Your Pulse to Employees’ Hearts

How and why does pulse increase employee engagement and drive a better company culture? A guide towards shorter surveys and smarter data.

pulse survey

How do I keep my employees engaged? A million-dollar question and an answer to kill for, right? We are never short of research, articles, tools, and products. Heck, there are companies with their sole mission and vision to aid employee engagement.

How do I keep employees involved? Are they happy? Do they want more feedback? The questions are endless, and the answer is just one-


But isn’t pulsing just another survey? Not exactly.

So what is a pulse? It is a pulse if-

  • It is Short: You don’t want 5 pages of survey unexpectedly on a Tuesday morning, right? Pulses are 2-4 questions that are easy to complete.
  • Frequent: This mini-survey will pop up once or twice a month. Thus, it is more frequent than traditional yearly employee engagement surveys or feedback sessions.
  • Measures Metric: It usually aims to measure a quantifiable metric over a period of time. (e.g., measuring the effectiveness of the team in April).

“My company has a yearly employee engagement survey. Why would I choose these mini questions over my employee engagement survey?”

The pitfalls of traditional surveys

When it comes to yearly employee engagement, you may have faced certain tedious, recurring issues:  surveys ignored by employees, missing responses, no honest responses, half-hearted ratings, or the same ‘strongly agree’ to every question? You’re not alone.

Employees despise surveys, especially ones which are 5 pages long and with a deadline but mainly because they believe that their responses aren’t going to lead to any tangible change. Longer surveys mean more practice and fatigue effects.

An annual survey with 60 questions sent to 500 employees is a chaotic process. Next,  someone will have to read and assess all these 30000 responses, desperately waddling through searching for some golden responses to work with. 

The result? 

Skewed data, apathetic responses, dropouts, and incomplete data for companies.

No actual data to work with→ No solutions →No tangible results→ Unhappy, frustrated employees → More response dropouts→ No data.

It’s a loop. Like a nasty debt trap. One that you don’t want to get sucked into.

This is why short, frequent pulses are beneficial to both employees and employers. The limited number of questions allows employees to be more thoughtful and leads to higher response rates (Kost et al., 2018). Fewer questions prevent the loop- thus, it can help quickly pinpoint trouble areas to work on.

Thus, shorter surveys are comprehensive, readily filled, and often viewed as a welcome break rather than an obligation. On the other side, shorter surveys are comprehensive, more manageable, and informative for employers, thus increasing actionability.

Look at it like this; pulses will act like your in-house diagnostician helping you solve problems step by step rather than plunging yourself into a data overload.

The promise of Pulsing (P+U+L+S+I+N+G)

Pick up the pace’ (Frequency): 

More than half of respondents (58%), both leaders and individual contributors, say they wish their company conducted surveys more frequently (Achiever’s Culture Report). Pulses are your answer to capture an employee’s mood as and when you want. This helps combat the recency effect of the bi-yearly regular engagement surveys.

U can’t improve what you cannot measure’ (Metrics): 

Give each metric the attention it deserves. Rather than cramming 10 different metrics in one survey, pulses help you tackle one metric at a time. 

For example: If your goal is to measure team effectiveness in 1 month, you can send out a small pulse measuring different attributes under team effectiveness (e.g., interpersonal relationship, communication, etc.). This lets you chunk information into smaller parts, making the process more quantifiable and actionable. You can also use these metrics to understand what works the best for your team.

Love to share (Share the feedback):

It sounds obvious, but employees cannot solve problems if they are not even aware of it. Schedule regular sharing sessions to keep everyone aware of the feedback. Sharing pulse feedback is an excellent opportunity to make this happen. 

When data is shared, and employee suggestions are implemented, they feel valued. You can use pulses to brainstorm and gather recommendations and employee opinions. This crowd-sourced approach will give you ideas you wouldn’t have thought of and increase the chances of adopting the solutions. After all, if employees came up with the idea, they are more inclined to like it.

Smart Scaling:

Arguably, the best part about pulses is that it allows managers to customize responses to suit the goal. Instead of sticking to traditional scales (e.g., yes/no), pulses enable different types of scaling choices: Binary (Yes/No), Rating (1-10, Likert scale), MCQ’s or Open text. 

Thus, managers can customize responses and realize the ‘degree’ of the employee responses. e.g., Instead of asking, ‘would you recommend our organization to friends?’ Yes/ No. You can get the extent or degree of the yes or no by asking, ‘On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend our organization to friends? This leads to deeper, better insights.

Increase Engagement:

The Harvard Business Review Analytic Services surveyed more than 500 business executives, and “71% of the respondents [ranked] employee engagement as very important to achieving overall business success.” 

Ever wondered what exactly is this engagement giving you?

  • Productivity– 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged at work, and companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share. (Analytics and Tools to Transform Your Workplace Gallup). Look at it like this; It’s basically like, eating candy when you want one vs someone forcing you to eat one. Which one would you like better? Similarly, more engagement= more voluntary involvement= more productivity= better results.
  • Well-being– 89% of workers at companies that support well-being initiatives are more likely to recommend their company as an excellent place to work. (APA) Employee well-being is often reflected via organizational climate and culture—happier employees= better work.
  • Mood– Just like a cold, employee moods are often contagious and a neglected concept. Negative affect or unhappy mood can increase absenteeism, increase workplace conflicts, and thus reduce productivity. On the other hand, happy people were 31% more productive than others. Pulses can help managers check-in employee moods, attitudes and set up 1:1 meetings when needed.

Not ‘who’ but ‘what’ (Anonymity):

Anonymity can be a compelling feature if wielded well. A study noted that three-quarters (77%) of respondents would be more honest in a survey than in a conversation with their manager. Your company may have the best open-door policy, but how many employees are willing to open that door? 

When you know someone has the power to make or break your career, you will avoid offending them. In that case, anonymous pulses can help capture honest answers without any disguise. But as a manager, it’s your responsibility to focus on the ‘what’ and not ‘who.’ What could work is simple- strong opinions, loosely held.

Good’ conversations: 

Pulses give you the liberty of asking any ad-hoc or bonus questions which can be quirky and engaging, such as ‘what do you think should be the company theme song?’ or ‘If you could get a new skill in 10 minutes, what would it be?’. 

Questions like these elevate mood, build trust, increase employee participation, and most importantly, bring a humane element into the organizations. Pulses should be a way to begin a conversation or feedback, not end it.

Final thoughts

Pulse surveys are an organizational breakthrough towards faster, flexible, and data-driven management. Understanding your employees is the first step towards building authentic relationships. 

Instead of a complicated excel sheet, pulses let you take a picture and get a snapshot image of what engagement really looks like for the company. It’s a revolution towards quicker, better engagement at your fingertips.

How Well Do You Know Your Team?

Anushka Vaishampayan

Yes, I study Psychology. No, I cannot read minds.

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