Employee Pulse Survey Strategy: What’s Right For Your Company?

By Nick Hayter - April 28, 2020

Right now is a time of unprecedented disruption. We’re battling a loss of normalcy. It’s no longer business as usual for anyone. But, for the majority, it is vitally important that business does carry on. Your employees face uncertainty and unpredictability. Your employees are responding to new ways of working such as remote working, changing work patterns, or new policies, procedures, and protocols.

The likelihood is that your employees are juggling personal and professional commitments. How will you help them if you don’t ask them how they are coping? (Tweet this!) Employees want to be heard.

Employee pulse surveys provide a great way to listen and act on employee feedback. There are many ways to design and deliver a pulse survey. Used for tracking sentiment over time, for better understanding employee needs, or for helping stay connected during turbulent times, the employee pulse survey is versatile to meet your needs. Thus, determining the “best” pulse survey requires a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve.

In this article, we’ll examine various types of pulse surveys and the purposes to which they are most suited, to help you use them as part of your continuous listening strategy.

Employee pulse surveys are just one element of a successful continuous listening program. To find out what else you should be doing, download our free guide, Continuous Listening: Developing The Right Strategy For Your Organization.

Determine Your Purpose

Annual census surveys are likely to be well-rounded, covering a range of topics that help leaders understand the barriers to engagement and performance.

Whilst pulse surveys typically feature fewer survey questions, the list of potential topics they cover is almost endless. Some employee pulse survey examples are provided below:

Monitoring:

Pulse surveys can be used as a regular “temperature check.” Common employee pulse survey questions are the four indicators of engagement or employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS). Monitoring pulses can be done on nearly any cadence: daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or bi-annually. You can invite selected subsets of your workforce, use random sampling, or even invite your entire organization to participate on a regular basis.

Discovering:

Pulse surveys can be used as a “deep dive” into specific topics and issues. You can use pulse surveys to follow up on known barriers to engagement—surveys focused on recognition or other distinct topics such as vision and direction, communication, or growth and development. Here, you may want to select “hotspot” business units, geographic regions, job roles, or tenure bands—or you may want the survey to go to a representative sample of your workforce.

Responding:

Pulse surveys can be tied to your planned business events to gauge employee reactions or to gather suggestions about organizational changes and business updates.

We’ve also witnessed recently that pulse surveys can be used to rapidly collect data on emerging topics to help you respond quickly and decisively to unplanned situations. Though listening to your employees is always important, that need is amplified during turbulent times. You can use ad hoc, just-in-time pulse surveys to connect with employees at scale, alongside other ways of keeping lines of communication open with your people.

Turbulent times increase stress on and within organizations, testing our leadership, our people, and our culture -- as well as the strength of our relationships with others. At Perceptyx, we are supporting organizations to understand their employees’ perceptions of corporate response to the situation. To that end, we’ve created surveys specific to the COVID-19 pandemic that we’re offering completely free of charge.

  1. COVID-19 Survey: We’ve prepared a 16-question pulse survey specific to corporate responses to the pandemic. The measures in this pulse survey include indicators of confidence in leadership, perceived care for individuals, consistency in how policies are applied, effectiveness of communication efforts, and more.
  2. Managing Remote Teams Survey: This pulse survey is designed to assess the health and well-being of your employees as they adjust to the new normal working environment.
  3. Supporting Your People Managers Survey: Manager and supervisor insights are truly invaluable to senior leadership during times like these. Utilize this survey to gauge how well you're supporting your managers and to gain a true local view of what is happening.
  4. Industry-specific surveys for Healthcare, Retail, and Manufacturing to better understand and respond to the unique challenges of each industry.

Choosing Your Pulse Survey Cadence

If you design a pulse survey program to frequently monitor employee feedback, but you do nothing with the flow of information you are receiving, don’t be surprised if your program fails.

Survey fatigue is less of an issue than lack-of-action fatigue: if you frequently conduct surveys but fail to connect surveys with actions, then employees will begin to view your pulses as a fruitless exercise. Then, rather than helping you improve employee engagement and business performance, your program may have the opposite effect, where people don’t feel listened to.

For pulse surveys, keep in mind that you need to do the same things you do for other types of surveys. Pulse survey best practices include having a clear purpose, commitment to action, and timely communications—i.e. pulse surveys should be part of a two-way conversation.

Some survey providers recommend a move away from an annual census survey in favor of “pulse-only” strategies with very frequent (…and intrusive?) surveys for local teams or for the entire organization. While there are situations where frequent—even daily—pulses may be appropriate, many issues don’t need to be tracked frequently to be critical focus areas for change—meaning a well-deployed annual census survey with follow-up actions and appropriate monitoring will be more effective than frequent pulse surveys with constant measurement but no action.

A potential pitfall of a frequent pulse strategy is the “wait and see” effect. Rather than act, leaders noticing a downward trend developing in a monthly pulse might in fact delay taking action. Because another round of feedback is right around the corner, they may decide to wait for the results of the next survey. This can lead to the lack-of-action fatigue mentioned previously.

Another stumbling block for a frequent pulse survey cadence is that some organizations just don’t yet have the technological readiness or internal capabilities for daily, weekly, or even monthly pulse surveys. If your annual census survey requires a lot of HR employee involvement to create the reporting hierarchies used to disseminate results and map trends to connect the dots between surveys, then consider carefully before adding 12, 52, or 365 more surveys throughout the year to their to-do list! You may well need to improve the readiness of your HR data or more likely adopt a crawl, walk, run approach toward your pulse survey strategy.

Build An Employee Pulse Survey Strategy That Works For You

As we’ve noted, there are many different types of pulse surveys and survey cadences suited to different purposes. What’s most important is to adopt a pulse strategy that provides your organization with the information you need at the intervals needed.

Whilst we’ve seen growing demand for pulse surveys on both our core Perceptyx platform and our OnDemand solution, the most common trend is that our clients continue with their census survey program to create a wide and deep database for analytics. Many clients then choose to complement their census survey data with employee pulse surveys. This is a best-of-both-worlds approach—census surveys establish a baseline, allow for tracking changes at multiple levels of the organization, and help identify issues for further exploration; pulses help to monitor, discover, or respond to emerging issues as needed.

Regardless of the provider or platform you choose for conducting pulses, you will likely want to ensure that the pulse survey software you select allows you to integrate your pulse survey data with your census survey data as well as other people data. With this, you can identify patterns and investigate outcomes; without this, you will be left with a lot of disparate data which is hard to connect to gain insights.

In the end, your pulse survey strategy should be based on your organization’s unique needs and be pragmatic around what works well for you.

Need help designing an employee pulse survey strategy for your organization?

At Perceptyx, helping companies design listening programs to address their unique needs is our goal. With custom surveys paired to our people analytics platform and expertise in all aspects of survey design, strategy, and communication, we can guide you in developing a strategy that will help your company thrive. Get in touch to learn more.

Download Now: Continuous Listening: A Guide To Developing The Right Listening Strategy For Your Organization

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