It's Quick, But Is It Effective?

Sept. 5, 2018
Done right, pulse surveys can move the needle on employee engagement.

When done right, a pulse survey—a fast, frequent survey—can help measure how people feel about their work, company culture and the organization at any given time. They provide valuable snapshots of the voices of your employees, and their ongoing experience at work.

Here are some key tips to make the best use of pulse surveys:

1. Ask the right questions.

When designing surveys, you need to ensure that you are clearly defining “why” you are surveying individuals in the first place—what information are you trying to get out of our survey? How going to use the information you collect? Who should be surveyed? When and how will we communicate the survey results?

And just like any survey, you need to make sure you are asking “good questions.”

When designing questions, make sure they will add value by ensuring they are; specific, intentional, relevant, and current. Bad questions, on the other hand, don’t clearly articulate the intent behind the question, or the language might not be clear. If you don’t ask strongly-structured questions, you won’t be able to leverage the information you get--“garbage in, garbage out.”

A few typical pulse survey questions that can help you begin to assess team dynamics and your feedback culture include:

·         Have you had a team-building event in the past 3 months?

·         Did you enjoy the activity?

·         Do you feel the dynamic on your team was improved as a result?

·         Have you received feedback from your manager in the past month?

·         Have you received feedback from your peers in the past month?

·         Is the feedback you've received useful in your day-to-day work?

With a real-time view into your organization's engagement metrics and sentiment by department and business unit, you can quickly dig deeper, identify areas of need, and take the right actions to improve the employee experience.

 2. Ask the questions at the right time.

Wondering when you should launch a pulse survey? As a standard practice to solicit ongoing feedback, many organizations launch pulse surveys on a monthly basis. However, if you want feedback on a specific event/initiatve, you may choose to launch the survey at time that aligns with that event/topic--remember, you want these surveys to be relevant/current. So in some cases, surveys may be launched weekly, or even left available/open so that employees can provide input at any time.

However, be careful with “over surveying” individuals. Make sure you use the data that you collect, rather than surveying for the sake of surveying. If employees do not feel you are doing something with the feedback they are providing, they may become disinterested in the survey and either stop participating, or even provide non-genuine responses.

3. Communicate and reinforce a culture of feedback.

One of the most important things you can do when working towards strengthening your employee engagement is to ensure a sense of safety and trust. Doing this starts with transparency and communication. Explain why you're collecting feedback and what you want to achieve. You may need to make it clear what you won't do with the feedback; i.e., use it for punitive action.

Share how the feedback will be visible to their manager, other leaders and the organization.

Set expectations for how often you'd like employees to provide feedback so you get the data you need to look at shifts in sentiment. And commit to a timeline for sharing results and decisions about how you'll act on the feedback.

4. Get feedback during times of change.

Change can be uncomfortable and hard. But it's also inevitable. During times of change, organizations go into communications mode to share as much as they can with employees.

But what about the employees? They're experiencing change and hearing about it, but do you know how they're reacting to the change? Asking them for feedback is the best way to help them navigate change successfully. Make sure they understand the change and why it's happening, find out how they feel about the communications around the change, and gauge the level of trust and support they feel.

 A sample pulse could be as simple as:

·         Do you understand the current change going on in our organization?

·         Do you understand how this change will impact you?

·         In up to three words, how are you feeling about the change?

Asking questions like these about how employees are feeling through change will help you identify the areas in your organization where the champions and opponents reside. Maybe the messages are missing the mark.

5. Take action on the feedback you receive.

Capturing and analyzing this feedback, while the critical first step, is still only part of the equation when it comes to improving the employee experience. If you use pulse surveys, it is vital that you take action on the feedback you receive—or clearly communicate why you’re not (and you could have a valid reason).

Have a feedback action plan in place before you conduct a pulse survey, and be intentional with how you roll employee feedback into your business operations and talent initiatives. If you don’t act on feedback, employees will come to view their input as meaningless—and that could have the opposite of the intended effect on engagement.

Here is an example: Perhaps you are a manager, and you have noticed that during a recent pulse survey asking about communications during a change initiative, that your employees did not have strong/positive results. As a manager, you can use this to initiate a conversation with you team to get a deeper understanding of what employees were looking for—maybe they didn’t understand the driving force behind the change and need to discuss it further? Perhaps you didn’t communicate enough or in a timely manner? Maybe employees didn’t feel like that had enough input?

Alternatively, let’s imagine that you have been surveying employees monthly on general engagement—an ongoing “voice of the employee” pulse check. You have seen consistently that a manager of a team has been consistently been receiving positive feedback on having ongoing performance/touch base conversations with their employee—and the overall trend of that team is very positive. Perhaps you could leverage that strength to communicate the importance of one-on-ones, or have that manager coach other managers/hold training, etc.

By leveraging pulse feedback technology to gain a deep understanding of your employees’ needs and expectations in real time, you can take the right actions to improve the employee experience and, ultimately, move the needle on employee engagement.

Hawley Kane is head of organizational talent and leadership development at Saba Software, a talent management provider.

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