March 27, 2017

Why HR Needs To Invest In Employee Pulse Surveys

Why HR needs to invest in pulse surveys

Do you check your bank account once a year? Of course not, that would be crazy. So then why do we only check on our employees once a year?

If people are an organization’s most important asset, and your bank account is arguably your most important asset, why do we treat the two so differently?

Most organizations invest in employee engagement surveys, which is a great first step, but they’re rarely done often enough.

The problem is, a year or every six months is too long of a time frame; way too much happens in between. Using one data point throughout the year is a silly way of making decisions for what you could be changing in your organization.

annual surveys vs pulse surveys

Unfortunately, many organizations still don’t take engagement seriously, but the research has clearly shown that it matters.

Engaged employees are more productive, take less time off, make customers happier, etc. Measuring employee engagement can’t be an afterthought anymore. It needs to occur much more frequently, and everyone needs to be on board.

First, let’s define what a pulse survey is, then go through some of the benefits of pulse surveys, and some important tips to keep in mind.

Already convinced? Want to get started with pulse surveys right away? Here are 40 questions you can use in your next survey.

Pulse Survey Definition

An employee pulse survey is a survey that is short, and very specific.

A pulse survey should be about 5-10 questions long, and be focused on a specific area for improvement.

Just like any other survey though, remember, if you’re not ready to act, then don’t bother. Acting on pulse surveys is even more important, because they happen so quickly. Since they’re focused on a specific area for improvement, you should in theory be ready to act on that area.

Since the survey is so short, you can send it out every week. Try to vary the question each week, but keep in mind that some questions make sense to be asked over and over to measure trends over time.

For example, a question like “how happy are you at work this week” makes sense to be asked, in theory, every week to see if there are any changes.

employee pulse survey Officevibe slider question

Because these surveys are much shorter than a typical annual survey, you can expect a much higher participation rate.

Benefits Of Employee Pulse Surveys

There are so many benefits of using employee pulse surveys, all focused around having continuous feedback, and a constant pulse on the engagement levels of your team.

Here are a few of them.

  1. Real-Time Insights

    One of the obvious benefits of surveying more frequently is that you can have a more real-time view of the engagement levels across your teams.

    If you conduct a survey once a year, and then wait a few months for the results to be compiled, you’re only seeing a small snapshot of what’s going on. Also, it might be too late to address the issue that was raised.

    People’s moods change often throughout the year, you need to be able to spot those trends and have a more accurate picture of what’s going on in your team.

    When an employee is upset, they want to be heard today, not in six months.

  2. Employees Feel Listened To

    When you create a culture where you’re always asking for an employee’s input, it makes them feel like they really matter.

    Many employees feel almost insulted with the way annual surveys work.

    Organizations collect feedback, take months to “analyze” the data, often don’t do anything about it, and if they do do something about it it’s months later. It sends the wrong message to your employees.

  3. Your Employees Will Build Better Habits

    This is a less obvious benefit, but still an incredibly powerful one.

    By asking employees about things like their happiness, personal growth, and relationships at work, it allows them to reflect on these subjects more frequently.

    As you continue to ask these questions, the habit of thinking about them will form, getting employees to be more mindful about their happiness, personal growth, and relationships at work.

    Without even doing anything with the surveys, you’re already taking the right steps to improve employee engagement.

  4. Creates A Culture Of Continuous Improvement

    A great benefit for you as a leader, is that you’ll be more agile in your approach to improving your culture.

    Instead of comparing your improvements year over year, you’ll be able to look week over week, giving you a much richer data set to work with to spot trends.

  5. Higher Survey Response Rates

    Because of the quick and simple nature of pulse surveys, the response rate is much higher.

    The survey fatigue of most surveys doesn’t kick in, or at least doesn’t kick in as easily.

    For example, in Officevibe’s employee survey software, our clients consistently see an 85% response rate, week after week.

    Do you want to have consistently high survey response rates too? Start your 14-day free trial of Officevibe today and start engaging your employees the right way.

Sample Pulse Survey Questions

My personal favorite example of questions to ask, are a combination of quantitative with qualitative. Assuming you’re taking the one question a week approach, you can feel free to ask a qualitative follow up.

So for example:

On a scale from 0-10, how likely are you to recommend working at your company to a friend?

And then you can follow up with a qualitative question to get more details:

Is there anything holding you back from recommending {company} to your friends as a good place to work?

Here are a few other questions you can use:

  1. When something bad happens work, do you know who to ask for help?
  2. Do you clearly understand the company’s core values?
  3. On a scale of 0 to 10, how happy are you at work?
  4. Do you have opportunities for growth?
  5. On a scale of 0 to 10, how would you rate your work-life balance?
Free Bonus: Here are 40 questions that we’ve used in hundreds of surveys that you can use to make your life easier.

In case it helps, this article on The Art And Science Of Questionnaire Design explains how to create the perfect survey question.

Things To Keep In Mind With Pulse Surveys

Here are a few important things to keep in mind as you create and roll out pulse surveys.

  1. Ensure Anonymity

    It’s important to make employees feel comfortable enough to answer honestly. Let them know that it’s completely anonymous and that they can feel free to say whatever they want.

    In a perfect world, you wouldn’t need this, but being realistic, you should ensure anonymity.

  2. Communicate Clearly

    Remember, there is no such thing as too much communication.

    Communicate with employees the purpose of the survey to ensure that there’s no confusion on their part. This will also help with the quality of the responses and the participation rate.

    Also, be very clear with them about what will be done with these survey results and when they can expect to see the results.

  3. Make It Fun

    The key thing to keep in mind is that you want a high response rate, because if no one is responding to your survey, it doesn’t matter how often you do it.

    One way that we’ve found works really well is to make the process as fun as possible.

    For example, something as simple as using more lively wording in your answer choices instead of strongly agree/strongly disagree, or using illustrations to brighten up the page.

    Officevibe survey question

  4. Share Your Results

    Make sure the survey results are shared with every single employee in the company, no matter what level they’re at.

    Even if the results aren’t very positive, it’s important that everyone knows what’s going on. Sharing the results shows that you trust them, and can help build high morale and connection between everyone.

Have You Tried Using Employee Pulse Surveys?

I’d be curious to hear your feedback on whether they’ve worked for you or not. If you haven’t used them yet, is there anything holding you back from trying them?