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Types of employee pulse survey explained

4 min read
While pulse surveys are incredibly flexible, we see two main types used by most organisations - find out what they are and how to use them with our quick guide

Two common Pulse survey examples

We typically see two types of programs when it comes to employee pulse surveys:

  • Follow-up pulse – these are usually attached to a larger employee engagement survey and are used to track action plans built off the back of the results. They focus on a specific topic (eg. training) and check in regularly on progress to help you track improvements. This is generally an entry point for most organisations into pulse surveys, often run bi-annually or quarterly

  • Longitudinal pulse – a regular check on engagement that actually replaces the annual engagement survey with shorter, more frequent check-ins. These tend to be run monthly or quarterly

Follow-up pulse programs

Think of these as a deep dive into a selected subset of items from your engagement survey – usually those that have been picked as a target for action.

Say for example your engagement survey highlighted that a certain team scored particularly low on the item ‘I understand how my role aligns with the company’s objectives’ . On the back of those results, leadership knows where to focus their efforts, so they set an action plan, identifying a number of changes to help make improvements.

A follow-up pulse is designed to help leaders track progress on this action plan. Using around 10 questions, it will usually include a tracking measure of Engagement as well as the items that were targeted for action after the survey. It may also include an open-text item to deep-dive on a particular topic where more clarity is needed from employees.

Follow up Pulses are usually sent quarterly or bi-annually – the more regular cadence allows you to check in on progress more often and means you can make changes to your activities based on the team’s feedback.

Longitudinal pulse programs

Some organisations are moving away from an annual engagement survey altogether and towards shorter, more regular surveys.

These types of programs can be highly effective when they’re designed to drive action – they typically run quarterly or monthly and include 15-20 items. When it comes to the content, these surveys tend to be a more condensed version of the annual engagement survey. As such, they replicate the same structure of the Annual Engagement survey, but with fewer items


Number of items – Annual engagement survey

Number of items – Quarterly Pulse survey

Number of items – Monthly Pulse survey

Items to measure engagement




Core drivers of engagement




Optional drivers of engagement




Open-ended items




Total min items




Total max items




Given survey real-estate is limited, you need to choose your content carefully.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to to give yourself more flexibility by having a number of fixed items – those evergreen topics like recognition, autonomy etc. – that you need to check in on every time and then a number of rotating items which change with each pulse depending on your priorities.

As a general rule of thumb, the more frequent the pulse cadence, the smaller the locus of control asked about should be, and the faster-moving the variable asked about should be.

Find out more: What to ask on your pulse surveys

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