The HR Leader's Guide to Employee Pulse Surveys

Employee Engagement
10 MIN READ
December 16, 2020
Osasumwen Arigbe, PHR

Companies find themselves in a constant battle to attract and retain the best talent in today's competitive job markets. However, it's not just enough to attract the best employees; it's equally important to retain them.

When companies don't prioritize employee retention, they are more likely to suffer from voluntary turnover, which costs most U.S. businesses $1 trillion every year. The turnover cost covers direct replacement costs and indirect costs such as lost productivity and time, temporary coverage, and training a new employee. These turnover costs can be expensive for any business leader and can eventually kill their business.

An HR leader may ask, "what can I do to mitigate these turnover costs and improve employee retention within my company?" Great question! Besides creating a healthy and attractive company culture, you can go further by using pulse surveys for employees.

In this four-part resource guide, we will present everything you need to know about employee pulse surveys.

What Are Pulse Surveys?

Employee Pulse Surveys

As the name implies, an employee pulse survey checks the "pulse" of employees, and its result indicates if the company is in a healthy or unhealthy state.

Pulse surveys help HR leaders collect information and assess employees' feelings about their jobs and the company regularly, especially on operational or strategic issues. These surveys measure employee satisfaction, loyalty, and employee engagement, and they provide companies with the data they need to make informed and proactive decisions.

Most HR departments have traditionally relied on formal, large-scale surveys to gauge employees' feelings. While these, often annual, employee surveys are far from extinct, they are clearly on the decline because they are too lengthy, provide outdated data, and have little impact since the actions taken tend to be reactive. Such issues with annual surveys have led to the rising popularity of employee pulse surveys, and as a result, we believe every company should use pulse surveys.

Reasons Why Pulse Surveys Are Important

Employee Pulse Surveys

Unlike the annual engagement surveys, companies should use pulse surveys more frequently because they play a significant role in improving the overall company culture. Since it's not advisable to wait for an entire year to evaluate whether morale has gone up or down, you'll find pulse surveys useful because they:

Provide real-time insights about your company

Over the years, Gallup's research showed that most employees are not engaged—stating that only 15% worldwide and just 34% in the U.S. are engaged. In May 2020, the percentage of engaged workers in the U.S. saw a historic climb to 38%. However, one month later, Gallup recorded the most significant drop in their history of tracking employee engagement in the U.S., dating back to 2000. Seeing how the engagement data fluctuated within one month, you can see that it's unreasonable to wait for an entire year to track employee engagement at your organization. So, pulse surveys can help you notice such fluid changes in real-time, detect warning signs, show areas for improvement, and take proactive next steps.

Elicit a high response rate from employees

According to Survey Anyplace, "survey response rate is directly correlated to survey length or duration. On average, the response rate drops by 17% when a survey has more than 12 questions or takes longer than 5 minutes to complete." Questions used for pulse surveys are often concise and easy to complete, which elicit more responses. The more answers you receive, the more data you have to identify issues and themes.

Allow HR leaders to use analytics in driving impact

It's no news that HR professionals consistently ask to have a seat at the table. In other words, HR leaders request to participate in strategic decision-making and drive significant impact within their organizations. Why is this such a struggle for HR? According to a Harvard Business Review article, "only 11% of business leaders trust HR to use data to anticipate and help them fill their talent needs."

One way for HR to earn their CEO's trust is to use analytics in anticipating business needs.

HR managers can predict problems before they surface by using HR metrics, such as productivity, turnover, retention, or engagement rates. As an HR leader, pulse surveys can provide you with the data you need to play a more strategic role.

6 Factors to Consider Before Using Pulse Surveys

Employee Pulse Surveys

When deciding to use pulse surveys for your company, we think it's essential for you to consider the following factors:

1. Support

As an HR leader, you will need executive support for your HR initiatives, but management buy-in will most likely occur after you have shown them the business impact of using pulse surveys. Let your business leaders know the kind of data they can expect and how it will help the organization.

2. Communication

After leaders endorse the use of pulse surveys, they need to encourage employees to participate. According to Gartner, once leaders can answer the question, "what's in it for me?", then half the battle for high response rates is already won.

  • Make employees understand why they should participate and how valuable the data will be to the organization.
  • Inform them of how and when you will invite them to participate. Employees should know what to expect while completing the surveys.
  • Let employees know who can access their responses and if they have the option to remain anonymous.

3. Transparency

To make your employees trust your feedback process and more willing to participate in future pulse surveys and employee engagement surveys, they will need to know each employee pulse survey's results and understand your company's improvement plans. Be prepared to bring employees up to speed with the employee pulse survey results, and solicit their involvement in planning the next steps.

4. Frequency

Determine how often you plan to administer the pulse surveys. Pulse surveys should be more frequent than once, meaning you may use them monthly, quarterly, or biannually. However, in doing so, ensure that your employees do not experience survey fatigue—when people stop responding to surveys because they think that their feedback isn't relevant. In determining the frequency of your pulse surveys, find out:

  • How likely is the data to change within a week, month, or quarter? Has a significant change, such as a restructuring or mass layoff, occurred in your company? Questions like these can help you determine the frequency of your pulse surveys.
  • How feasible is it to take meaningful action on results between surveys - Has the company made any progress since the last survey? Employees need to see such improvements before they can willingly participate in subsequent surveys.

5. Design

When designing pulse surveys, consider the following:

  • Survey length and duration - Keep the questions concise and straightforward. Consider asking 5 -15 questions that can be answered within 5 minutes.
  • Question structure - Consider using different survey questions such as multiple-choice, Likert scale, matrix, rating scale, or open-ended questions. Use your questions to ask for employee feedback around specific topics so that you can track changes over time. Topics may include workplace culture, diversity and inclusion, rewards and recognition, or work-life balance.

6. Survey Platform

Understand that there's no one-size-fits-all pulse survey platform, so what worked for a different company may not necessarily work for yours. When evaluating pulse survey platforms for your company, you should be asking these questions:

  • Is the platform cost-effective?
  • Is it user-friendly?
  • Is the design mobile responsive?
  • Does it ensure total anonymity for respondents?
  • Can it be customized to our needs?
  • Does it ensure data security and backup?
  • How easy is it to collect and analyze reports?

For example, our all-in-one engagement platform, Empuls, answers all the questions above and more. Through Empuls, you can efficiently run and manage pulse surveys, measure employee engagement in real-time, and turn feedback into actionable insights. It is one of the best pulse survey software for organizations to keep track of employees' pulse. Our platform also offers ready-to-use and research-backed survey templates for different aspects of the employee lifecycle, such as onboarding, learning, wellness, diversity, and exits.

We can configure the cadence, questions, and audience to meet your requirements. Most importantly, we ensure anonymity for all responses.

How to Administer Employee Pulse Surveys

Employee Pulse Surveys

Once you've considered all the factors above, you can then go ahead with administering your pulse survey in these simple steps:

  • Announce the survey: As discussed above, you can improve your chances of getting a high response rate by sharing all the details employees need to know about the survey. Preferably, you can have the CEO announce the survey for better effect.
  • Launch the survey: Send the survey link to employees. You can use both emails and text messaging so that they can use whichever is accessible.
  • Send reminders: It's necessary to remind employees during meetings or conversations so that the pulse survey remains a priority for them.
  • Share results and analyze findings: After closing the survey, you'll need to share the pulse survey results with employees and analyze the findings. You can create focus groups to identify themes, address specific issues, and brainstorm possible solutions for the organization.
  • Plan post-survey actions: This is the crux of the pulse survey process. Your executive team and employees will need to know the next steps, including a feasible timeline and the people involved. This stage will also determine the likelihood of having high response rates in the future.
  • Repeat: You will need to repeat the process regularly. However, remember to avoid survey fatigue. As mentioned earlier, employees would need to see improvements before they can willingly participate in subsequent surveys.

Check out the next part in our resource guide, which shares 15 pulse survey questions you should be asking your employees.

How Can Xoxoday Help You?

We offer employee engagement solutions to HR professionals through our products. Book a free live demo to get your tailored introduction to Empuls by Xoxoday. You will see our platform in action and learn more from us about how you can drive an engaged culture in your organization.

Originally published on
December 16, 2020
Updated on
December 28, 2020
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