Employee Pulse Surveys | Qualtrics

Employee Pulse Surveys

Employee pulse surveys are typically shorter surveys repeated at regular intervals. Unlike longer, more comprehensive employee surveys, pulse surveys are a great way to quickly gather a snapshot of the workforce. Pulses can measure a wide variety of topics and items including engagement, employee NPS (eNPS), project feedback, etc.

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As employers aim to gather more frequent feedback from their employees, pulse surveying has become extremely popular. Some common uses of pulse surveys are...

  • Follow-up This type of pulse survey allows you to follow up on action items from your annual employee engagement survey and track progress over time
  • Employee Sentiment Pulse surveys can be a great means for measuring employee sentiment (e.g. engagement or eNPS) more regularly than once a year
  • Specific Employee Feedback This type of pulse allows you to collect feedback from employees about specific projects or workstreams

The importance of employee pulse

Many organizations run full-scale employee engagement programs every year or two. Full-scale engagement surveys are ideal for getting employee data to teams at every level of an organization, running analyses to find out what drives engagement and developing action plans that can be implemented locally and globally across the organization. They are, however, limited in their flexibility and ability to capture more frequent fluctuations in employee engagement. As a result, we see an increasing trend to complement these types of census surveys with more frequent “pulse” surveys.

Organizations can no longer afford to wait a year or two to gather employee and organizational data, so pulse surveys are one method for satisfying the need to quickly collect smaller batches of data.

Re-defining employee pulse

Currently, the term “pulse survey” is used to describe a wide variety of survey methodologies, which can confuse and perpetuate flawed employee data collection practices. An employee pulse survey generally meets the following four criteria:

  • It tracks the same themes or items over time, measuring each item at two different points in time
  • It occurs at regular time intervals
  • It’s a relatively short survey
  • It’s administered more frequently than an annual employee census survey
Engagement Pulse Dashboard

Common types of pulse surveys

Generally speaking there are few tried-and-true methods for running effective employee pulse surveys:

Follow-up Pulse

When organizations want to measure specific drivers of employee engagement and assess the effectiveness of action plans that emerged from a larger employee engagement or organization-wide survey, they turn to follow-up pulses. These surveys are typically sent to a smaller sample of employees, often around 10 - 25% of the workforce (the exact number or % should be based on population size and statistically significant sampling, not an arbitrary number or %). This approach sets a point in time for leaders and managers to work towards as they take action on a specific engagement driver or item of focus. Follow-up pulse surveys are generally very short, containing five to ten questions, and often include some of the same questions from the census engagement survey that drove the action plans being followed up on.

Regular measurements of employee sentiment

Regular pulse measurements allow organizations to measure engagement and employee sentiment on a more frequent basis by surveying employees regularly and comparing data over time. These types of pulses can use the full engagement measure or a shorter proxy for engagement, such as eNPS or some sentiment measurement.

This type of pulse survey can be administered weekly, monthly or quarterly, depending on the data the organization is trying to collect. It’s best to keep surveys like this very short—one to five questions—so you don’t over survey and exhaust your employees.

Follow-up on specific projects or workstreams

Rather than focus on engagement, these types of pulse surveys focus on specific work streams or projects. These surveys help employees identify roadblocks to accomplishing their work and give leadership the ability to make changes and provide support to their teams.

Ad-hoc surveys

Often mistakenly termed as ‘pulse’ surveys, ad-hoc surveys give organizations the ability to conduct one-off surveys with their employees. In many cases, organizations want to equip business leaders with the ability to administer ad-hoc surveys so they can follow-up on or collect information about various initiatives or items related to their employees. Though similar to pulse surveys, ad-hoc surveys have one key difference—each survey is a one-off survey and is not repeated over time.

Common ad-hoc survey types are:

  • Internal communications survey
  • Corporate Social Responsibility survey (CSR)
  • Post-change survey
  • Local management/team surveys