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Understanding Pulse Surveys

Pulse surveys are rising in popularity as an employee feedback tool for HR teams. These short surveys are designed to gather ongoing feedback from employees to help your organization gain insights, track goals, and get a sense of the overall pulse of the organization. Think of pulse surveys as a quick check-in with your employees. If you are considering pulse surveys we strongly recommend reading the following guide.

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Characteristics of Pulse Surveys

Pulse surveys can mean many different things and are implemented in a variety of ways across organizations. Having said that, there are several characteristics that pulse surveys commonly share:

Pulse surveys are brief. In general these surveys should not have more than 15 to 20 questions. Often, 5 to 10 questions is recommended.
Related to the above note, these surveys need to be quick-to-complete (they should take employees around five minutes or less). Any longer than that and you are likely to see decreased participation from employees.
They are sent out on a regular basis (monthly, quarterly). Data is collected over time to better visualize trends and track progress.
Pulse surveys include a mix of quantitative and qualitative (open-ended) questions. Keep in mind that open-ended questions are more time consuming to answer! You probably should not ask more than one of these question types.

Before you get started, you should determine both the topic(s) that you want to track as well as the frequency with which you will send out your survey. Depending on the topic, you may not need to solicit feedback each month. You can also adjust the frequency as needed based on feedback or need.

Example One: Simple Pulse Survey

A common implementation of pulse surveys utilizes a handful of questions that remain unchanged for the duration of the survey.

These are highly focused surveys that usually cover a single topic such as Professional Growth, Teamwork, or track employee reaction to a particular initiative or internal project.
Because the questions remain unchanged, you may want to run these types of pulse surveys less frequently, perhaps quarterly rather than monthly, to avoid survey fatigue.

Example Two: Modified Pulse Survey

Another common implementation of pulse surveys utilizes a question library.

For example, you might have a pulse survey that runs monthly.
Perhaps the survey has twenty total questions, but each month of the survey only five of those questions are sent out to employees.
Each set of five questions is focused around a different topic; month one might be overall employee engagement/culture questions, month two might be team/department specific questions, and so on.
This type of pulse survey allows you to gather data on a wider set of topics while also combatting survey fatigue since employees are not answering the same questions each month when the survey is sent out.

Updated on: 06/06/2024

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