The average employee survey response rate is around 30%, and only 20% of employees think their managers will even act on the results. There’s a clear problem here.  

We all know how vital employee feedback is to preserve and improve workplace wellbeing. But traditional employee engagement surveys are too infrequent, and the scope is often too general to provide workers with the customized wellbeing programming they deserve.  

Fortunately, pulse surveys can solve those problems — and go beyond. But they are still not without their own drawbacks. In this 5-minute guide, you will learn all you need to know about the pros and cons of pulse surveys and how they can help make your employee wellbeing and engagement strategies more effective and data-driven.  

What are employee pulse surveys?  

As their name suggests, employee pulse surveys are provided periodically throughout the year to ‘get a pulse’ on employee engagement, productivity, workload, and wellbeing. Unlike traditional annual surveys, pulse surveys are typically administered to smaller groups of employees, have a limited number of questions (around 10), and are focused on specific themes and topics.   

Since a pulse survey is so different from the annual employee engagement surveys your company might be used to, they have certain advantages and disadvantages compared to traditional methods.  

1. The Pros — The Advantages of Pulse Surveys  

Some of the most significant advantages of pulse questionnaires are:  

  • Greater frequency of check-ins  
  • Faster follow up times  
  • Enhanced specificity  

Let us dive a little deeper. 

Greater frequency of check-ins  

When employers consistently seek employee feedback, it demonstrates that employee wellbeing is a priority. When workers know that their voices are being heard, it increases engagement, productivity, and work satisfaction.   

Faster follow up  

Companies can only collect data on their teams’ wellbeing with an annual employee engagement survey once a year. Acting on that data is often not easy because the analysis can take up to a few weeks or months. Momentum and impact easily get lost when employees need to wait that long to hear about the results of their feedback and even more before any action is taken. With a pulse survey, you can implement changes more quickly and frequently throughout the year, measure the results, and iterate through data-driven wellbeing and engagement programs.  

Enhanced specificity  

Unlike an annual survey, pulse surveys are short and targeted so that employers can tailor their questionnaires to the needs of specific teams and departments. For example, a pulse check can be distributed among newly onboarded staff to understand how they feel and cope with the transition.   

2. The Cons — The Disadvantages of Pulse Surveys  

Some of the critical drawbacks of these types of surveys are:  

  • Overtargeting known issues  
  • Overly frequent surveys can cause fatigue  
  • If you fail to follow up, it will reflect poorly on you  

Let’s elaborate.  

Overtargeting known problems  

Pulse surveys are designed to probe at and monitor known issues in the workplace — their brevity, specificity, and frequency make them ideal for this purpose. However, a more traditional annual employee engagement survey would be a more robust choice to uncover hidden issues present company-wide. Such a survey can provide the data needed to form an action plan.  

Over frequency may cause survey fatigue  

Survey fatigue happens when employees receive surveys too often or with the same content repeatedly. While the brevity of a pulse survey usually boosts response rates, sending out too many could result in the opposite.  

Failing to follow up reflects poorly on the employer  

Suppose employees repeatedly bring up problems and provide feedback but do not see any tangible changes. In that case, it erodes trust in their employer. In the future, they’ll be less likely to provide accurate feedback, and you could lose valuable data on employee, team, and organizational wellbeing.  

Incorporate Traditional and Pulse Surveys into Your Wellbeing Strategy  

As with most things, HR professionals will see the best results when using pulse surveys in tandem with a traditional employee engagement survey.   

An annual employee survey is best used to diagnose general wellbeing issues across the company. Pulse surveys are better suited to following up and track development on those issues with the most affected teams and groups.   

The best of both worlds 

Modern technologies allow HR departments to offer an engaging surveying experience to employees. This type of innovation enables organizations to administer more company-wide surveys to understand their employees’ sentiments and personalized follow-up via pulse surveys. A great solution is to combine holistic company-wide surveys and detailed pulses in a digital wellbeing platform

Frequently Asked Questions  

How often should we do pulse surveys?  

Pulse surveys can be sent out monthly or weekly, depending on the frequency with which you wish to conduct them. Be careful not to send them out too often, as employees will likely tire of overly frequent surveys. Ideally, smart technology optimizes the survey load within your organization. 

Do pulse surveys work?  

Yes, pulse surveys work very well! They ensure employees feel cared for and heard, they offer real-time feedback to managers and employers, and they can focus on company wellbeing priorities. However, this is all dependent on companies acting on these survey results.  

What is the purpose of a pulse survey?  

A pulse survey is designed to ‘take the pulse’ of a specific group of employees on a particular topic or issue. They’re typically short (around ten questions). They are best suited to track progress on specific initiatives or monitor wellbeing issues regularly. 


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