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Part I: A Complete Guide to Employee Pulse Surveys

Worker completing employee pulse survey on smartphone

Part I: How to design and implement an effective employee pulse survey

Quick look: Over half of workers wish their employers surveyed them more often, and the data these surveys provide can allow business leaders to boost employee retention, morale, and productivity. This blog – the first of a two-part series – explores the many benefits of employee pulse surveys as well as best practices on designing a survey and gathering the data.

There’s never been a more important time for employers to listen to and value their employees’ voices. The labor market is the tightest it’s been since 1981, and if workers aren’t satisfied, they may consider switching jobs. But small- and medium-sized business (SMB) leaders won’t know what their staff wants unless they ask.

That’s where employee pulse surveys come in. Properly administering these surveys, and acting on the results when possible, allows employers to leverage their workers’ voices to better attract and retain valuable talent. And employees want to be heard—58% of them say they wish their organizations surveyed them more often.

The first part of this blog series will explore the benefits of regularly implementing employee pulse surveys, as well as best practices for designing surveys and collecting the data.

Read steps 3 and 4 in the second part of our blog series, which covers how to analyze the data and develop an action plan >>

Benefits of employee engagement surveys

Effective communication is the pillar of successful relationships, including the one between an employer and its workers. Employee pulse surveys can act as an effective communication channel and offer many benefits to employers and employees alike, including:

  • Higher retention rates
  • Lower absenteeism
  • Increased productivity
  • Higher employee morale
  • Better customer service

Common types of employee pulse surveys

Before you begin designing your survey, it’s important to understand the three primary types of employee surveys. Each has a different purpose, and SMB leaders can implement whichever ones align with their goals. The three most common types include:

  • Employee opinion and satisfaction surveys: Measure employee views, attitudes, and perceptions
  • Employee culture surveys: Measure the point of view of employees and assess whether it aligns with that of the organization and its departments
  • Employee engagement surveys: Measure employees’ commitment, motivation, sense of purpose, and passion for their work and the business

Employee engagement survey best practices

There are four steps involved in the employee surveying process: designing the survey, gathering the data, analyzing the results, and acting on the findings. As a reminder, this blog will cover best practices surrounding the first two steps, while the second blog in this series will cover the third and fourth steps. With that said, let’s explore how to best design and implement an employee pulse survey.

Step 1: Design the survey

To reap the rewards that an employee pulse survey can offer, it must first be properly designed. Here are four best practices to keep in mind as you design your survey:

  • Start with the meat and potatoes: Business leaders should first determine what questions they want to ask on the survey, what data they aim to collect, and what demographical information they need to paint a full picture of what work is like for their employees.
  • Align culture with strategy: Ideally the employee pulse survey should ask questions that reflect the organization’s culture and address its strategy. For example, a company that’s focused on strengthening its culture as employees return to the office could ask an open-ended question regarding what perks workers would like to see when during their in-office days.
  • Keep it short and actionable: The best surveys are short and hold the employee’s attention. To accomplish this, SMB leaders should only ask questions they plan to act on. As the survey is being designed it’s important to ensure each question being asked correlates with one of the organization’s intentions.
  • Address relevant topics: A major benefit of regular employee pulse surveys is that they can be tweaked to address timely topics. As SMB leaders sit down to design the survey, they should adapt questions to address any major changes or challenges that the organization and its workforce are currently facing (i.e. hybrid working arrangements, diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, etc.).

Step 2: Gather the data

Once you’ve determined what your company’s intentions are and designed a clear, concise survey that reflects them, it’s time to send out your survey and gather valuable employee opinions. To ensure success before, during, and after data collection, survey administrators should consider:

  • Cross-referencing demographical data: Context is everything. As part of the data collection process, survey managers should develop a well-rounded view of each employee by gathering data on work location (hybrid, remote, on-site, etc.), schedule information, and more. Factoring in these details can help SMB leaders better understand each demographic’s reality.
  • Planning for broad and specific actions: As business leaders receive survey results, they should be open to planning actions that are applicable to the entire company, as well as changes that occur in specific departments. Certain areas of the organization may be experiencing a particular pain point, and by addressing those local needs head-on, employers have the chance to make a significant impact.
  • Ensuring accessibility: To achieve the most accurate data set, you want as many voices as possible to be heard. Each employee should have easy access to the employee pulse survey, regardless of their working conditions and primary language.
  • Prioritizing communication: Before people can fill out your survey, they first need to know it exists. That’s why it’s crucial that survey administrators are in constant communication with employees before and during the data collection. Some examples of these communications include:
    • Sending an initial email with the survey link, as well as explaining what the survey is, why it matters for the organization, and what employees can expect to happen with the results.
    • Regular email reminders to those who have not yet completed the survey emphasizing the importance of providing feedback and reiterating the submission deadline.
    • If your organization has employees with non-desk jobs, signage should be posted reminding workers about the survey. For example, posters featuring a QR code leading to the survey could be posted in the warehouse, on the sales floor, or in the office breakroom.
    • To maximize awareness, the survey should be announced and completion should be encouraged on the company intranet, in organization-wide meetings like town halls, and in team meetings.

Survey says: Partner with a PEO

There is never a bad time to survey your workforce. SMB employers should use employee pulse surveys as a diagnostic tool to aid in optimizing their employee engagement, satisfaction, attraction, and retention rates.

With so many moving parts, employee surveys are a great example of a project that makes sense to offload to a professional employer organization (PEO).

A PEO, like ExtensisHR, can simplify every aspect of employee surveying, and can help business leaders craft a clear, compliant, and actionable survey strategy. Additionally, ExtensisHR’s intuitive DEI Dashboard simplifies cross-referencing data on pay equity, salary trends, employee turnover, promotions, and previous hires.

Take the first step toward leveraging your employees’ voices today. The HR professionals at ExtensisHR are ready to guide you through it all—contact them today.

Looking for more tips? Check out A Complete Guide to Employee Pulse Surveys (Part II) which reviews how to analyze survey results and act on the findings.

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