We’ve previously outlined the essential questions to consider when setting up an employee pulse survey and chief amongst them is setting a clear pulse purpose.
So when it comes to considering pulse survey cadence, you should already have answered a number of critical questions. The final question to answer when it comes to defining your Pulse survey cadence is “How frequently does the business need to see results from the survey?”
This question depends heavily on the following factors:
How frequently the constructs you are measuring are likely to fluctuate
Before considering how often to administer your pulse survey, you will have considered the goal(s) of the programs and what topics it needs to measure to meet those goals.
Next, you’ll need to think about how often these topics – or employees’ perceptions of them – will meaningfully change.
For example, if your goal is to measure employee mood (not recommended), then it is reasonable to expect employees’ moods to fluctuate very frequently — daily and perhaps even more than once per day.
However, if you will be measuring employee engagement (as measured in a traditional engagement survey) and the drivers of engagement, then daily or weekly measurement does not make sense as engagement levels are not likely to fluctuate in such a short period of time.
How often can your business absorb, communicate and (if needed) take action?
When you ask employees for their feedback, it’s reasonable for them to expect that someone is listening. Surveying employees and then failing to communicate back on the results can backfire and create feelings of distrust and disengagement among employees.
It’s also a sure-fire way to decrease future survey response rates.
That doesn’t mean you must always take immediate action after every survey you administer, but it does mean you should be prepared to review each set of results and aim to understand them.
When considering the right cadence of your pulse survey, think about how often the people who need to see the feedback can review and react to survey results. This should, at a minimum, entail some communication of results back to the employees who participated in the survey and some sort of reaction or action plan(s).
It might be tempting to survey employees monthly or even weekly, but it’s often not realistic for leaders to absorb results that frequently.
You should always be prepared for possible actions following each pulse survey. Not only does the business need time to review, communicate and decide on actions, but the time needed to implement action plans may also need to be considered.
In addition, here are some other things to consider when looking at your pulse cadence:
How often are other organisational metrics reported?
Every organisation has its natural cadence – some work quarter-to-quarter, some month-to-month and for others everything revolves around the annual meeting.
So, in your pulse planning ask what the business needs the data for. If you’re simply reporting data to the board at the annual meeting, pulse might not be the right mechanism and you could run an annual engagement survey instead.
If you’re reporting monthly however, you might want to match that cadence so you can provide fresh data each time and update the board on the improvements.
We find that quarterly is a popular pulse cadence for organisations, for the following reasons:
- Most organisations run their reporting on a quarterly cycle already
- It leaves time for them to review the data and put actions in place
- It allows their surveys to be slightly longer, giving them a bit more survey ‘real-estate’ so allowing for more topics to be included
How much is ‘too much’?
The big question a lot of organisation have going into a pulse program is whether their employees will start to suffer from survey fatigue by receiving surveys more frequently.
But the thing that will have the biggest impact on fatigue is not necessarily frequency. We see that surveys are far more likely to suffer from fatigue if they don’t hear back from their feedback or if program communication is not managed well.