Employer pulse surveys are great tools for measuring sentiment about specific things at specific times. These 1-4 question surveys get high response rates and are generally more palatable to recipients.
Unlike general surveys which aim to gather as much information as possible over long time frames, pulse surveys are simple, pointed and frequent.
But just sending out short surveys doesn’t make them more effective. There are important factors that need to be in place for employer pulse surveys to provide value.
Know More Than You Ask
The first key to great pulse surveys is to have a database of knowledge about the people you are pulsing. For employers, that is likely your HRMS for employee information and ATS for candidate information. Each of these systems keeps a valuable repository of data. Name, title, department, job requisition, location, EEO data, etc. This data not only represents questions you don’t have to ask, but they also represent all the ways you can gain insight from a pulse survey. A simple “how are you feeling today?” is a powerful question when you can analyze the sentiment across populations by all that you already know about the subjects. A simple happiness question can identify problems if it clusters around a location, department, manager, etc.
Make Employer Pulse Surveys Frequent
This is true of most surveys, but especially of pulse surveys because they are typically used as benchmarks, KPIs and other high level metrics. You typically ask 1-5 questions so the value lies less in the quantity of information and more in the volatility of the responses over time. Pulsing employees on their feelings about a new strategic direction, for example, is a metric that should change as the strategy is implemented. Employee feedback at a high level can indicate how engaged they are in the strategy. And as time passes, it can point the way to potential adjustments in strategy, or communications about strategy, that can make or break its success. Always re-pulse candidates or employees regularly
Have a Goal
Think ahead and sketch out what you want to learn and what you will do with the information you get from pulses. In recruitment surveys, for example, the most successful organizations use pulse surveys to understand what is happening at each stage of a defined hiring process. And they use the feedback to optimize things like interviews, applications, offers, assessments, onboarding, etc. Having this kind of roadmap brings instant utility to the data once it starts coming in and drives implementation decisions like triggering pulses off of status changes in the ATS. Once a candidate finishes a step in the process, a pulse can go out and gather data about that defined step. Being clear about what you want to learn and when should drive most of the content and logistical aspects of the surveys.
Use Your Words
I’ve advocated for keeping employer pulse surveys short, but that doesn’t mean they should short change the recipient if they want to expound on a question. This is where the “gold” is. Always provide a comment box to allow recipients to explain their responses. Comments are the difference between a metric and a solution. If your metrics are low in a given question, there is not much you can do about it. But if your metrics are low and you’ve got comments? Then you have a roadmap for improving those metrics. A pulse survey can alert you to the fact that your online assessment process is not liked by candidates. If you provide a comment box, you’ll learn that links aren’t properly being sent out, or the process is too slow, or the wrong assessments are being assigned to the wrong people, etc.
Automating Employer Pulse Surveys
The final “soft” key to doing proper pulse surveys is to actually do them. Do them often. And do them at the right time. It’s not impossible to do without automation, but the odds of a pulse survey program persisting and providing ongoing value without automation are slim to none. A good feedback platform should integrate with your core systems (the ones that “know” all about the subjects) and automatically send pulses based on transactions and/or timing. These types of surveys are effective because they are short and come at the right time. It’s nearly impossible to achieve that manually.