The HR's Guide to Pulse Surveys for Employee Engagement

If you're looking to improve employee engagement, you're in the right place. Read this quick guide to make the most of your staff pulse survey, track engagement levels, and understand if your action plans are working.

Picture this. You’re a Senior Project Manager, Software Engineer, or Cloud Solution Architect at Microsoft.

You walk through the door at 9am, or log on remotely from home through your company laptop, and receive a survey from your HR department.

The survey has a few questions asking about your experience at Microsoft.

Sounds par for the course for a Fortune 500 company, right?

It does until you learn that Microsoft sends these surveys to some their employees every day.

If you’re a tech company, consulting firm, or any other high-performance business, you understand how essential high employee engagement is to your company’s success.

Microsoft certainly does.

But what exactly is a pulse survey? Aren’t annual engagement surveys best practice and presumably enough?

And even if you want to take a page out of Microsoft’s book – it is a trillion-dollar company, after all – how do you even get started?

Buckle up. We’re about to introduce you to the wonderful world of pulse surveys.

In this article you will find:

What is a pulse survey?

A pulse survey (also known as a "pulse check survey") is a short and regular set of questions sent to employees to provide useful information on employee satisfaction and engagement.

As the term “pulse” suggests, a pulse survey is carried out to continuously gain employees' views on their work experience and identify issues they're having right now.

Some companies distribute them once a week, others every two weeks, and others once a month. Generally speaking, they should be distributed at least once a month, at minimum, to deliver value.

How to improve employee engagement using pulse surveys

Employee engagement isn't something that you build and then stop working on.

You have to be in constant communication with your employees to make sure their expectations are met and they're currently happy at your organization.

This is especially true during times of change.

Here's how we can help you improve employee engagement:

Every week, month or quarter (based on your preference), Sparkbay will send a pulse survey to your employees.

These pulse surveys include questions directly related to engagement, as well as professional growth, relationship with manager and peers, and accomplishment (all of which are clear indicators of engagement at both the team and organizational level).

Sparkbay then gathers the responses and, for each category, gives team managers and HR leaders a clear report with a score out of 10.

With the help of these reports, you’re able to track employee engagement in real-time, and understand your top improvement opportunities.

You can also segment your data based on manager, department, tenure and more, or benchmark yourself against companies in the same industry as yours using our proprietary dataset.

We also created a library of easy-to-implement actions from the most successful organizations to help you and your team managers learn and improve.

It’s a great way to build a culture of constant improvement, and give employees a voice that gets heard and acted on.

<>If you're interested in learning how Sparkbay can help you improve employee engagement, you can click here for a demo or here to try Sparkbay for free.

Pulse surveys vs annual surveys?

Annual surveys vs pulse surveys

Annual surveys gauge organizational health at a specific point in time while pulse surveys help you identify and measure trends.

Think about it this way.

You wouldn’t measure your sales metrics once a year. You wouldn’t even measure them twice a year. You measure them per sales period or per financial quarter. The same logic should be applied to measuring employee engagement .

Why? Because what gets measured gets managed.

This is incredibly important for HR departments who want to continually improve and refine their employee engagement initiatives.

Pulse surveys are a straightforward way to chart how company changes affect employee engagement.

Pulse surveys also have higher completion rates than traditional annual satisfaction surveys. Annual survey response rates sit at around 30% to 40%.

Meanwhile, pulse surveys enjoy a healthier response rate of 90% or higher .

This is because pulse surveys are shorter and employees aren’t as prone to survey fatigue.

Survey fatigue is when employees feel exhausted by surveys and either avoid doing them or engage in behaviour that impacts your survey results like straight-lining or satisficing.

Understandably, employees trying to get work done don’t prioritize 40-minute long annual surveys.

Plus, thanks thanks to their ability to capture trends, employee pulse surveys are the only surveys that can predict turnover risk:

Combining turnover data with answers from recently departed employees, solutions such as Sparkbay can uncover the reasons behind high turnover and predict which employee segments are at an increased risk of turnover.

How can pulse surveys help HR leaders improve the employee experience?

Pulse surveys give HR directors complete control over the employee lifecycle, which consists of 5 stages: recruitment, onboarding, development, retention, and offboarding.

Onboarding phase: better integrate employees with pulse surveys

Once an employee completes the recruitment phase, they move on to the onboarding stage.

Companies underestimate the importance of the onboarding stage at their peril. About 20% of employees leave a company within the first 45 days of employment, and this is often due to a poor onboarding process.

A pulse survey can help HR identify specific problem areas in their onboarding process.

Examples of possible staff pulse survey insights into the onboarding process include:

  • Employees felt like their first day or week on the job was chaotic.
  • Employees did not know what was expected of them within the first three months.
  • Employees on cross-functional teams did not have time to meet the people from other teams that they would be working with frequently.

Without a strong onboarding process, initial excitement about a job can quickly evaporate, leaving employees eager to return to the familiarity of their old job.

And if they are highly qualified and highly skilled, those employers will be waiting to take them back with open arms.

Your current employees are a treasure trove of information. Use pulse surveys to discover what they would have liked to experience as a new starter. Then use those insights to design a stronger, more effective onboarding process.

Development phase: improving training with pulse surveys

The development stage of the employee life cycle is another area where employee pulse surveys deliver significant value.

During the development stage, employees are trained, receive feedback on their performance, and engage in one-on-one meetings with their manager. They gain a better understanding of their team’s goals and the organization’s larger goals.

Pulse surveys can help HR leaders understand how well this process is structured.

  • Do employees feel like they receive enough training?
  • Do they wish they had access to more resources or people within the business to complete their job more effectively?
  • Do they want more frequent one-on-one meetings with their managers?

These pulse surveys can be distributed to employees who have recently finished the onboarding stage.

Retention phase: improving employee engagement with pulse surveys

Finally, we arrive at the retention stage of the employee lifecycle. This is the stage that receives the most attention during conversations about employee engagement and employee retention.

Employees who are in the retention stage have a solid understanding of their role and know where to go to access the resources they need.

At this stage, the job of HR teams is to cultivate and maintain an environment that encourages these employees to stay.

With pulse surveys, you can measure a number of factors such as:

  • How employees feel about the company’s overall culture
  • Whether employees feel their company prioritizes diversity and inclusion
  • Whether employees feel like there are advancement opportunities within the organization
  • Whether employees feel they have access to challenging projects and opportunities

Above all, pulse surveys allow for frequent check-ins, so that HR leaders don’t learn about a toxic work environment or a perceived lack of opportunities only after their top performers have left.

Is your organization ready for pulse surveys?

Is your organization ready for pulse surveys?

The good news is that pulse surveys can be insightful whether you have a lot of pre-existing survey info on your employees or none at all.

But it is important to check that your business leaders and HR team share the same attitude about how to roll out employee pulse surveys.

The following organizational conditions are crucial for pulse surveys to be successful:

Employees must understand that pulse surveys are meant to give them a voice, not to “spy” on them

Without the right messaging, pulse surveys can feel intrusive and interruptive.

Your company should execute a solid internal communications campaign that lets employees know that the purpose of the pulse survey is to give them a voice and provide up to date info on the company’s culture.

Sparkbay allows us to get honest employee feedback. The insights we get around employee engagement enable us to be more proactive and fuel quality conversations.

How Exegy® used a data-driven approach to improve engagement with Sparkbay

Learn more

Managers must encourage their teams to participate, not just the HR department

If the HR department is the only department encouraging employees to complete pulse surveys, they’re bound to fail.

There should be buy-in from across the business. Managers, directors, and senior leaders should all be emphasizing the importance of the pulse survey.

Periodical emails from someone as high up as the CEO, reminding employees of the importance of pulse surveys, can go a long way, too.

Senior leaders must act on feedback to avoid undermining the value of surveys and creating survey fatigue

No one likes answering the same question over and over again.

If employees continuously respond to pulse surveys and witness no changes, they’ll either stop taking them seriously or stop taking them full stop.

Senior leaders should step up with impactful changes that show participating in pulse surveys precipitates change.

Pulse surveys empower HR leaders to quantify their work & demonstrate impact

Finally, pulse surveys allow HR leaders to quantify their work.

HR leaders who want to claim their seat at the table must be able to tie positive company traits like high retention rates, reduced turnover, and increased productivity back to their initiatives.

Pulse surveys provide the granular data HR teams need to accomplish this.

They can chart the impact of HR actions by showing how HR used quantitative pulse survey methods to identify a problem, clarify it, find a suitable solution, and then optimize the solution to produce a successful outcome.

If you're interested in learning how Sparkbay can help you improve employee engagement, you can click here for a demo.