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Why Should I Run an Employee Pulse Survey?

4 min read
Pulse surveys are an increasingly popular way to get feedback from employees. They can be defined as surveys that “measure the same construct at regular intervals over time” – but why would doing this be meaningful for an organisation?

Pulse surveys are shorter, more frequent surveys that happen at a regular time interval. They can include content on any topic, from tracking actions from your engagement survey to replacing the engagement survey entirely with more frequent check-ins.

Although pulse surveys are becoming more popular, why would a company invest time and resources in this new method of gathering employee feedback? In our experience, we see three main benefits:

Reason #1 – For Many Topics, It Simply Makes Sense to Get Feedback From Employees More Frequently Than Once a Year

Think of the last time you deployed your engagement survey. It may have been a really good month for the business – the last set of results were strong, bonuses had just been paid and the new canteen was a hit with the staff.

Fast-forward 8 months: Business is slow, the annual bonus is a distant memory, and the canteen menu hasn’t changed since it launched.

Imagine if your annual engagement survey ran during the second period – it’s highly likely your results would differ from the first. For an annual survey, each result remains the benchmark throughout the whole year without changing, which of course is unlikely to be the case in real life.

Because pulse surveys are more frequent, they allow you to spot any highs and lows earlier and take actions more regularly to improve the experience for your employees.

Reason #2 – It Allows You to Check-In (and Pivot) on Activities at the Right Frequency

The same principle of frequency can be applied to action planning off the back of your engagement survey.
Many organisations use pulses to check in on action plans after their annual engagement survey because waiting another 8 months to find out whether your post-survey interventions have been effective is far too long.

Approaches to organisational or behavioural change initiatives are becoming increasingly agile – companies don’t expect to get them right straight away.

By checking in more frequently, you get a more detailed view of what’s working (or not!) so you can make changes quickly and make sure you’re spending your time and effort most efficiently – ultimately preventing problems from escalating and starting to impact things like engagement, productivity, and attrition.

There’s nothing worse than investing in improvements, only to find out 12 months later they had no impact, when a pulse survey would have allowed you to spot the ineffectiveness early in the process.

Reason #3 – A Pulse Allows You to Better Align Employee Feedback Measurements to the Same Frequency As Other Important Business Metrics

Many HR practitioners are faced with the chicken-egg question when it comes to engagement – are people engaged because the business is successful, or is the business successful because people are engaged?

Regular pulse surveys will allow you to answer this question in your organisation – and help you understand how employee engagement in Q1 impacts a business metric in Q2, Q3, or Q4 (and perhaps vice-versa!).

You’ll also be able to show this for any of the other company practices or behaviours you measure with the survey, and perhaps see which of those practices have the best-sustained impact on your bottom line, and in the fastest time frame.

While this is a longer-term strategy, it’s what many organisations aspire to in their Employee Experience programs, and a pulse approach is the way to achieve that aspiration.