Pulse surveys – the business advantage

Imagine a business as a living, breathing organism. Using this model, how is the health of this organization measured? In standard medical practices, generally one of the first indicators of vitality is a healthy pulse. It’s one of many ways to check that all systems are functioning well, but simple and easy to manage during a routine checkup. So too, in the business world, the pulse survey is used to gather frequent and regular feedback data on how well the organization is doing, often in between more in-depth surveys. Think of it as diagnostic in nature.

Here, we will explain:

  • What pulse surveys are
  • The origination of pulse surveys
  • Benefits of pulse surveys vs. traditional annual surveys
  • Introducing pulse surveys into an organization
  • Best practices for managing and using pulse survey data

What pulse surveys are

Pulse survey
A pulse survey is an efficient employee survey system that reduces the need for complicated questions and allows frequent use.

Pulse surveys are most often used during intervals between annual or quarterly employee engagement surveys, but they can also be used during situational periods when the company is going through a period of change.

Today’s pulse surveys are facilitated via cloud-computing systems that simplify the process and make data more accessible. All data is securely and confidentially gathered, stored, and analyzed. Results are nearly immediate once completed, making it more efficient for leaders to make smart business decisions.

The origination of pulse surveys

Employee surveys are not a new tool used in workplaces; in fact they’ve been around since World War II when employers started to realize the importance of employee morale as a sign of greater productivity. For years, employee surveys have been conducted on an annual basis, with the hopes that organizations could get a glimpse into the drivers behind employee engagement. With the emergence of better technology, on demand employee engagement surveys have made it possible to roll out pulse surveys to measure such things in real time.

The benefits of pulse surveys vs. annual traditional surveys

Obviously, one of the first advantages that pulse surveys have over traditional annual surveys is the ease at which meaningful data can be obtained any time the organization needs it. In the past, leaders had to wait weeks and even months to obtain employee survey data, only to find that it was outdated and irrelevant to the needs of the organization. So too, the data was only based on the last few months of activities, so that if a change occurred outside of the initial period when the survey was conducted, it was useless. Pulse surveys provide real-time engagement information so that companies can take action based on what’s happening now. Information is more concise and reasonable to use.

Introducing pulse surveys into the organization

You may be wondering how pulse surveys can be utilized by your organization, especially if you already conduct workforce surveys on a regular basis? Should a pulse survey replace annual surveys, be used in tandem with them, or only used for situational reasons? These are all good questions, and a lot of this has to do with the type of organization and its goals – both long term and short term.

From the standpoint of being able to harness employee engagement for the benefit of the company, then by all means – use the right tools to get the job done. Pulse surveys can easily compliment other types of employee surveys, because they are smaller and easy to manage. Or you may want to use an always-on approach with your surveys so you can see at a glance what’s happening in real-time. The choice is up to your workforce management goals.

Best practices for managing pulse survey data

Wondering how you can make use of the data obtained through pulse surveys? By setting up some best practices for your human resources and management team, this data becomes very valuable. Remember, however that simply setting up a pulse survey doesn’t automatically mean that employees will respond. A little education and incentive can go a long way.

Here are some best practices for managing pulse survey data for your organization:

Preparation is vital for success.

In order to successfully launch a pulse survey, a bit of preparation goes a long way. First, executives and management need to understand the goals and the expectations of the pulse survey. This is a big shift in thinking from once-a-year to on-demand. Secondly, the survey is something that requires an extra level of responsibility as the data collected is raw and needs to be organized. The key advantage, however, is having information that leads to immediate and focused effort.

Understand the process.

Using pulse surveys is different and this is a good thing, despite the process being new. Your vendor will walk you through the process. Consider aspects like email messaging to employees, inputting the initial employee information, and understanding participation metrics. A central contact person can help facilitate the survey. Pulse surveys do not have to be managed through a third-party, so the information is immediately useful to the organization.

Maximize the use of data.

When working with a leading pulse survey vendor, like Thymometrics, there are many ways to get value out of the data gathered. Analytics can highlight positive results as well as negatives that need a closer look. The data can be organized into custom reports for taking action. Visualization features further add dimension to reports, for example red line items that indicate problems.

Responding to findings.

One often overlooked aspect of the pulse survey is the unique opportunity to respond to employee concerns in a timely manner. Annual surveys can never match the power of immediate feedback as given by employees. Each organization must have a plan in place for handling communication with employees on this level. A small organization may allow for the HR leader to respond direct to employees while a larger company may create a group message to be broadcast in an email or delivered through management teams.

The above best practices are simply some guidelines for getting the most from pulse surveys. There are no strict rules around them, because this is a fluid effort that is as unique as the companies that use them.