Should my company use employee pulse surveys?

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October 2021

Should my company use employee pulse surveys?

Employee pulse surveys are an increasingly popular way for businesses and human resources departments to gain employee feedback. These are quick surveys that target a specific issue, allowing relevant departments to measure responses and metrics on a regular and ongoing basis throughout the year. In this article, we’ll take a look at how pulse surveys are used in the workplace, as well as some of the unique benefits and challenges that leaders should consider.

What is a pulse survey?

When companies conduct annual or bi-annual employee engagement surveys, they often follow up on their findings with pulse surveys (otherwise known as ‘pulse check surveys’). These help managers keep tabs on any issues they initially identified, as well as monitor the impact of any projects or programmes they have launched to maintain or improve engagement and morale. In other words, pulse surveys will tell leaders and HR managers whether or not they’re still on the right track. Pulse surveys should be conducted at regular intervals and track the same targeted issues or metrics over time for consistent reporting and benchmarking. 

If you have an annual employee engagement survey, this will typically take 40-60 minutes for an employee to complete and be filled with detailed questions requiring in-depth answers. Too often, managers ask employees to fill out engagement surveys only for their results to be filed away. Pulse surveys are used as follow-up measures so that insights into employee engagement are properly actioned. Here are some typical questions you are likely to encounter in a pulse survey:

  • Did your manager share the results of the engagement survey with your team?

  • Have you noticed any positive impact as a result of the engagement survey?

  • Do you have any additional insights into the topics and issues covered by our engagement survey?

What are the benefits of pulse surveys?

There are many reasons why pulse surveys are useful for organisations looking to track progress on a range of initiatives, from engagement and onboarding processes to workplace diversity and leadership projects. Here are some of the main advantages of employee pulse surveys:

  • Agility - Pulse surveys allow you to check in and react more regularly because they occur more frequently. This supports key agile project management goals such as iterative improvement by supplying regular, actionable feedback. Checking in on your employees once or twice a year is simply not enough to get a clear insight into their mindset, performance, and the challenges they are facing. Pulse surveys show you how your programs and initiatives are working right now rather than waiting for the results of an annual survey, allowing you to fine-tune initiatives more easily as you roll them out.

  • Relevant insight - You can plot trends around important issues over time, getting relevant and actionable feedback as trends change, as new concerns arise, or as new programs or changes are implemented. A good example would be using pulse surveys to monitor remote working programmes. You can get real-time feedback from remote employees as they adapt through this relatively new way of working, getting insight into what tech is working and what is not, and what unique challenges they may be facing.

  • Appeal – Employees like being able to give feedback and receive it, especially if it is connected with issues that directly inform them. Pulse surveys appeal because they take place more often than typical performance reviews or survey mechanisms, allowing employees access to mechanisms that give and supply ongoing feedback throughout the year. Only one-third of employees planned to stay at their current job in 2020, citing a lack of feedback as a key reason for leaving, so it’s worth looking into tools that create a more frequent, real-time feedback ecosystem rather than waiting for annual reviews.

Essentially, instead of asking for feedback just once or twice a year, you’re able to quickly check in with employees every month and adapt your strategy as you move forward and the environment changes.

Disadvantages of pulse surveys

While pulse surveys certainly offer an array of benefits, they’re not a magic bullet solution for leaders concerned about employee engagement. Some potential drawbacks should be considered when deciding on the best approach to both monitor and improve staff engagement, as well as the overall employee experience.

  • Fatigue – Survey fatigue occurs when teams are inundated with surveys that are repetitive or time-consuming. If surveys are not considered by employees to be a valuable use of time, then they aren’t going to provide any meaningful insights. Take customer surveys for example. According to research, 88% of people have abandoned a survey while halfway through, and survey responses have dropped from 20% to 2% in 20 years despite communication with consumers being so much easier. Of course, employee surveys are a little different, but we can see how they may generate the same response.

  • Perceived lack of follow-through – When teams are obligated to respond to surveys despite not seeing any real change, it’s going to be a source of frustration. Because these short surveys are much more regular, employees may expect to see change occurring at a faster pace. But if your organisation consistently fails to deliver, then this will not only defeat the purpose of pulse surveys, but it will have a detrimental impact on engagement.

  • Narrow scope – While people love giving feedback, pulse surveys have a very narrow scope. Pulse surveys are short and highly focussed, so if they do not deal with a specific aspect of the topic that employees deem important, it can be seen as a waste of time or a failure of the organisation to take their priorities seriously.

Get real-time employee engagement insights with Totem 

At Totem, we believe that surveys can offer long-term value for anyone responsible for employee engagement. However, we also believe today’s leaders need always-on insights that can provide the information they need in real-time.

Totem is a leading provider of workplace engagement insights through simple yet effective employee engagement analytics platforms. Our platform makes it easy and enjoyable for employees to supply the valuable feedback organisations need to create, refine, and monitor key metrics such as engagement, onboarding, recruitment, and much more. With the help of cutting-edge tech, we provide a space for you to keep your fingers on the pulse of your employees, making it easier and more rewarding to get feedback from your teams.

Interested in finding out more? Why not get started for FREE by signing up for our Starter plan? This will allow you to run a quick pulse check survey whilst also beginning to build a new and rewarding online community for your team.

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