OKR tracking
  • Connect OKRs with Meetings tool to automate OKR check-ins and empower managers with data-backed AI driven actionable templates for meaningful conversations

Learn more about the OKR tool here. Otherwise, to see this in action, book a quick call with one of our experts. Also, get all your questions answered on the same. 

See Also

How to Run a Successful OKR Progress Review  

The complete guide to adopting OKRs (PDF)

Master OKRs in just 10 days: Free email course

Performance
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x
min read

How to Write Negative Employee Reviews (Examples + Templates)

With performance management becoming a critical part of organizational success, giving effective employee reviews is becoming a crucial part of a manager’s responsibilities. While regular employee performance reviews focus on illustrating the strengths and what worked for employees and the organization at large, there needs to be an equal focus on areas of development in case of poor work performance

If you look closely, writing negative employee reviews is often considered to be more difficult because the words need to be chosen very carefully. It needs to have a developmental tone rather than a critical one. 

What are negative employee reviews?

As the term suggests, negative employee reviews are reviews delivered to employees who have underperformed and need to be pulled up to the expected levels. It involves a variety of components which include:

  • Problem statement i.e. an illustration of poor performance, how it has been manifested and its impact on the overall organizational success
  • A clear understanding of the level of performance which is expected
  • A potential way or action items to correct the poor performance and improve

To get actionable ideas of how to deal with poor performance issues at work, read this

Writing and delivering negative employee reviews is very important for any organization that seeks to maintain a high level of employee performance. It is critical to ensure that:

  • Poor performers are aware of their level of underperformance and have a clear picture of what’s expected from them
  • Those who are underperforming get an opportunity to improve or face the consequences of consistently performing poorly
  • Underperformers are given the right support and guidance to improve their work and efforts to meet the expectations

Why should you be cautious of your words?

When you are writing negative employee performance reviews, you need to be extremely cautious of the words you choose. Using the right words will help the receiver acknowledge and work on the suggested points, while using words that are too harsh or critical can lead to adverse consequences. There are a few reasons which make the choice of words extremely important. 

  • The right words can help negative employee reviews focus on the developmental aspects and the impact of poor performance on the organization, rather than criticizing the person in general
  • They can help ensure that the job and the performance are the focus of the employee reviews and not the character or the personality of the person
  • Being cautious also ensures that the negative employee reviews don’t have a negative impact on the mental and emotional wellbeing of the employee and are taken in a constructive spirit.

The same review when offered with the right words can be more powerful and have a larger influence. 

For instance a statement like ‘you interfere too much in the work of others’ can be seen as a personal attack and may yield a defensive response from the receiver. 

However if you frame it in a different manner like ‘if you give others greater autonomy and freedom to work in their own way, you will be able to inspire greater creativity and innovation’, you will be able to put your message across and also help your employees understand how it will make a difference. 

Download: Free guided 1:1 meetings template to get personalized meeting recommendations

Tips for writing negative employee reviews 

In addition to being cautious of the words you use, there are a few other tips which you must keep in mind while writing negative performance reviews, including:

1. Keep it crisp and structured

While giving negative reviews is difficult, don’t beat around the bush and get straight to the point. However, instead of directly saying what isn’t going well, try adopting the sandwich approach. Start with a positive comment, add areas of improvement and end it with some suggestions and action items. 

Example: Tina has an excellent eye for detail and is very dedicated to her work. However, she often misses the deadlines which has led to a delay in 30% of her projects resulting in poor client experience. It would help her performance greatly, if she is able to prioritize her work better and keep an organized calendar for timely delivery. She can consider using the latest project management tools to facilitate better prioritization. 

2. Don’t get personal

Second, negative employee reviews should focus on the job or the role and not the person specifically. Steer away from using words or phrases which may end up combining performance and personality of the person. Your review should be specific towards performance challenges and not generalize that performance challenge is a personality trait.

Example: Instead of saying, “you are not punctual”, you can say that “I have seen you arrive late for meetings frequently, leaving shorter time for discussions. It would be best if you could be more punctual to respect others' time and make the most effective use of the same.”

3. Focus on progress

When you are writing negative performance reviews, you must focus on the progress and how a change in behavior and attitude can help them in the long run. Simply mentioning what went wrong and the associated process might lead to demotivation. 

Example: Some of your work has had grammatical errors in the past, maybe because you were trying to complete a lot at once. I am sure if you prioritize some tasks and create an action plan, your work quality will be better. 

4. Offer facts

Don’t simply give negative employee reviews about the problem area, but back it up with facts and data points. This will help you illustrate a pattern and establish that your review is not based on a single incident. Also, it will make your review more credible and authentic and not just a few words strung together. This will also help you in being very specific.  

Example: It has been observed that 40% of your customers claim that you don’t have adequate knowledge of your product, leading to a poor experience. 

5. Give examples

There might be some performance parameters which are difficult to add quantitative data points to. In such cases, you can offer specific examples of underperformance, especially if it has been repetitive. It is ideal to have at least 2-3 instances of poor performance to make your point stronger. 

Example: It has been noticed that in the aspiration to get your work perfect, you end up delaying projects. It was observed in project X with client A, project Y with client B as well as when the internal submission for Z was due. 

Pro-tip: Use our free Performance Review Phrases template to get 50+ examples of writing a negative review positively

How to deliver a poor performance review?

Once you write the negative employee reviews, you exactly know what you want to say to your employees. However, the way you deliver it also has a big impact on how it is received. To make the process simple, we have compiled a list of some of the best practices to help you deliver a poor performance review in the best way possible:

1. Connect in person

If you are delivering a negative performance review, it is best to do it in person, or if your team is remote, over a video call. If you deliver it over an email, you cannot be sure of the tone and context in which your words will be read. 

It might backfire by being read as more critical than developmental as per the intent. Furthermore, when you are delivering the negative reviews face to face, you can also use your gestures and body language to facilitate authenticity and empathy. 

2. Steer away from yelling

No matter how poor the performance has been, when you are delivering negative employee reviews, you should stay away from yelling or using foul language. Since the focus is on facilitating development for your employee, yelling will only defeat the purpose, making the employee demotivated and pushing them towards even lower levels of confidence and motivation. Furthermore, it will negatively impact your organization from an employer brand perspective. It can also create a negative impact on the wellbeing of your employees. 

3. Add anecdotes 

While delivering the review, you may want to add some personal stories or anecdotes if you have yourself been through something on those lines. This will help you connect better with your employees and make them trust you more. Furthermore, it can enable you to illustrate how they can turn poor performance into something better with a live example in front of them. 

4. Make it a dialogue

Your negative review shouldn’t be a monologue where you deliver what you have written with the employee absorbing it as a passive recipient. Instead, make it a dialogue by putting forward questions to understand the reasons behind poor performance and how you and the organization as a whole can help turn the table. Hearing their side of the story is extremely important before deciding on the next steps. 

4. Create a safe environment

When you are delivering negative employee reviews, you need to create a safe environment. It should not be harsh and the employee should feel comfortable in receiving what you have to offer. Also, make sure you deliver the review privately and not publicly shame your employee. They should see it as a developmental conversation in a safe environment, where they can also voice their opinions. 

5. Make it regular

Finally, negative employee reviews need to be regular and not come as a surprise to your employees at the end of the year. Regular reviews will give your employees enough room to improve their performance. Furthermore, it will give them a clear picture of what to expect when the year closes. 

To learn how SuperBeings can help you have guided conversations around negative performance review with AI recommendations based on performance and goals history as well as maintain a steady cadence to maximize the impact of such conversations, see this

Offer suggestions and follow up

After you have delivered the negative reviews to employees, the natural next step is to create a plan for improvement to help your employees reach the level of performance you expect out of them. This is a critical part of the performance management and talent development process for employees who have been consistently underperforming. Here are a few ways you can help your employees improve their performance.

1. Create action items collaboratively

If you have reached this level of negative employee reviews, you and your employee would be on the same page about their level of performance. Thus, it is best to create a list of action items that can help them improve their performance. To create the next steps, you must:

  • Ensure the steps are specific and not generic which only state the objective
  • Create steps which are aspirational, but achievable at the same time
  • Ascertain that there is an intended result for each decided step
  • Collaborate and brainstorm with your employee to create action items which are agreed upon by both
  • Align timelines and other factors to achieve success

2. Document the next steps

Next, your focus should not only be on planning the action items, but documenting them as well, because once they are out of sight, they’ll be out of mind. Furthermore, documenting them will help you remember the agreed steps and track progress every now and then. 

Clearly document what needs to be achieved, by when and how. It can be a good idea to encourage your team members to constantly document their experience as well to help discuss what has been working well and what needs to improve. 

3. Draft a Performance Improvement Plan (PiP) if needed

Depending on the performance issue, you may want to introduce a performance improvement plan for your employee. It is a formal tool to address performance challenges which outlines specific goals and expectations along with clear actions that need to be undertaken over a duration of 30-90 days.

For more details on PIP, check out A guide to implementing a performance improvement plan (PIP)

4. Set up a cadence

You also must set up a cadence to discuss performance improvements or challenges once the next steps are agreed upon. Unless you connect regularly to discuss the status, you might find yourself at square one at the end of the next performance review period as well. 

Depending on what needs to be achieved, you can set a weekly, fortnightly or monthly cadence to connect with your poor performers. While it may be seen as a regular review, it will also act as a reinforcer for them to ensure there is some improvement everytime the cadence to meet comes up. 

5. Define metrics

When you are determining the next steps, it is important to identify the associated metrics as well. For instance, if you want your employee to become more detail oriented, your metric can focus on reduction in errors by a specific percentage over a specific duration of time. 

The metrics will help you measure whether or not there has been an improvement in the performance as desired or not. At the same time, the metrics will help your employee move towards a specific goal. 

6. Follow up

While you have a set cadence, you may also want to check-in or follow up from time to time to make your employee comfortable enough to reach out to you in between your cadence for connecting. The follow ups can be over emails or calls or simple messages to check if everything is on track and to offer them any support whichever is needed. Especially in the beginning, you may need to check from time to time in case there’s any additional support that the employee needs to work on the action items. 

7. Evaluate progress

Finally, to ensure that your negative employee reviews translate to impact, you must focus on evaluating progress. Use the metrics you defined to gauge the level of progress and document it whenever you evaluate the same. This will help you establish a trend over time. 

Furthermore, if you feel the progress is below expectations, try to understand the rationale behind the same to check if putting the employee on a performance improvement plan will make more sense. 

Wrapping Up

By now, you must have gained a clear understanding of how to write, deliver and follow up on negative employee performance reviews constructively. If you are keen to learn how best to connect negative performance issues with regular 1:1 meetings with your team members with technology, book a quick demo with one of our executives. We would love to show you around :)

See Also

How to use Start Stop Continue feedback framework for high performance

10 performance review tips for managers that actually work

How to use employee coaching to unlock performance

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