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GuidesEmployee experienceWhat is a pulse survey?

What is a pulse survey?

Last updated

26 June 2023


Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Lara Leganger

You probably spend most of your energy on keeping your business’s external customers happy, which makes sense. They are the ones paying the bills, after all. But keeping your internal customers happy is another key factor for business success. It can be easily overlooked in a busy business environment. Knowing how happy and engaged your employees are can help you determine what you are doing right and what you could do better.

Organizations used to rely on an annual employee survey to measure job satisfaction and engagement levels. But yearly surveys are slow, cumbersome, and expensive, and they rarely yield many actionable results.

These surveys also have a poor average participation rate of 30–40%, so you might not be getting feedback from the employees who need support most. Plus, business moves fast. The challenges your employees face today will move just as quickly, and an annual survey doesn’t effectively capture information on the challenges they face right now.

Pulse surveys are a more agile approach. These fast, regular surveys can help you understand and optimize employee engagement and communication.

Learn more about what they are, what questions you should be asking, and how to effectively use pulse surveys within your organization.

What is a pulse survey?

A pulse survey is a short questionnaire sent to employees regularly. It’s designed to take the “pulse” of the organization by checking in with your team to collect feedback, measure engagement levels, and identify areas for improvement.

Unlike traditional annual surveys, the pulse survey is a quick, lightweight way to get real-time insights into the company culture.

This type of survey is not strictly anonymous. Identifying the person’s team, job role, or immediate supervisor may be necessary to make the most of their feedback. However, having a layer of anonymity can encourage team members to answer more truthfully and speak more freely in their responses.

Why use pulse surveys?

A pulse survey can help you optimize communication within your business. It’s a more agile way to learn about and respond to internal issues.

Regularly asking for feedback from your teams creates an open, transparent, and inclusive work environment. The pulse survey can foster trust, boost morale, and encourage active participation within the company. Leadership is encouraged to listen to team members’ voices and take the time to understand their needs. The surveys also make it easier to take action on the things hindering your teams right now instead of what may have been an issue six months ago.

Regularly checking in can also facilitate tracking progress over time. You can get immediate feedback on initiatives and see how they impact your team now, a week from now, and a month from now.

You get timely insights to continuously improve employee engagement and communication instead of making one large effort once a year after an annual survey. You can make data-driven decisions quickly and adapt to changing circumstances, making the business more agile.

Pulse surveys also allow you to get more granular with your insights, so you can take a deep dive into specific areas of the business and identify internal strengths, weaknesses, and improvement opportunities.

What can pulse surveys measure?

Pulse surveys are incredibly versatile. You can use them in various scenarios to measure important metrics, such as:

  • Employee satisfaction

  • Engagement levels

  • Team dynamics

  • Communication effectiveness

  • Leadership effectiveness

  • Organizational alignment

  • Training and development needs

  • Employee well-being

Pulse surveys can help, whether you want to assess the impact of recent changes, measure a new initiative’s success, or identify opportunities for training and development. By regularly measuring and tracking these metrics, you can gain valuable insights that become your compass for making better data-driven decisions.

Tips for writing pulse survey questions

To write effective pulse survey questions that spark engagement and capture the data you need, you must combine clarity, relevance, and creativity.

Here are a few tips for crafting excellent pulse survey questions:

  • Start with the big picture. Begin your survey with broad questions that capture your team’s overall sentiment toward the organization. Try questions like, “How satisfied are you with your work environment?” or, “Do you feel valued for your contributions within the organization?

  • Dive into specifics. Follow your big-picture questions with others that address specific aspects of the workplace, like communication channels, collaboration tools, or team dynamics. You might ask, “How would you rate the effectiveness of our team meetings?” or, “Do you feel comfortable sharing ideas with your team?”

  • Use a mix of question types. Combine multiple choice, rating scales, and open-ended questions to gather feedback. This allows you to quantify responses while leaving room for more detailed explanations and feedback.

  • Seek actionable feedback. Frame your questions in a way that seeks specific suggestions for improvement. Ask for ideas that can help address particular areas, such as creating work–life balance or enhancing collaboration between departments. Encourage respondents to share their ideas and be prepared to implement them.

  • Avoid ambiguity. Clear and unambiguous questions help ensure the team understands the meaning of each question and can provide a reliable, honest answer. Avoid vague terms and keep your language concise and straightforward. If you offer response options, make them as simple and clear as possible.

What questions should a pulse survey include?

The questions you include on your pulse survey will depend on what information you want to gather. You might want to address specific issues within the company or ask team members how recent changes are impacting their work. The more you tailor the questions to your organization, the more impactful the insights will be.

Here are some common key areas covered by pulse surveys and some example pulse survey questions within those categories. You can customize the questions above based on your business goals and needs.

Employee satisfaction and engagement

  • On a scale of one to 10, with one being very unsatisfied and 10 being very satisfied, how satisfied are you with your current job role?

  • Are you given opportunities for professional growth and development?

  • How motivated do you feel to come to work each day?

Communication and collaboration

  • On a scale of one to 10, how would you rate the level of collaboration among different teams or departments?

  • Do you feel well-informed about important company updates and changes?

  • How would you improve communication within the organization?

Leadership and management

  • On a scale of one to 10, how would you rate your immediate supervisor or manager’s leadership abilities?

  • Are your goals communicated to you clearly?

  • What could leadership do better to support your professional growth?

Work–life balance

  • How would you rate your work–life balance on a scale of one to 10?

  • Are you given the necessary resources to maintain a healthy work–life balance?

  • What well-being initiatives or support would you like to see implemented within the organization?

Team dynamics

  • How would you rate the effectiveness of team meetings and discussions on a scale from one to 10?

  • Do you feel comfortable sharing your ideas and opinions with your team?

  • How would you describe your team members’ level of trust and cooperation?

How long should a pulse survey be?

Pulse surveys are designed to be quick and easy. They should respect your team’s time and be a simple task to mark off their to-do list.

Strive for brevity to maximize participation and completion rates. Aim for a survey duration of 5–10 minutes and ensure that respondents can provide thoughtful answers without feeling overwhelmed. Remember: the shorter the survey, the higher the engagement and the more data you’ll have to improve your organization.

How often should you use pulse surveys?

How often you send out a pulse survey depends on your organization and what data you are trying to collect from your teams.

Weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly surveys are common within organizations. If pulse surveys are new to your business, start by experimenting with different intervals to strike the right balance between capturing timely insights and avoiding survey fatigue (it’s a real thing!).

Regularity is vital to establishing a feedback loop and demonstrating your commitment to continuous improvement. But don’t send pulse surveys out so frequently that you can’t take meaningful action between each one. In this case, the survey may start to ring hollow for participants, and you’ll see engagement levels drop off.

Are you using pulse surveys in your organization?

Pulse surveys are an excellent tool for optimizing communication within an organization. They are so much more than a simple questionnaire. They are a way to take the heartbeat of your workforce and create an environment where everyone is heard and valued.

They enable you to gain valuable insight into your culture and how your teams feel and function. This approach fosters dialogue between leadership and team members and creates transparency and growth within the organization.

Create your own pulse survey and unlock the full potential of an active, engaged workforce within your organization.

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