Organizational Wellness

Employee Pulse Surveys: What They Are and How to Run Them

Aug 21, 2023
Last Updated May 23, 2024

Picture your company as a well-oiled orchestra. Each member plays their part seamlessly, bringing out the best in one another. 

But, if some members are out of sync, it can throw off the entire performance. You'll hear jarring notes and dissonance.

If you're wondering what's causing this unharmonious atmosphere, there's no need to play guessing games. The solution is often simple: just ask your employees how they're doing. 

One effective way to do this is through pulse surveys, which offer a quick check on your team's overall morale and feelings. It's a straightforward way to keep everyone in harmony and to ensure everyone is complementing each other's work.


What is a Pulse Survey?

A pulse survey is a type of short survey given to employees on a frequent or semi-regular basis. They aim to quickly gather employee feedback to help organizations understand how people feel about their workplace. You can run them alongside bigger annual engagement surveys, which help you dig deeper into team engagement levels and ask more specific questions about their work experience.

Pulse surveys usually contain short questions about job satisfaction, employee experience, and company culture. It's up to you how often to run pulse surveys in your workplace, but a monthly or quarterly basis can be a good starting point.

What are the Benefits of Running Regular Pulse Surveys?

Over half of leaders are out of touch with their employees' perceptions, according to research by Potential Project. Pulse surveys can help close that information gap to ensure company leaders and HR teams have a pretty good idea about how employees feel about their professional experience.

  1. Identify Disengaged Employees

On average, only 21% of people are engaged at work, Gallup's research shows. Pulse surveys allow businesses to get direct feedback from their employees about how they're feeling and how engaged they are with the company and their work. The simple act of filling out a pulse survey shows a basic level of engagement — it’s highly likely that folks who complete them are more engaged than the ones who ignore it altogether!

If you see a consistent group of employees who repeatedly skip your pulse surveys, you may want to check in with them or their manager to see if they're engaged with other aspects of their work.

  1. Monitor Ongoing Employee Satisfaction

Regular pulse surveys can be a relatively quick way for companies to measure employee satisfaction and see how it's changing over time. 

For example, you can use your pulse survey to ask everyone how happy they are at work on a 1 to 5 scale. If you usually have an average of 3.7, then one month, the company average drops to 1.9, that suggests there are some big problems in the workplace that you might want to address.

  1. Create a Regular Feedback Loop

Pulse surveys allow employees to share how they feel about their work, and flag areas where things aren't working so well. Leadership and HR teams can then use the data from their pulse surveys to identify priority issues and develop plans to resolve them. The employee feedback and company response creates an ongoing loop to help drive continuous improvement in the workplace. 

Hopefully, by the time the following pulse survey comes around, things will work better, and you'll see a noticeable increase in scores related to the previous problem area. Or, if things still need to improve, you can get more feedback and iterate on your plans.

How to Run Employee Pulse Surveys

Running regular pulse surveys doesn't need to be a massive job for HR teams. Once you've set up the questions, most of your focus will be after the survey goes out — collating data and analyzing responses. But it may feel like a big task if you've never run one before, so here’s a simple guide to running a pulse survey with your employees.

  1. Work Out the Goal of Your Pulse Survey

Lots of teams may want to get specific things out of a pulse survey. The leadership team may want to know how a recent change in PTO policy has affected team morale, while the marketing department might want to know how many people follow and share company posts on social media.

Having a clear priority will help HR managers navigate the conflicting goals of different teams. If the survey’s purpose is too broad, every team will ask you to add "just one more question.” This can quickly snowball into an avalanche of questions too overwhelming for your staff to complete. 

  1. Write the Questions

The golden rule for your pulse survey is: the more frequently you're going to run it, the fewer questions you should include. The more you ask, the more you run the risk of people getting survey fatigue and skipping them altogether. So if you're going to run surveys monthly, you're asking more from your team in terms of their time and attention than if you're only running them once a quarter.

Plan your questions carefully, so they get to some of the core areas you want to focus on: team engagement, employee satisfaction, and identifying problems early. To help you get started, we've put together a list of sample questions in the next section.

  1. Let People Know When the Survey Will Run

Give employees a heads-up before you launch your pulse survey. For example, you could send Slack messages, share it in a meeting, and use other internal communication channels to tell everyone about it. That way, they'll expect to see it in their inbox (or your HR tool), and you may be more likely to get higher response rates than if they don’t know it’s coming.

  1. Run the Pulse Survey

This is the easy bit — you've agreed on the questions, built the survey, and hit send. Now, you can sit back for a few days and let the responses roll in.

  1. Analyze Survey Responses

 After running a pulse survey, plan time for analyzing the data you collect. See if there are any patterns or trends in people's responses. This can help you understand common themes in how employees feel about their work, and what areas need improvement.

Additionally, if you've run a pulse survey before, you can compare your results against previous surveys. Some things to look at include whether you got more responses than last time, changes in common topics, and whether employee satisfaction scores are trending upwards or downwards.

  1. Share Survey Results and Next Steps With the Team

Acknowledge any areas where people have commented positively, and start planning initiatives to address any areas that need improvement. You don't necessarily need to follow-up with everyone who filled out the survey, but you should always let your team know that you value their honest feedback, and that it's been heard.

If there are tangible issues you identify that you can address — for example, if lots of people mention the fridge is broken in the kitchen area — let them know your action plan to resolve that issue, and when they can expect it to be sorted.

  1. Repeat

Pulse surveys are so helpful because they're done regularly, so don't just run them once. Plan and agree on your survey cadence and get the next one in the calendar.

Example Pulse Survey Questions to Ask Your Employees

Pulse surveys can be an effective way to get direct feedback from employees about their experience in the workplace. To help you get started with running your own pulse surveys, here is an example set of questions you could use:

  1. How satisfied are you with your job?
  2. How engaged do you feel at work?
  3. What motivates you most in your current role?
  4. How would you rate the work environment here (e.g., atmosphere, workspace)?
  5. Do you have any concerns or worries about how things are run around here?
  6. To what extent did recent changes make a positive difference to your wellbeing at and away from work? 
  7. Do you have the right tools (e.g. software, equipment) to complete your job well?
  8. Does your team communicate well within itself and with other departments or teams? 
  9. Do you feel supported by your manager? 
  10. Do you feel like the company takes your wellbeing seriously?

Pulse Surveys Help You Understand What Matters Most to Your Employees

Running regular surveys helps close the gap between company leaders and their employees. It helps you keep a closer eye on what’s affecting team morale and employee engagement, so you can quickly adapt and make changes as needed.

Many companies are hearing from their workforce that wellness is a top priority. In fact, nearly four out of five workers say they'd consider leaving a company that doesn't focus on their wellbeing. If this is a common theme from your pulse survey respondents, consider building a more comprehensive rewards package by offering a wellness program. 

Wellhub’ all-inclusive program connects employees with thousands of wellbeing partners to support their wellness journey. Learn more about how to craft the perfect package by speaking to one of our Wellbeing Specialists!

Company healthcare costs drop by up to 35% with Wellhub! (* Based on proprietary research comparing healthcare costs of active Wellhub users to non-users.) Talk to a Wellbeing Specialist to see how we can help reduce your healthcare spending!



Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


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