How to Do an Employee Pulse Survey? (+ Free Template)
Understanding your workforce is one of the keys to driving employee engagement.
Employee pulse surveys are a quick way to get real-time feedback from your employees. They allow you to see trends over time and complement your annual engagement surveys.
In this guide, you’ll learn how to implement surveys to improve employee well-being, boost engagement, and decrease turnover in your organization.
🫀 What Is an Employee Pulse Survey
A pulse survey is an employee listening tool that helps People Ops professionals measure key indicators such as employee experience, engagement, and satisfaction.
Pulse surveys consist of a short set of questions sent on a determined frequency (also known as cadence.)
HR community manager, Nina Pączka, considers pulse surveys as an efficient tool to get employee feedback without leading to survey fatigue:
"Employee pulse surveys work. They are short, fast, and touch upon loose subjects such as employee satisfaction, work relationships, and work environment. Therefore, they don't lead to survey fatigue. Consequently, they have higher response rates and lower abandonment rates than comprehensive annual surveys."
You can use pulse surveys to:
- Measure engagement
- Understand how your employees feel about a topic
- Champion the voice of your employees
- Create initiatives to improve morale and engagement
- Gain insight into current issues your employees are experiencing
For example, many companies have turned to pulse surveys to assess the needs of their remote workforce to improve their employee experience.
What Can Employee Pulse Surveys Measure?
Pulse surveys allow you to tailor your questionnaire to understand what is happening in your organization.
You can get a pulse on how your employees feel about a merger, coming back to the office after working from home, or the new food provider.
Some key metrics you can track are:
- Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS)
- Workplace satisfaction
- Sense of belonging
- Perception of relationship with managers
- Growth & development
- Alignment with company culture
Types of Employee Pulse Surveys
Depending on your questions, you'll get insight into different perspectives your employees have of your company.
Some of the different types of surveys you can implement are:
- Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) — eNPS helps you understand how likely your employee is to recommend your workplace to their friends and colleagues. It measures engagement and the impact your company culture has on your employees.
- Employee Satisfaction — these surveys help you measure your employees’ views, attitudes, and perceptions of your organization.
- Employee Culture — culture surveys give you a feeling of how your employees align with your company's values and vision and how they perceive these values expressed within the workplace.
- Employee Compensation — they help you find out how satisfied employees are with their compensation. Don’t mix salary with benefits in the same question to get more meaningful insight.
- Employee Engagement — these surveys measure commitment, motivation, sense of purpose, and passion. It gives you insight into what drives engagement in your organization.
- Action Plan Follow-Up — they measure and track similar items to show progress in your action plans. They can help you see if you need to make a change in your initiatives.
- Change Surveys — they help you check in on how your employees feel when there is an organizational change. These surveys are increasingly popular now that many companies are going back to the office after a long time in a work from home scheme.
Employee Surveys VS Employee Engagement Surveys
Employee pulse surveys differ from annual employee engagement surveys in that they are shorter, more frequent, and focus on one specific goal.
Annual surveys are more comprehensive than pulse surveys.
Making them more time-consuming to create, administer, answer, and analyze.
Here’s an overview of the key differences between the two of them:
So, which one’s better?
Many companies skip annual surveys and replace them with more frequent pulse surveys.
However, while pulse surveys are great for giving you a real-time view of how you're doing on a specific topic, annual engagement surveys help you understand the overall health of your company.
So, you can use a blended approach and use both.
Pulse surveys are complementary to annual engagement surveys. You can use a pulse to track the effectiveness of the action plans you created from your annual survey and understand them.
❗️ Why Should You Use Employee Pulse Surveys?
When employees don't feel heard or valued, they become disengaged.
Yet, research conducted by The Workforce Institute at UKG indicates that 83% of UK employees don't feel heard. This isn't surprising considering that only 31% of employers conduct employee surveys—and those who do only check in once a year.
But that's not enough.
Pulse surveys help you stay in touch with your employees throughout the year. More importantly, this kind of "always-on" feedback strategy demonstrates that you care about your employees and their opinions.
Making an employee feel valued creates advocacy, commitment, and enthusiasm.
All of them lead to engagement.
Benefits of Employee Pulse Surveys
- They increase employee engagement — they can help you improve employee satisfaction, champion your employees' voice, and understand their motivational triggers.
- They give you more relevant feedback — pulse surveys give you a real-time look into how things are going. They allow you to track trends over time, help you measure how effective your initiatives are, and it even acts as an early warning system.
- They are more agile than traditional surveying methods — they help you quickly assess your organization's mood when facing unexpected change and uncertainty.
- They promote a happier, more positive culture — they help you remind your employees that management values their input. It also encourages open communication and nurtures a feedback culture within the company.
- They have higher response rates — since they're shorter and quicker to complete, employees are more likely to answer them than a comprehensive annual survey.
- They keep you in touch with sentiment — sentiments can shift throughout the year, and you can lose touch with your employees' perspectives if you limit your check-ins to once a year.
Disadvantages of Employee Pulse Surveys
- They can lose effectiveness — surveying too often can be discouraging, especially if you don’t back your surveying efforts with an action plan.
- They can trigger lack of trust — likewise, if there is poor communication and lack of action, it can make your employees feel like you’re working against them instead of in their favor.
- They can cause information overload — surveying too often without enough resources to process the information might get you burnt out.
- They don’t provide comprehensive insights — pulse surveys focus on one issue at a time, so they don’t allow you to see the big picture. Use them as a complement to annual surveys.
📊 Employee Pulse Surveys Benchmarks
How often should you run a pulse survey?
You can run pulse surveys on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis.
But is there a right cadence?
The most important thing you need to consider is that you should only survey as often as you can act on your data.
So, consider the time it will take you to analyze the data, create and deploy an action plan, and communicate the results to your organization.
If you're a team of one, you might want to space your surveys to a manageable cadence.
We recommend sending a pulse once a month.
The survey should check the same items to capture trends and understand if your action plans are effective.
How long should a pulse survey be?
Pulse surveys should be short and easy to answer.
The length of a pulse depends on how often you survey your employees. The shorter the cadence (or frequency), the shorter the survey should be.
If you're sending a survey every week, it should have 3-5 questions. A monthly survey may have up to 10 questions, and a quarterly survey should not have more than 15 questions.
Otherwise, your employees might be discouraged and avoid participating.
What is a good response rate?
How many people should you expect to participate in your survey?
According to Gartner, you shouldn't have a 100% participation rate because that would show your employees were coerced into participating, affecting your results.
Gartner recommends focusing on the replies you get and taking action on any issues that come up. As employees see change over time, you'll most likely see an increase in your participation rate.
Tip: "Focus on the replies you get and take action on the issues that come up."
That said, we recommend the following participation rates according to company size:
- Small companies (less than 100 employees): 75%
- Medium companies (less than 500 employees): 70%
- Large companies (over 500 employees): 65%
Keep in mind that higher participation rates reflect greater employee engagement.
To increase participation rates, improve your communication with your employees. Make sure that you clearly explain the process, the goals, and the advantages of participating in the survey.
And remember, the key to persuading someone is to show them what's in it for them.
If you show your employees how answering your survey will benefit them, they'll be more likely to respond.
How to fight survey fatigue?
Survey fatigue is the lack of motivation to participate in a survey.
The main reason employees become fatigued is that their organization didn't take action on their previous surveys.
Even if you did act on employee feedback—if your employees didn't notice or you didn't inform them about the changes you implemented, they will think you're just checking a box instead of having a genuine interest in their experience.
And since you're not interested in them, they're not interested in you (or your survey.)
So, what can you do to avoid survey fatigue?
The number one thing you must do is take action on the feedback they give you.
Let them know you heard them.
You can also consider:
- Make your survey easy to answer.
- Track how your employees perceive your efforts in your following survey.
- Include relevant topics that are affecting your employees.
📈 Employee Pulse Surveys Best Practices
Select the right timing and frequency
Schedule the surveys during projected low periods to make the most out of them. However, avoid the holiday season to have a higher participation rate.
It's also important to check in whenever you go through a tough situation, such as a business slump, reorganization, or downsizing. Not only does this boost morale, but asking for input during critical times can send a positive message to your team.
Finally, create a cadence combining pulse surveys and annual engagement surveys to get the best of both worlds.
Get buy-in from senior management
There is no point in conducting pulse surveys if you can't act on feedback. And you can't take action if you don't have leadership support.
Managers must not only be on board with surveying, but they need to actively participate, promote, and take part in creating and implementing action plans.
Your role in People Ops should be that of a facilitator rather than process owner.
To get leadership management on board, make sure you emphasize the ROI of pulse surveys. Make sure you explain how they align with your organization's business objectives, such as:
- Improving employee experience
- Reducing turnover
- Cutting recruitment costs
Generate a trusting environment
You won't get quality responses if your employees feel like you're trying to 'bust them' or get them in trouble through a survey.
Employees need to understand that pulses are meant to give them a voice, not spy on them.
Point out that surveys are anonymous and confidential. They can be hesitant to be honest and share their thoughts if they think you'll know who wrote what.
Make sure you have solid internal communications that explain why you're conducting the survey, what you'll do with the results, and how it will benefit them.
Create the perfect survey
The golden rule of employee surveys is to keep them short and simple, no longer than 15 questions. The shorter the cadence, the shorter the survey should be.
To ensure you have quality data, avoid grouping items in one question. For instance, instead of asking, "How satisfied are you with your salary and benefits?" ask about them in separate questions.
Pulse surveys benefit the most from questions you can answer on a scale from 1 to 5. However, you still need some qualitative data to explain where the quantitative data is coming from. So, ask primarily closed questions, but don't forget to include at least one open-ended one.
Finally, use neutral statements throughout the survey. If you make it a "my boss is great" party, your employees will be too positive instead of realistic, compromising the quality of your data.
Communicate with your employees
Even if you take action, it won't mean anything if your employees haven't noticed that the change came from their feedback.
You need to keep them informed before, during, and after the surveying process.
Transparent communication inspires trust, boosts engagement, and enhances authenticity.
Lastly, use multiple internal communication channels. Sure, email is great, but using Teams or Slack can increase your participation rate and keep everyone in the loop.
Sounds like a lot of work?
Zavvy helps you send your survey automatically and remind your employees to fill it out if they haven't.
Analyze survey results
Once you've gathered the data, you'll need to analyze it to understand what lies in the responses.
Identify trends and patterns in the responses to find relevant insights.
- How are your employees feeling?
- What is not working?
- Which areas have a positive perception?
- Is there anything you can learn from that?
- How do the results compare to the last survey?
- What trends are you seeing?
- Are your previous action plans effective?
Lastly, benchmark your organization's results to industry standards, similar organizations, or against national employee norms.
Establish action plans
Taking action on your survey results is the most critical part of your pulse survey strategy.
Once you've finished analyzing the results and insights, get together with managers and leaders to discuss how the results align with your organization's goals and priorities.
Ask questions such as:
- Is employee engagement on track with expectations?
- What is the most pressing issue at the moment?
- How can we improve employee experience with what we've learned?
Create an action plan and implement the changes based on the feedback.
Remember to communicate your action plans to your employees to fight survey fatigue and reap the benefits of pulse surveying.
➡️ Learn more about employee engagement action plans (and download a free template) here
❓ What Questions Should You Include? (With Examples)
There is no one right way to design a pulse survey.
Your questions should track topics that are critical to your organization's objectives.
Consider the overall employee experience and tailor the questions to understand how your employees feel about your company and its policies.
With that said, we understand that creating your first pulse survey might be overwhelming.
So, here are our favorite questions to ask in a monthly pulse:
KEY METRIC: RELATIONSHIP WITH MANAGER
- "I am satisfied with the frequency my manager and I communicate."
- "I feel comfortable giving opinions and feedback to my manager."
KEY METRIC: WELL-BEING
- "I have manageable stress at work."
- "I feel I can maintain a healthy balance between work and personal life."
KEY METRIC: PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT
- "The feedback I receive is frequent enough to help me understand how I can improve."
- "My company contributes to my development."
KEY METRIC: ALIGNMENT
- "I understand my company's mission and goals."
- "I feel that my individual goals strongly align with our team goals."
KEY METRIC: eNPS
- "How likely are you to recommend this workplace to a friend or colleague?"
KEY METRIC: OPEN-ENDED QUESTION
- "What should my company start doing/keep doing/stop doing?"
Need a ready-to-use survey template? Download it here.
🏢 Employee Pulse Surveys: A (Mini) Case Study
Maciek Kubiak, Head of People at PhotoAiD, shared with us how Pulse Surveys helped his team improve motivation and keep high engagement rates.
He explained that employee pulse surveys had a "tremendously positive impact" on their company.
"We've used employee feedback to make changes that have improved employee satisfaction and productivity. We've also adjusted our hiring practices to bring in new employees who are a good fit for our company culture and who will be productive members of our team. Overall, employee pulse surveys have been instrumental in helping us build a top-notch team of employees and creating a positive work environment."
- Maciek Kubiak, Head of People at PhotoAiD.
During the first round of pulse surveys, the team at PhotoAiD made a discovery:
"Our employees were feeling low motivation because of the monotony or repetitiveness of their jobs," Maciek stated, "the data showed that 63% of our employees found that their jobs lead to too many repetitive tasks, and that stopped them from learning and acquiring new competencies."
They needed to take action and tackle the issue before it escalated.
So, how did they tackle boredom?
"We asked managers to mix it up and let employees within teams and across related teams try different tasks and jobs for a whole quarter," Maciek said. "It really helped widen the scope of skills in many of our employees and keep high engagement rates and motivation."
After four months of "mixing it up," only 24% of employees found their jobs repetitive.
📝 Free Employee Pulse Surveys Templates You Can Copy
Designing a pulse survey and a dashboard that allows you to visualize the results is time-consuming and even overwhelming if it's the first time you're conducting the survey.
💬 Collecting your data
To help you get started, we've put together a 10 question survey that measures:
- Relationship with manager
- Personal development
And it has one open question to give you more insight into your employee's opinions.
➡️ Get your free copy here.
But that's not it.
📊 Visualizing the insights
We've also linked it to a Google Data Studio dashboard to visualize your data and better understand the results behind it.
➡️ Get your free copy here.
Pro Tip: Use Zavvy to automatically send your pulse survey every month. You can also set reminders via Slack to encourage a higher response rate.
➡️ Engage Your Employees With Pulse Surveys
Employee pulse surveys help you listen to and understand your employees' voice, allowing you to improve employee experience and keep employees happy, engaged, and productive.
Remember that taking action upon findings and clearly communicating with your employees is key to a successful surveying strategy.
And the best way to communicate with your employees?
Automated and through different channels.
Need a hand implementing surveys? Automate your surveying process and improve employee experience with a few clicks with Zavvy. Book a demo today and keep everyone in the loop.