Masterclass: How to use pulse surveys effectively

28 Jan 2021 By Emma Browes

Emma Browes explains what businesses should consider when implementing their surveys to reap the benefits of this approach

Pulse surveys are useful because the scale, speed and evidence they provide allows you to adjust things quickly and accordingly. The insight gained from a pulse survey provides an organisation with real-time information and views from people on a large scale – the main value is being able to do them rapidly and turn the data around quicker than you would with a lengthy annual survey.  

Leeds City Council didn’t do pulse surveys before Covid, so it has given us a chance to try this approach and check in with our workforce. Ultimately, the surveys have given us a quick overview of how people are feeling and whether our strategies are effective. 

Another benefit is that you can get your findings back out to the business fast, which not only helps with engagement but also allows HR to respond quickly. We have run three pulse surveys since March 2020, which produced a combined response rate of more than 12,700 people – this was extremely beneficial because we were able to get a clear picture on key issues like wellbeing. HR teams considering implementing pulse surveys should try to make them as accessible as possible if they want a high response rate – it’s important to ensure the survey works outside their intranet.

For those unsure about what to include in a pulse survey, I’d focus on the pressing questions and design it around what your corporate leadership team wants to know. In the current crisis those questions are likely to be focused on employee wellbeing, whether people feel supported at work and if the organisation is getting things right. Keeping your survey simple and straightforward with ‘yes or no’ questions is key if you want to take action quickly – free text responses could take months to go through. In our recent wellbeing pulse survey, we gave people the opportunity to request a call back if they felt they needed extra support. This resulted in nearly 300 requests, but we wanted to make sure no one felt left behind. As well as giving us a corporate picture, it also allowed us to individualise the support we offered.

It’s important to be mindful of sending out too many surveys, but the level of success lies in your engagement with the findings. If people can see you have listened to them and their views are reflected in your response, then your engagement levels will continue. We send out a lot of ‘you said, we did’ reactions, which makes it really clear what has been actioned as a result of the survey.

Emma Browes is HR service manager at Leeds City Council

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