How Employee Pulse Surveys Drive Engagement and Build a Better Workplace

Lisa Ardill

Content Editor at Workvivo

8 Oct 2023

Organizations are great at giving feedback to their employees, and most have some mechanism in place to provide it on a regular basis (like annual performance evaluations). And that feedback makes a difference for employees: Gallup finds that 84% of highly engaged employees say that getting feedback is a critical contributor to their engagement level.

But what about the other way around?

It turns out that not nearly as many organizations have systems for receiving employee feedback. Many experts in the field recommend that you should collect feedback from employees at least once per year – but that’s just not enough to help employees feel like their concerns matter to company leadership. 

That’s where pulse surveys come into play. They’re a valuable tool for driving engagement and gathering insights along the way. 

Below, we’ll show you how pulse surveys work, and how you can use them to drive engagement and build a better workplace.

What is an employee pulse survey?

Employee pulse surveys are supposed to be quick, short surveys that you send out to your staff regularly – usually monthly or quarterly. It’s kind of like holding a check-in meeting, but even quicker and easier. The idea is to quickly check key factors like overall employee satisfaction and satisfaction with jobs, communication, and work environment.

Because these surveys are supposed to be short and sweet, most employers limit them to between five and 15 questions so that they’re quick and easy to complete and return. Their purpose is to get honest feedback from employees on areas that need improvement.

Why your organization should use pulse surveys

As we’ve mentioned, many companies invest in getting employee feedback once every year or so, whereas pulse surveys happen on a much more frequent cadence. 

Why? Because a year is too long to wait to correct potential problems. Pulse surveys allow you to spot issues before they have the chance to snowball and do serious damage to your organization.

Below, we’ll show you some of the top reasons why you should use pulse surveys.

Identifying areas of improvement

The biggest reason to use pulse surveys is to identify areas that need to be improved. Questions should cover topics like employee satisfaction, satisfaction with individual roles, teamwork, collaboration, and management. Conduct pulse surveys regularly, and if you start to notice a decline in satisfaction in any of these areas, you’ll quickly learn which areas to look into to create a better, more hospitable workplace.

Gathering feedback on company initiatives

Pulse surveys are also a great way to gauge how employees are receiving new company initiatives. Whenever your organization institutes a new policy or initiative, be sure that your next pulse surveys include a question or two about it so that you can understand how the changes make people feel.

Fostering open communication

A survey by Atlassian discovered that 80% of employees who experience open communication at work also report high emotional wellbeing. That’s another reason why pulse surveys are crucial: they allow people to express their opinions and be heard, fostering that essential sense of openness.

Questions to ask on pulse surveys

You can ask three primary types of questions in pulse check surveys. Learn how and when to use these types of questions below – and get real example questions to get you started.

Outcome questions

Outcome questions aim to measure the reaction to a new policy or initiative. Ask these questions in successive pulse surveys to gauge trends or see a new initiative’s impact over time. It’s often best to use a scale on this type of question to understand the strength of the sentiment behind the answers you receive for specific topics.

Example questions:

  • Are newly launched tools meeting your needs for functionality?
  • Has X new initiative improved your remote work workflow?
  • On a scale of one to 10, how do you feel about the new workplace culture initiative?

Driver questions

Driver questions should help you determine the key drivers behind the issues you are trying to measure. For example, if there is an overall decline in job satisfaction, what is causing it? A lack of communication? Workloads that are too high? Or another issue? Driver questions will help you identify these things to find solutions.

Example questions:

  • Agree or disagree: HR leaders are open and honest with us.
  • What level of confidence do you have in your manager’s integrity?
  • Agree or disagree: I am in a role that uses my skills well.

Open-text questions

This is the ‘essay’ portion of the pulse survey. Open-text questions allow employees to write their own responses. This is a great way for employers to gain deeper, more valuable insights compared to answers rated on a numerical scale.

When you design these questions, keep response rates in mind. Don’t ask employees to write anything lengthy. Instead, invite employees to share quick, relevant feedback. You can always follow up later if you’d like to learn more.

Example questions:

  • How satisfied are you with the personal development opportunities available in your position?
  • How satisfied are you with your ability to effectively manage your work-life balance?
  • What can we do to help you improve employee wellbeing?

The benefits of pulse surveys

When you send out pulse surveys regularly – and get excellent survey response rates – there are many benefits. Not only will you get insights into employees’ views, but you’ll see an increase in engagement and other crucial factors behind overall employee satisfaction. Let’s take a look at the top benefits in the sections below.

Increased employee engagement

Greater employee engagement is one of the most significant advantages. Pulse surveys give people a chance to air their concerns – an important way to let people know that their feelings and opinions are valued. When you demonstrate that you value people, engagement levels almost always rise.

Greater transparency

A lack of transparency is often a big complaint at some companies – to the point that it can affect employee retention when things are too opaque. 

Pulse surveys help you be more transparent about new policies and initiatives while giving employees a chance to provide feedback. These kinds of open internal communications help build trust between employees and employers.

Better accountability

Regular employee engagement surveys help you to stay accountable. Generally, when you receive survey results, it’s time to create an action plan to hopefully improve on those results during the next survey. 

Since you don’t want to see worsening survey results, scheduling monthly or quarterly surveys helps keep you on track when implementing your action plan.

More positive company culture

Ultimately, employee engagement surveys are all about driving higher levels of engagement and creating a better employee experience – which helps you build a more positive company culture. 

Just make sure you’re acting on the feedback you receive (since giving the impression that you’re ignoring feedback can actually worsen company culture and employee sentiment), and avoid sending out so many surveys that employees wind up with survey fatigue.

Best practices for effective pulse surveys

Ready to ramp up your survey game? Start with the right survey software tools to make it easy to send out questionnaires. Once you have that in place, we have a few best practices to help you engage respondents and get the most from your survey data.

1. Keep it short and establish a survey cadence

The last thing you want is to build survey fatigue among your employees. Too many surveys or too much work to fill out surveys will lead to declining numbers of respondents and lower quality data.

To get the most from your surveys, start by establishing a cadence – monthly or quarterly. Keep the survey short and to the point, and limit the number of open-ended questions so employees don’t have to spend too much time typing out responses.

2. Communicate the purpose and benefits of the survey

When you send out pulse surveys, make sure that people know why you’re doing it. Let them know what metrics you’re measuring and what people stand to gain from responding. 

For example, if your goal is to improve the employee onboarding process, let people know that – and tell them how their answers will help you create a better onboarding experience.

3. Ensure anonymity and confidentiality

Pulse survey questions should allow people to speak their true thoughts, whether they’re positive or negative. However, people will often hesitate to share negative feedback for fear of repercussions. 

Ensure anonymity and confidentiality so that people can share what they’re thinking and feeling. That will help you get the most honest, accurate data possible.

4. Ask the right questions

Asking the right questions is crucial. Before you send out a survey, make sure that you have specific topics in mind that you’d like to get feedback on. From there, build successive surveys so that you can go over current and previous surveys to measure how things have changed over time.

5. Regularly review and act on feedback

All the surveys in the world won’t do you any good if you don’t review them and act on the feedback you receive. In fact, not acting on survey feedback could actually do more harm than good. 

When employees see positive changes due to the feedback they’ve offered, they’ll feel validated and empowered. But, when nothing comes of the feedback they’ve taken the time to give, they’ll feel ignored and unappreciated.

How Employee Surveys by Workvivo boost employee engagement

Workvivo’s Employee Survey tool provides a powerful way for organizations and leadership teams to gauge employee opinion, feedback, and sentiment in real time.

Historically, organizations have deployed annual engagement surveys once a year or maybe quarterly, with most of the survey questions pivoting around company strategy, leadership, and role. These surveys can serve a purpose, but can also be clunky, time consuming, and burdensome for employees to complete. They are also a heavy lift in terms of data analysis and presentation.

We deliver our Employee Surveys via an interactive activity feed within the Workvivo platform. They’re multi-dimensional, often asking questions about the personal side of the individuals in your workplace.

Having the survey woven into the fabric of your organization’s central communication platform boosts the response rate and makes responding easier for the employee.

What’s more, with Workvivo’s analytics function, you can analyze behaviors such as active users, logins, posts, likes, shout-outs, and comments to see trends over time by location, department, or time of day.

Workvivo surveys can be totally customized, and you can augment your questions from a comprehensive library of recommended survey questions from our customer community. That helps you get surveys right, sending a strong message to your workforce that you recognize them as individuals and act on their feedback to improve the work environment.

Focused survey feedback can also provide a powerful means for employees to contribute to the bigger company picture, unlocking creative potential that may not have a vehicle to show itself otherwise. This all contributes to a more positive and productive culture where employees, and their opinions, are valued.

Transform the way you track employee engagement with Workvivo

Looking for a fantastic pulse survey tool plus an employee engagement platform all in one? Workvivo is what you need. Use our survey templates and interactive platform to ask the right questions – and make it easy to respond – all while sharing company information and the essentials your employees need to be productive.

Sign up here to request a demo and learn what Workvivo can do for you.