Back to Basics: What Are Employee Pulse Surveys?

October 21, 2022 Aaron Kinne
employee pulse surveys

How are your employees feeling these days? If you rely solely on one annual engagement survey, it’s safe to say the feedback you collected is pretty much obsolete. 

Given how fast the world of work has changed – and continues to change – it’s obvious that an annual employee survey just isn’t going to cut it these days. That’s where employee pulse surveys come in.

Table of Contents
  • What are pulse surveys?
  • The advantages of pulse surveys
  • What are the benefits of getting employee feedback through pulse surveys?
  • How to choose the right pulse survey tool
  • How to create a pulse survey – and what questions to ask
  • Pulse surveys – survey templates and sample questions
  • FAQs
  • Conclusion

What are pulse surveys?

Companies typically use a large-scale annual engagement survey – often called an employee engagement survey – to measure one of HR’s key metrics and create an action plan. In fact, a Gartner report found an astounding 74% of organizations still use formal, detailed annual surveys to measure employee engagement.

But a large-scale employee engagement survey takes an inordinate amount of time to prepare and administer. It often includes upwards of

Moodtracker by Workhuman

 50 questions, so the time it takes an employee to complete it is considerable. And then comes the task of compiling the results and analyzing employee feedback.

By the time senior management begins to take action, the survey results may very well be outdated.

Pulse surveys – such as Moodtracker® from Workhuman® – are an agile, modern way to tap into the heartbeat of an organization, and truly understand the voice of the employee (VoE).

Learn more about Moodtracker the free, employee pulse survey tool from Workhuman.

The advantages of pulse surveys

Unlike annual engagement surveys, most employee pulse surveys are nimble, fast, and – in some cases – free. This makes it possible and highly cost-effective to administer frequent, targeted pulse surveys on a survey cadence that keeps you in touch with the “pulse” of what your employees are thinking and feeling – while providing an early warning system for potential issues.

They can address many of the business challenges companies are facing today, including employee engagement, retention, productivity, and other organizational metrics.

That’s particularly important in today’s diffused, dynamic environment, in which so many humans are working remotely.

Employee using pulse survey

What are the benefits of getting employee feedback through pulse surveys?

An article in HR Technologist offers a concise overview of the many benefits an employee pulse survey delivers when compared to annual employee engagement surveys. It noted that employee pulse surveys:

  1. Provide a real-time view of employee engagement, so you have a fast, accurate understanding of your organization and company culture
  2. Often require less than 10 questions, making them easier and faster for employees to complete
  3. Are free from bias, thanks to their immediacy and greater contextualization that connects employees’ current circumstances to a broader environment
  4. Support peer-to-peer commentary and dialogue, thereby tapping the wisdom of the crowd
  5. Deliver insights that can be acted upon quickly and effectively with real, meaningful responses

How to choose the right employee pulse survey tool

When it comes to selecting a pulse survey tool, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the many choices available – from general, all-purpose survey tools, to highly sophisticated, enterprise-wide solutions. To help you sift through the options, here are some of the key features you should consider as you decide what’s best for your needs and to advance your company values.

1. Data science baked in

No one expects you to be a behavioral psychologist, but that doesn’t mean you can’t tap into the knowledge and skills of the experts. Look for a pulse survey solution that has been developed by data scientists, drawing on large data sets.

2. Powered by AI7 Key features to look for in a pulse survey tool

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can give you the confidence of knowing that every employee gets the right survey at the right time.

3. Natural language processing

Words matter, so you’ll want a pulse survey solution that provides a lens on underlying employee sentiment, revealed through their written responses. Check out how Workhuman’s internal NLP team is working to develop other tools using this technology.

4. Benchmarking

How is your organization doing compared to global and industry benchmarks – such as employee engagement? Your pulse survey should provide clear, easy-to-read results that can be evaluated and filtered to provide the relevant feedback you need.

5. No limits

The best pulse survey tools put you in control of your survey frequency and target your survey respondents. They let you send as many surveys as you want, to as many employees as you want. And they can cover a wide range of interest areas, including employee productivity, stress, social support, organizational trust, and retention.

6. Set it and forget it

Look for automation features that let your pulse surveys run continuously, giving you a constant survey cadence without giving your employees “survey fatigue.”

7. Actionable employee feedback

Survey results alone aren’t going to increase employee engagement; they have to be followed by real, meaningful actions that are focused on increasing employee satisfaction, improving the employee experience, and promoting company values. That’s why the best tools generate intelligent, actionable recommendations that will address your most pressing employee experience challenges.

pulse survey questionaire

How to create a pulse survey – and what questions to ask

Invariably – when the subject of employee pulse surveys comes up – among the first questions an HR executive asks is: “How do I create a survey? And what questions do I ask?”

The good news here is that the best pulse survey solutions provide proven survey templates developed by experts, drawing on vast data troves. These templates provide built-in functionality that will guide you in the selection and composition of your questions – and align with your survey goals.

For instance – in the case of Moodtracker – there’s a “resiliency” survey for a “work-from-home” world, a modern, “human-centered” survey, and even a survey that measures the effectiveness of your diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives.

They all have in common integrated fail-safes that will only ask questions proven relevant to today’s employees, and help avoid survey fatigue. In short, today’s quality pulse survey tools make it fast, simple, and easy to conduct a survey that will advance your employee experience and employee satisfaction objectives.

Pulse surveys – survey templates and sample questions

The pulse surveys and sample questions I’ve shared below are drawn from Moodtracker – the “forever free” employee pulse survey tool from Workhuman.

Because these pulse surveys and sample survey questions have been developed by Workhuman’s data scientists – drawing on more than 50 million recognition moments in the Workhuman® Cloud – they have a wealth of survey expertise, knowledge, and an unmatched data set baked in.

Let’s begin with a review of some of the surveys offered by Moodtracker:

1. Return to Workplace

As your company opens its workplace again, you can use this pulse survey to help you understand and support your employees’ success as they transition from the home office to a shared space.

2. Human-Centered Workplace

This survey will give you the critical insights you need to create a positive employee experience through human-centered workplace practices.

3. Belonging and Inclusion

It’s not enough to simply include people at the table. This pulse survey will help your organization break down silos, ensure that everyone’s voice is heard, and appreciate everyone for their unique backgrounds.

4. Resiliency

How stressed are your employees? And are they getting the support they need? These are critical questions as workers adapt to today’s rapidly changing world of work.

This pulse survey will help you assess the mindset of your workers, and reveal opportunities to help them navigate the changing workplace landscape.

5. Employee Experience and Engagement

Pulse surveys such as this one can help you assess important aspects of your workers’ employee experience, as well as their levels of engagement within the workplace.

Pulse survey sample questions

Now, let’s use the “Employee Experience and Engagement” survey for examples of pulse survey questions. In this format, respondents are asked to indicate on a scale of 1-5 how much they agree with the following statements, with 1 being almost/always disagree and 5 being almost/always agree:

  • I feel a sense of belonging at work.
  • I feel deeply connected to the work I do.
  • I leave work with a sense of achievement on most days.
  • I feel good about my experience at work.
  • I feel energized at work.
  • I share strong connections with my colleagues.
  • People here accomplish a lot of good work.
  • I think about the company mission in all that I do.
  • People here often energize each other through work.
  • I feel free to direct the course of most of my work life.
  • Individual humanity is celebrated here.
  • I am able to express my creativity at work.
  • I am grateful to work with the people that I do.
  • I would recommend this company to a colleague or friend.
  • I intend to continue working for this company for the next 12 months.
  • I consistently put in extra effort at work.

Pulse surveys – FAQs

Amplify and hear the voice of your employees with pulse surveys

“We want the world to know what’s really going on in their companies. And we believe that employees have a right to be heard,” said Eric Mosley, CEO of Workhuman during a Workhuman® Livestream.

An amazing company culture built on trust doesn’t just spring up overnight. They come from amplifying the voice of your employees, asking questions relevant to today’s workforce, and taking the right action.

It’s against this backdrop – and a world of work that’s changing by the moment – that employee pulse surveys are more important than ever. Bring the power of this remarkable concept to your organization today.

Learn more about Moodtracker – the forever free, employee pulse survey tool from Workhuman. Sign-up for free!