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2024 Guide to Employee Pulse Surveys: Go from Buy-In to Execution and Analysis

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If you’re still relying on a single annual engagement survey or eNPS survey to gauge employee satisfaction, morale, and motivation then you’re operating less efficiently than you could be. Enter the employee pulse survey. Employee pulse surveys allow you to get a more frequent and lighter-touch read on how things are going. They also help you track performance on initiatives you’re implementing throughout the year. Sure, like any survey they have pros and cons. They may even require different degrees of buy-in depending on your organization, but they are helping lots of companies today – and you could be one of them! We’ll show you how.

What is an employee pulse survey?

An employee pulse survey is a quick, and regular survey sent to employees to gather feedback on various or specific aspects of the workplace experience. These surveys are shorter than a traditional survey. They range between 5 and 20 questions and can be sent weekly, monthly, or quarterly. This allows HR managers to continually monitor the workplace climate, identify emerging issues or trends, and make more regular modifications to plans in place.

A key benefit of pulse surveys is their real-time nature, giving HR managers and business leaders more frequent feedback allowing more continuous optimization of the employee experience to boost morale, productivity, engagement, and retention. With less data than a 100-question company wide survey, these pulse surveys are quicker to analyze and assess. They can fuel micro-changes to the long term decision-making process by HR and People leaders.

What are the objectives and outcomes of a pulse survey?

Some of the top objectives businesses have in sending employee pulse surveys are measuring ongoing employee engagement, tracking changes in employee sentiment on broad or specific topics, identifying new or emerging trends (positive or negative), or gathering feedback on initiatives that are actively in place – possibly as a result of a previous annual survey’s results.

A woman working at her computer in a home office

What makes a pulse survey a pulse survey


Pulse surveys are sent with notably greater frequency vs traditional surveys. The most common frequencies are weekly, monthly, or quarterly. Weekly surveys can run the risk of “survey fatigue” where employees feel like they’re getting asked too many questions too frequently, and quarterly surveys may start to miss feedback or trends.


Pulse survey length varies from company to company, and topic to topic. Generally the more frequent the survey is sent, the shorter the survey should be in length is a good rule of thumb to follow. In this case follow this suggestion:

  • Weekly surveys: 5-8 questions
  • Monthly surveys: 10-15 questions
  • Quarterly surveys: ~20 questions

Types of questions

Your questions can range from 1-5 rating questions like “how satisfied are you in your current role?” to agree/disagree rating questions such as “i feel satisfied with the options for learning and development offered within the company”. You can ask those same questions on an on-going basis, or, you may opt to ask about changes that have been implemented in the organization such as “are you satisfied with the new career training options being offered by the company?”. There are different approaches here, and if you use a survey platform they may have different approaches to this, or, you can use a survey creation tool of your own and take the approach you feel most comfortable with. 

Differences vs traditional surveys

The main differences of employee pulse surveys and traditional employee engagement surveys are:

  • Frequency and length – with traditional surveys being much longer, and occurring with lower frequency
  • Speed and agility – traditional surveys provide far more detail but with such a long time between feedback you will likely have to make greater changes to correct issues as things could have been existing or ongoing for months, quarters, or years
  • Focus and overall scope – pulse surveys can focus on immediate issues or things that are more timely in nature or need a lighter touch, whereas traditional surveys are going to cover a broader array of topics and try to get a much stronger sense for particulars.

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6 benefits of pulse surveys

1. Real-time feedback

Routine employee pulse surveys give you immediate feedback and improve company culture. You can implement changes quickly to show your staff they matter and that their feedback is leading to actual change. 

2. Improved communication

There’s often a gap between the management perspective and what’s happening on the front lines within the organization. These surveys could serve as an effective channel for honest communication between employees and leaders on a more regular basis.

3. Measurement over time vs one time

Another big benefit to these surveys, particularly if you ask an eNPS question in them as well, is that you get the benefit of measuring satisfaction over time, vs a single annual survey where other factors could significantly impact the score (were there layoffs recently? a data breach? some issues with management? etc). A more regular pulse check can help eliminate seasonal fluctuations from sinking (or inflating) your score.

4. Increased engagement

Employee pulse surveys allow employees to express their views freely and get involved and if they understand the feedback they share can help guide outcomes, they are more likely to participate.

5. Reduced turnover

Invest in your employees instead of constantly dealing with a revolving door. Turnover is costly for companies, and it’s a red flag for new talent coming to the organization if turnover rates are really high – especially if that feedback is left on sites like Glassdoor.

6. Cost-Effective

The benefits of employee pulse surveys far outweigh their cost and time to deliver. With software solutions that have pre-built surveys to use, the barrier to entry is low, and some of the costs can be low as well – or are included in your existing HR tech stack.

group of employees sitting at their desks working and looking frustrated

3 challenges with pulse surveys

1. Survey fatigue

Survey fatigue may be the most obvious risk associated with pulse surveys, especially if you have multiple in play at once on different topics. If you’re sending too many surveys, too frequently, employees could start to tune it out, or not see enough change occurring and feel that it’s leading to nothing. Try to ensure you balance the timing, frequency, and number of pulse surveys to avoid this. Having a tool in place that can help measure survey fatigue or alert you to thresholds could be good to explore as well.

2. Data overload

On the flip side, if you have too many surveys running, too frequently, you may get too much data to keep up with and you may struggle to implement all the items that need to be implemented or adjusted as a result of the data. To be mindful of this would be wise, and to that end you could ease into the number of surveys you run and stagger them over time to help both employees and HR manage them.

3. Implementation of changes

Survey data and feedback is great, but, if you never implement anything, what’s the point? Doing nothing with the insights could be worse than not even getting the insights altogether! Your employees are participating, and if you’re not matching their engagement, it could foster resentment and worsen any existing issues or worse, create new ones.

Step-by-step: How to implement and run pulse surveys

1. Making the case for surveys with leadership

Overall, when proposing this concept to leadership within the business, you should focus on demonstrating how these tools align with the organization’s broader business objectives. Here are a few ways to try and create a compelling business case to increase the chances of your plan coming to fruition:

  1. Link to business outcomes: show the link between employee feedback and KPIs such as productivity, retention rates, and profitability and cite how these metrics can be improved by investment in employee feedback and engagement programs – this can tie into more data-driven decisions to boost engagement rates and ideally seeing a boost in satisfaction rates, retention rates, and measurable productivity
  2. Highlight competitive advantages: focus on how your company can stay ahead of competition by staying more in sync with its employees and more quickly identifying needs, trends, and challenges within the workforce that your competition may be missing 
  3. Showcase ROI: look for case studies highlighting wins other companies have had from similar strategies
  4. Focus on risk management: show how surveys can act as an early warning system for things like burnout, dissatisfaction and other items that may negatively impact project success rates, commitment, involvement, morale, and other People-metrics – and further, how those issues may manifest in turnover, increasing costs for recruitment and training while slowing overall production and innovation 
  5. Plan for actionability: develop a clear plan for what you would do once you’ve collected the data from the surveys and how it could be leveraged to benefit the organization. Showing some strategic foresight on how to engage managers with their teams, discuss trends across departments or locations, and implement new tools or practices around training, recognition, and mentorship or development could go a long way to show that surveys will not just be surveys

2. Picking between anonymous or non-anonymous surveys

While both types of surveys have their place, we’ll lay out some of the pros and cons of each to help you decide which type of survey is right for your organization:

  • Increased candor and honesty with less fear of repercussions
  • Higher participation rates with the sense of privacy being a freeing feeling
  • Suitable for sensitive topics as it creates a safer sharing environment
  • Limited ability for follow-up without being able to identify individuals
  • Challenges in actionability with more generalized data
  • Potential for misinterpretation if responses get too emotional or exaggerated
  • Targeted interventions are possible knowing who said what
  • Direct problem solving within departments or specific areas of the business
  • Engagement and development focuses can be quicker addressing specific people first among the broader group
  • Lower participation rates where people may be suspicious of their feedback being used against them
  • Less honest feedback, again, with people concerned about their feedback being used against them
  • Trust dependent feedback; where you may get more feedback if the sense of trust and transparency is already high in the organization – you really need to be confident in this to roll the dice on it

3. Setting internal expectations with your employees

We’ll break this into three phases:

Phase 1 – Pre-survey communication:

  • Clearly communicate the purpose of the survey(s), how it fits into the vision and plans for the company’s commitment to investing in its employees
  • Share proposed or estimated timelines of when things will happen (survey send dates, data evaluation periods, communication of results, initial plans following the survey, etc)
  • Inform employees if surveys will be anonymous or not, and why
  • Outline your communication plan of when surveys will come (via email, SMS, etc), and how employees can remain engaged and aware during the process (company meetings, team meetings, slack channels, etc) and who they can ask questions to

Phase 2 – Survey rollout and participation:

  • Stick to your timelines, or update expectations among your team members
  • Encourage participation by leveraging managers to communicate to their teams as well as announcing things as an organization at an All-Hands meeting, company newsletter, or some other organization-wide way
  • Send a single follow-up reminder for those who forget, are out of office, or otherwise have not yet taken the survey within 5 to 7 days of the original delivery date – more reminders may reduce the likelihood of participation

Phase 3 – Post-survey communication and action

  • Stick to your scheduled comms timeline for announcing results once you have had a chance to assess the data
  • Optional feedback sessions can be good options for employees who want to be more engaged to ask questions or give feedback on the data you share
  • Clearly communicate the timeline for initial steps from your action plan (employees don’t need to know everything but they likely want to know you’re following up on their feedback)

Following this approach can dramatically boost participation rates, employee engagement in the processes, and the sense of satisfaction in the process among employees.

4. Finding the right platform

To find the right pulse survey software, identify your specific needs such as customization options, frequency of surveys, and data analysis capabilities. Evaluate several providers based on these criteria and read user reviews to gauge reliability and customer support. Consider scalability to accommodate your company’s growth and integration with existing HR systems for seamless data management. Request demos to see the software in action and assess its ease of use. Consider the cost against your budget and the return on investment the tool can offer.

5. Ensuring the right questions are asked to get meaningful answers

To ensure you ask the right questions, you’ll want to identify top themes from your original survey where you want to get more information to track, and that align with the plans you are putting in place. Example: if you get feedback that the career development options are inadequate, and you put plans in place to address this, ask a question or 2 about this. If you aren’t going to address that area, don’t ask about it in your pulse surveys as it will be misaligned with your employees expectations and your survey results.

6. Setting the right frequency

Setting the right frequency will depend a bit on your action plans and what you can realistically accomplish. Weekly surveys may be good to get a sense of urgent issues that are pressing and where you can have immediate action taken and begin to see regular results (safety issues being an example). Monthly cadence could be good for training and development programs you are rolling out or expanding. Quarterly cadence could be good for bigger initiatives, under-staffed teams, or if you feel engagement and participation may be low and you don’t want to risk pushing people away.

7. Analyzing the survey results

Ideally if you’ve found a platform that helps on the analysis side of things, this should be an easier area to tackle – although no tool out there can entirely replace reviewing and reading surveys on your own. Assessing qualitative and quantitative data is crucial here to find potential wins and areas that may need more attention. 

You can segment the data into groups (departments, tenure, age, gender, management status, location, PT/FT, etc) to look for trends or themes in responses and ratings. 

And you can align feedback and results with your top priority items and those you’ve spent more time or resources trying to address to see where you seem to have more measurable impact.

Then you can identify if you need to modify any of your plans, stay the course, or adjust what you’re working on.

8. Tools that help

There are platforms that can help with the pulse survey process such as Qualrics, CultureAmp, and Peoplelytics among others. Free tools such as SurveyMonkey and GoogleForms will help with the surveying, but really lack the focused analytical piece to help in post-survey situations. CultureAmp and Qualtrics may be a bit more than you need in the survey space as they come as part of a larger package of HR solutions. Options like TinyPulse or Peoplelytics may be better solution-specific tools.

9. Continued action plans

In order to keep things moving forward we would suggest following this path:

  1. Analyze the data: identify key themes and urgent issues from the survey results
  2. Prioritize issues: rank issues based on their impact on employee satisfaction and productivity
  3. Set specific goals: define clear, measurable objectives for each priority area
  4. Develop strategies: brainstorm and plan solutions with input from relevant stakeholders
  5. Assign responsibilities: allocate tasks to team members, ensuring they have necessary resources
  6. Create a timeline: establish a realistic timeline for implementing the strategies
  7. Communicate the plan: clearly explain the action plan to employees, detailing the changes and expected benefits
  8. Implement and monitor: execute the plan and use pulse surveys to track progress and effectiveness
  9. Report back: regularly update employees on progress and outcomes
  10. Review and revise: adjust the plan as needed based on feedback and changing needs

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Best practice tips for success

Getting leaders onboard and engaging teams in different ways

Emphasizing the strategic benefit of real-time feedback and how this can directly impact HR strategies to boost productivity and retention could be a good place to start. Highlight any success stories you can find from other organizations who have implemented these surveys to help sell leadership as well. This can be particularly compelling if the businesses are in your industry or are similar to yours in other ways. In general, aligning the survey strategy so that it fits into other strategic priorities of the executive team is a strong way to rally support.

Communication, communication, communication

You should focus on communicating to employees the purpose of the surveys, how the data will be used, and the benefits to the employees themselves. Ensure you are clear about the process and confidentiality to encourage honest responses. Set clear timelines (and stick to them as best you can) for surveys and the feedback loops that follow. Also be sure to share outcomes and action planned/taken to show and reinforce the program’s benefits and the company’s dedication. Even if the results aren’t always great, keeping communication open, honest, and transparent will build trust.


Transparency aligns with the focus on communication and has a similar benefit of building trust and commitment to the process from all levels of the organization. Regardless of whether the results are good or bad, this will get everyone on the same page of understanding what needs to be done, and how much needs to be done.

Committing to changes

Once you’ve analyzed the results and formulate a plan, it’s important to get commitment to the changes internally and share the plan with the employees. When doing so it’s best to highlight the core focuses, and set expectations on timing of changes, evaluations, feedback loops, and how employees can remain engaged in the process as it unfolds. Regular updates or visibility is helpful to remaining committed to the process as well as it builds accountability across the team.

Example pulse surveys and pulse survey questions

Some examples of employee pulse surveys that are offered by Peoplelytics include:

  1. Learning and development survey
  2. Professional development survey
  3. Benefits survey
  4. Motivation survey
  5. Change management survey
  6. Trust in management survey
  7. Remote work survey
  8. Return to office survey
  9. Company scaling/growth survey
  10. Employee burnout survey
  11. Belonging and inclusion survey
  12. Mentorship program feedback survey
  13. Innovation and creativity survey
  14. Post acquisition feedback survey
  15. Post layoff feedback survey
  16. Community outreach survey
  17. Internal company event survey
  18. Workplace safety survey
  19. Corporate social responsibility survey
  20. Internal communication survey
  21. Work-life balance survey

Common questions in pulse surveys

Common questions in pulse surveys often include:
“How satisfied are you with your current role and responsibilities?”
“Do you feel valued at work?”
“How effective is the communication from management?”
“Do you have the resources and support you need to succeed?”
“Would you recommend our company as a great place to work?”.

These questions aim to quickly gauge employee sentiment, engagement, and overall workplace satisfaction

Response rate expectations for pulse surveys

There are reports that the average response rate for employee pulse surveys can vary between 30% – 40%. Although, over time, with continued investment this number has been reported to be higher by a number of organizations sharing their data.

Consider this a good starting target for a new employee pulse survey program.

FAQs with pulse surveys

What is a pulse survey?

A pulse survey is a quick, frequent survey designed to gather real-time feedback from employees about various workplace issues. It helps organizations assess employee satisfaction and engagement, identify emerging problems, and make timely decisions to improve the workplace environment.

Should Employee Pulse Surveys Be Anonymous? 

It’s ultimately your decision, based on the provider you use or tool you use to deliver the surveys. However, employees are far more likely to be honest and actually participate if they believe the responses are anonymous. So to get the most value out of the survey, it’s suggested that you keep surveys anonymous.

How do I create a pulse survey?

You can create a pulse survey by using a third party employee survey tool such as Peoplelytics. You can also use free survey tools like Google Forms.

How often should you run a pulse survey?

Pulse surveys are typically run either weekly, monthly, or quarterly. They will be longer surveys the less frequently that they occur. 

What topics should you cover in a pulse survey?

You can cover any topics of your choosing. You can cover broad topics around employee satisfaction and engagement. Or, you can get into specifics on things like benefits, learning and development, mentor programs, or other areas like those.

How can HR regularly track employee engagement and satisfaction?

You can regularly track engagement, morale, and satisfaction through regular employee surveys. You could also use other means like employee engagement platforms, feedback and recognition programs, and more.

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