Back to Basics: What Are Employee Pulse Surveys?

May 19, 2020 Aaron Kinne

5-minute read

employee taking survey

What are your employees feeling these days? If you rely solely on a once-a-year 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.

What is an employee pulse survey?

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

But such large-scale surveys take an inordinate amount of time to prepare and administer. They often include upward of 50 questions, so the time it takes an employee to complete them is considerable. And then comes the task of compiling the results and analyzing feedback. By the time senior management begins to take action, the survey findings may very well be outdated.

Employee 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.

They are nimble, fast, and – in some cases – free. This makes it possible and highly cost-effective to administer frequent, targeted surveys that keep you in touch with the “pulse” of what your employees are thinking and feeling. And they can address many of the business challenges companies are facing today, including engagement, retention, and productivity. That’s particularly important in today’s diffused, untested environment, in which so many humans are suddenly working remotely. 

What are the benefits of employee pulse surveys?

recent article in HR Technologist offers a concise overview of the many benefits an employee pulse survey delivers. It noted that employee pulse surveys:

  1. Provide a real-time view of engagement, so you have a fast, accurate understanding of your organization
  2. 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, thereby tapping the wisdom of the crowd
  5. Deliver insights that can be acted upon quickly and effectively

Everything you need to know about employee pulse surveys

When it comes to choosing a pulse survey, 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.

  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 solution that has been developed by data scientists, drawing on large data sets.
  2. Powered by AI: 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 solution that provides a lens on underlying employee sentiment, revealed through their written responses.
  4. Benchmarking: How is your organization doing compared to global and industry benchmarks? Your solution should give you clear, easy-to-read results that can be evaluated and filtered to provide the precise feedback you need.  
  5. No limits: The best tools will 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 surveys run continuously, giving you a constant pulse on employees without giving them “survey fatigue.”
  7. Actionable feedback: Surveying alone isn’t going to increase engagement; it has to be followed by real, meaningful action. That’s why the best tools generate intelligent, actionable recommendations that will address your most pressing employee experience challenges. 

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 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, in alignment with your survey goals. For instance – in the case of Moodtracker – there's a resilience survey for a “work-from-home” world, a modern, "human-centered" survey, and even a survey that measures the effectiveness of your D&I initiatives.

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

Amplify 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, co-founder and CEO of Workhuman during the recent Workhuman® Livestream

Amazing work cultures built on trust don’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 free, employee pulse survey tool from Workhuman.

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About the Author

Aaron Kinne

Aaron Kinne is a senior writer at Workhuman.

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