What is the Right Employee Survey for Your Workplace? The Long, Short & Supershort of It.

What is the Right Employee Survey for Your Workplace? The Long, Short & Supershort of It.

Very short pulse surveys are gaining popularity, according to a recent WSJ article. These are one- or two-question surveys that employees receive daily, weekly or monthly. Should you replace your annual employee survey with very short pulse surveys?

Comprehensive Employee Survey Vs. Very Short Pulse Survey 

Unlike annual employee surveys that include established categories—work environment, leadership, learning and development, employee recognition, communication, compensation and benefits; questions on very short pulse surveys tend to be more fluid and episodic in nature. These questions can range from “What are you proud of accomplishing last week?” “What are the challenges you are facing?” “Who has demonstrated great leadership this week?” to asking employees to select if they like “Prince or Michael Jackson” and share holiday planning ideas.

Regular Pulse Survey Vs. Very Short Pulse Survey 

In contrast, regular pulse surveys contain more than two or three questions, but less than the typical 50 or 60 questions in comprehensive annual employee surveys. Regular pulse surveys are designed to get feedback about specific follow-up actions or programs in between annual or bi-annual employee surveys. Regular pulse surveys also include key metrics that can be tracked over time to show improvements or declines. In fact, a best practice in employee listening is to conduct pulse surveys in between annual employee surveys to continue the communication process.

No doubt very short pulse surveys, deployed daily, weekly or monthly, offer a quick way to engage with employees to get their feedback. They provide managers with constant feedback on their employees’ state of being and help leaders identify potential problems before they become major disasters.

On the other hand, this feedback is only about very few questions. Each type of survey—very short pulse, regular pulse, annual—has its place. When do you use a very short pulse survey, a regular pulse survey, or a comprehensive employee survey?

Very Short Pulse Surveys 

Very short pulse surveys are great when you want to get quick feedback on one or two topics. You can use it to engage with employees in conversations, especially if you have a large group of remote employees. That said, do not allow the convenience of collecting data online replace real interactions and conversations between employees and their managers. For questions such as “what was your biggest accomplishment last week,” it is in many ways more effective to gather this input in a weekly team meeting. Doing so gives managers and employees a chance to recognize each other’s accomplishments, build a more cohesive team, and share tips with each others. Data alone cannot create these experiences.

Asking whether your employees like Prince or Michael Jackson may help build camaraderie among your employees, but it will not get you much information for improving business performance. If your goal is to engage with employees and keep them informed of your business, consider applying gamification principles to generate the right questions and follow-up action to your results.

And what about the data? A snapshot in time (daily, weekly, or monthly) allows you to gauge employees’ sentiments. Will you be able to see trends across a longer time period? And will this intelligence give you a competitive edge in engaging and retaining your key talent? These are questions to consider before launching a very short pulse survey.

Regular Pulse Surveys 

Regular pulse surveys are a great tool for checking in with employees in between your longer employee surveys. The premise here is that you and your leadership team have committed to taking action based on your employee survey results. These pulse surveys serve as milestone check-ins to get employee feedback on the changes you have implemented. The results of regular pulse surveys will be used to tweak your programs and show employees that you care.

Regular pulse surveys are also very valuable if you have a large employee population. You can deploy rolling regular pulse surveys to subsets of employees at various times so you can avoid over surveying employees. With this method, you avoid employee survey fatigue and still get a comprehensive picture of your employees’ perceptions about issues that are critical to your business success.

Comprehensive Pulse Surveys 

Comprehensive employee surveys cover many grounds and are usually administered on an annual or bi-annual basis. With a well-designed comprehensive employee survey, you get in-depth insights that can guide your decisions within the context of your business strategy.

All best employers conduct annual or bi-annual employee surveys and take follow-up action to address concerns raised by employees. However, annual employee surveys have gotten a bad reputation because many employees do not believe that their company leaders will address the issues raised in the survey.

Ensure Continual Improvement & Success 

To ensure success, company leaders should enable managers to facilitate follow up action with their employees and hold managers accountable for their employee survey results. When you implement an action that is a result of your employee survey results, remind employees that this is in response to their feedback.

In conclusion, annual or bi-annual surveys are a valuable and valid employee listening tool. The key is for leaders and managers to commit to taking follow-up action, communicating follow up actions with employees, and linking key performance metrics with these actions. Regular pulse surveys, as a check-in on progress after the comprehensive surveys, are useful for keeping the communication lines open. Very short pulse surveys bring value in getting quick feedback on time-sensitive issues, as long as you do not let them replace valuable in-person interaction.

Do you conduct annual surveys or pulse surveys? What is your experience with employee surveys? Please share your observations with us.


Stay tuned for our upcoming Global Talent Advisors Workplace Survey by visiting www.globaltalentadvisors.com. 

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Pi Wen Looi, PhD. Pi Wen is the Founder and President of Novacrea, LLC, a northern California talent management consulting firm. Named one of the most important voices in employee engagement by TechnologyAdvice, she is an expert in employee engagement and employee research methodology. She helps her clients ask the right questions, connect the dots, find insights from their survey results, and take action. She uses a design-thinking approach to unleash employee creativity and generate innovative solutions. Pi Wen brings 20 years of talent management consulting experience and research expertise to improve employee communications, increase employee engagement, and enable her clients to create breakthrough results. Her clients include Boeringher Ingelhiem, Cisco, DiversityInc, LSG Sky Chef, Mizuho OSI, Pacific Gas & Electric Company, Salt Lake County, and west elm, among others. She is a senior advisor for Imperative, a start-up that helps organizations shape their culture and practices to increase the number of purpose-oriented employees. She is a speaker at multiple conferences and the head judge of the first-ever Employee Engagement Hackathon, held in San Francisco. Most recently, she was interviewed by Security Management on the trends of employee engagement. She has published articles in The Human Factor, HR.com’s Recognition and Engagement Essentials, and more. Her research has been cited in several industry books, including Leadership and Talent in Asia: How the best companies delivery extraordinary performance. Pi Wen earned her PhD and master’s degrees in applied quantitative psychology from Ohio University and her B.S. in mathematics from the National University of Singapore. She’s a member of the Association for Talent Management in Sacramento (ATD) and an adjunct professor at Northwestern University’s Master of Learning and Organizational Design and the School of Professional Studies. When she is not consulting with clients, she enjoys taking photos of people and buildings. Connect with her on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/piwenlooi/

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