Running Your Business

5 Types of Questions to Ask on an Employee Pulse Survey


  • Pulse surveys track employees' viewpoints at regular intervals, as opposed to annual engagement surveys

  • They can measure the effectiveness of engagement surveys, reactions to specific projects or feelings around "hot topic" events

  • Don't use them more than weekly or less than monthly

Posted by July 15, 2018

An employee pulse survey is a great way to quickly gauge the “pulse” of your company. You can use it to track how coworkers’ views change over time—but it only works if it’s done right.

If your organization already conducts an annual employee engagement survey, then the pulse assessment is a natural next step. Here’s everything you need to know in order to implement these surveys.

What Is an Employee Pulse Survey, Exactly?

This type of assessment has subtle differences from employee engagement surveys. An engagement survey is typically a longer questionnaire that is often only used once a year. Pulse assessments, however, are used more frequently and at regular intervals. They are typically shorter (often just five to 15 questions long) and they are meant to gauge whether specific objectives are working. For example, they might measure employee sentiment about a particular project.

Pulse assessments cover the same topic at regular intervals, so they can measure how employee reactions change over shorter periods of time. These surveys often fall into one of the following categories:

  • Measuring the effectiveness of an action the business took based on an engagement survey
  • Seeing how employee sentiment changes over time
  • Following up on projects before too much time has passed
  • Getting quick feedback on a hot topic or current event

The Benefits of Pulse Surveys

The biggest benefit of these surveys is that they enable the company to respond quickly and pivot based on what is (and is not) working. For example, if an annual engagement survey found that staff was not taking advantage of a health care plan, then you might change the organization’s approach to address this.

You could use pulse assessments once a month to determine if the change is working. Or suppose you just finished a big project; by conducting pulse surveys rather than waiting until the year has ended, you can diagnose why a project succeeded or failed and use this information to guide the next project. Or perhaps you just had a big transition, such as a new director taking over a department. You can use the surveys to get feedback on how the new director is doing and how employee morale has been affected.

These surveys can also increase engagement, which brings other important benefits. Engaged employees tend to be more productive, take less time off, provide better customer service, create less turnover and bring more passion (and profit) to their jobs.

5 Types of Questions to Include on Your Survey

Pulse surveys can be a simple in-house survey or they can be conducted through a third-party platform. However, it’s important not to use them so frequently that employees become burned out and stop taking them seriously. Make sure that you’re not using them more than once a week—as that can get onerous—but not less than once a month. You should also demonstrate that you’re making real changes in response to the findings.

Try to include the following five types of questions in your survey:

  1. Action-driven: You want employees to provide answers that let you take definitive action. These surveys need to be short, so don’t add any questions just because they’re nice to include.
  2. Open-ended: Include open-ended questions that allow employees to write thoughtful responses, rather than just “yes” and “no” questions.
  3. Confidential: Employees should be able to stay anonymous if they wish, as this can make their answers more honest.
  4. Emotional: Check in on how your employees are feeling. Ask about their happiness and motivation with certain projects or teams. Find out how they feel about management and their work-life balance. If you give a pulse survey before and after a project, then you can determine if the project changed an employee’s satisfaction with the company.
  5. Retrospective: Get feedback on how specific projects or events worked. For instance, you can ask for answers on a scale from 1 to 10. It’s also important to ask employees if they can think of anything that held them back or got in their way. Ask if they reached their full potential on the project, and if everyone who contributed was recognized for their work.

As you can see, pulse surveys provide a great way to quickly assess the mood of your coworkers and make changes in response—but only if the surveys are done right. Make sure to use “best practices” when conducting these surveys, including making them easy to complete and maintaining confidentiality.

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