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A Business Leader’s Guide to Effective Staff Pulse Surveys

A Business Leader’s Guide to Effective Staff Pulse Surveys

When healthcare provider takes a patient’s pulse, they gain limited but powerful knowledge about their patient’s health. A strong, stable pulse is good; a weak, erratic, or racing pulse is bad. Using this information, doctors and nurses can start to develop a plan for improving their patient’s well-being. As healthcare providers use pulses, you can use pulse surveys to better understand the health of your organization.

A staff pulse survey is supposed to be a simple but frequent check-in with your workforce to give you greater insight into what they are thinking and feeling. If you want to harness the power of pulse surveys, read on for best practices in crafting, distributing, and assessing pulse surveys within your business.

Staff Pulse Surveys

Define Your Purpose

You might check in frequently with your staff for any number of reasons — to assess their morale or their satisfaction levels, to request feedback on leadership, to understand values and preferences and more. However, because pulse surveys are supposed to be quick, you cannot question your staff on all these issues every time. Instead, you need each survey effort to have an exceedingly specific purpose. The most common goal of a pulse survey is tracking staff engagement, but you should consider what issues plaguing your organization can be benefited through more information from your workforce.

Consider Your Questions

Analysis is only as good as the data you collect, and the data available to you is only as good as your collection methods. Your survey will be next to useless if you ask the wrong questions of your employees. The questions on your survey must be comprehensible and also compel your staff to provide information and insights that you can use to improve your business. If your questions are too vague, confusingly worded or otherwise ineffective at driving at answers you need, you will need to revise them before you issue your next survey.

Keep It Quick

The appropriate length of your pulse survey will depend on your goals, as some objectives will require more information from staff and some less. Generally, though, you want to keep your survey as quick and to-the-point as possible, so you do not impose unduly on your workers’ time and energy.

Similarly, you should consider how frequently you need to distribute your survey — a component called survey cadence. The best frequency for you will depend on how often your metrics are likely to change; for example, satisfaction might fluctuate more than engagement, so if you are measuring the former, you might need to survey your staff more often.

Apply Analytics

If your pulse surveys are only intended to collect staff feedback on a specific issue, you might be able to understand staff responses without much effort. However, in most cases, you will need to apply advanced analytics to gain insights from your surveys. You should find a third-party data analytics tool that will give you accurate and detailed visibility of your staff’s survey response.

Staff Pulse Surveys


Your pulse survey was well-crafted and your analysis effective, so you have access to the information and insights you hoped for. Now, you must act on that information and those insights to improve your organization. If you are lackadaisical about using your surveys to effect change, you risk the development within your workforce of a dangerous syndrome: survey fatigue.

Survey fatigue is a lack of motivation to participate in surveys, which can translate to insufficient and untrustworthy answers on assessments. Many leaders believe that survey fatigue is caused by surveys that are too long and complex or else too frequently circulated, and while these can contribute to the syndrome, they are not usually the primary cause. Rather, it is leaders’ reactions to survey answers that impact how the staff sees and responds to surveys. If you consistently neglect to alter your organization with the information your employees provide, they will come to regard your surveys as unimportant and not worthy of their time.

To make an effective pulse survey, you need to put time into understanding its purpose, selecting the right questions and analyzing answers properly — but most significantly, you need to show your staff that you are listening to them by implementing action plans based on the information you receive. Then, all the effort you and your employees put into pulse surveys will have meaning.

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