What is pulse survey : A complete guide to help you assess the pulse of your organization

When it comes to collecting timely feedback from employees using long, annual employee engagement surveys, it’s almost always a challenging task. Either employees don’t take the initiative seriously, there is a lack of trust in the organization, the surveys are not communicated effectively, or they are simply way too long.

And now with remote work (which, by the way, we didn’t think would last so long) having become the new normal across organizations, managers and HR leaders have a new situation at hand. With employees dispersed across locations and working from homes or anywhere they like, there is a compounded need to collect frequent feedback from employees.

Annual surveys alone may not work the magic anymore.

You’ll need to collect more regular feedback from your employees experience without taking much of their valuable time. And how can you do that?

Through pulse surveys.

Although there are multiple ways to collect feedback from your employees like annual engagement surveys and life cycle surveys, pulse survey has been an up and riser in recent times as it is a tool that can collect short and frequent feedback from employees in comparison to other types of surveys.

The annual employee engagement survey only gets a 30-40% response rate, while pulse surveys enjoy an average response rate of more than 50%. (Forbes)

There still exists some confusion, though, around what exactly a pulse survey is and how it can benefit business leaders in measuring and improving employee engagement.

We’ll run you through everything that you’ll ever need to know - about what pulse survey is, its history, significance, best practices, and much more. Stay hooked.

What does an employee pulse survey actually mean?

Pulse surveys are engagement surveys that are easy to implement, have fewer questions, and can help you get regular feedback from your employees.

As the name suggests, pulse surveys are designed to help you collect anonymous feedback from your employees by asking more pointed questions about - employee satisfaction, work-life balance, recognition, and much more on a monthly, weekly, or fortnightly basis.

But, mind you, a good employee pulse survey is not just about turning long surveys into fragmented little surveys. Employee pulse surveys are usually a set of questions that are asked repeatedly over a period of time to measure progress in a certain area of employee engagement or, are quick ways to collect feedback on any change within the organization.

A pulse survey will tick all the right boxes for you in terms of getting frequent feedback from your employees, higher actionable responses for the survey, and more honest participation.

But, here's the catch. No staff pulse survey can be of help to any organization unless the employee feedback is acted on. Collecting employee feedback and generating engagement reports are not enough. You have to start acting on the feedback and communicate the same with employees. Nothing short of this can instill trust among employees towards the leadership.

In short, the real key to the success of a pulse survey mechanism is how you convert employee feedback into dialogues that influence action and deliver quantifiable business outcomes.

History of employee pulse surveys

Though employee pulse survey is relatively new, it is currently the talk of the town for its ability to gather quick responses and present actionable insights on employee behaviors. The process of getting feedback from employees began in the 1920s, and back then it was called “employee attitude surveys” which were used to measure employees' attitudes and morale towards the work environment.

But did you know that the concept of employee surveys has been in existence for more than a century?

During World War I, most industrial leaders were concerned about the attitude of their employees as it led to labor strikes and resource shortages during wartime. In response, leaders had to come up with a scientific approach to workforce management.

Like how William Horman rightly said, “Necessity is the mother of invention”. A pressing need challenged the leaders from that era to implement an attitude survey. They asked employees questions about the management and coded the responses on a scale of one to five through agreeable or disagreeable context.

This process helped them formulate an average attitude score that they could use to compare and track engagement levels amongst the employees of various departments.

Even though conducting employee surveys back then was way ahead of its time, it had its limitations. Surveys were based on a paper - pen approach and did not guarantee employees any anonymity. As a result, employees were not very confident enough in expressing unbiased feedback in the fear of negative consequences.

Cut right to the late 1990s and early 2000s. We witnessed the technological era where employee surveys began to be conducted quickly securely over the internet. Except for moving to a more digital process, there was no significant change in the employee survey mechanism during this period.

Thanks to cloud - based software, running surveys is easy, less expensive, and readily accessible. Cloud - based employee engagement platforms have made it possible for organizations to enhance their capabilities when it comes to conducting employee surveys and has enabled them to measure trends and the pulse of their employees more frequently.

One conclusion to the evolution of employee surveys is this: across time, there has always been a need for behavioral science practices to increase employee engagement, even as we probably lacked the tools to fully make it happen.

It is safe to also assume that getting feedback from employees is not a recent trend data, instead, it has been at the core of developing a good company culture from the very beginning.

Pulse survey vs annual engagement survey

Engagement surveys are most widely used by leadership teams to gauge the engagement levels of their employees. By asking employees a series of questions about their employee experience in the organization, action plans are formulated to improve employee engagement.

And most organizations conduct these engagement surveys annually.

Annual engagement surveys usually serve as a year-on-year comparison of the engagement levels of employees. These surveys collect and unearth a lot of valuable data from the entire organization for deeper analysis which can then be eventually used for goal setting and finding ways to improve employee satisfaction, work culture, and company values.

But leaders need to understand that, no matter how good an annual engagement survey is, it is not just enough. Engagement surveys that are run annually are nothing but a yearly report. With no real-time information handy, acting on insights from annual surveys is a backward-looking exercise.

Imagine having run an employee survey in January 2020, right before the pandemic. You got the insights you needed and have a great action plan in place until the next survey in 2021. But as you spent the next 365 days implementing every big and small task on that action plan, a pandemic shook the world, employees started working remotely, people fell ill and so much more happened.

Would that action plan based on an annual survey run in January have any credibility once the pandemic struck? Because by then, the needs of your employees would have had changed drastically.

Yes, we agree that this is an extreme situation and most probably, a one-off instance. But a lot of things change over a period of 365 days including your employees' engagement levels, loyalty to the organization, motivation to work, and more.

Based on Dynamic Signal’s study in which 1001 US employees were surveyed, they found that 63 percent have wanted to quit because of ineffective and infrequent internal communications from their leadership team.

So how exactly is a pulse survey better than an annual survey?

Unlike annual surveys, complete pulse surveys are more frequent, specific, and much shorter in size, which will give you real-time insights into your employees’ engagement levels without causing your employees any survey fatigue.

Pulse survey questions let you ask targeted questions to a specific group of people about the current employee affairs and over a period of time. Such timeliness can help gauge the mood of your employees after a recent appraisal season, gather employees' views about a recent policy change in the company, their requirements in professional development opportunities, and much more.

This aspect of the pulse survey would provide you a level of transparency that would never be achievable with an annual survey alone.

The insights from regular pulse surveys help managers resolve an issue then and there without letting that convert into a larger problem, say, the cause for attrition. It is this aspect of the pulse survey that makes it widely popular in leadership circles.

Pulse surveyAnnual engagement survey
Quality of data collected
Real-time data analysis
Immediate actionability
Tracking of workplace trends


Once in a year

Significance & benefits of pulse survey

We’ve already discussed how significant the pulse surveys are for gathering employee feedback more frequently while keeping the survey short. But that’s not the entire picture, here’s what makes pulse survey a cool choice:

Running a pulse survey is simple. If you have access to any decent employee engagement software out there in the market, running a pulse survey and collecting data from your employees is super simple.

But that’s only the beginning of the massive exercise.

The data needs to then be crunched and reports need to be generated.

And if the reports generated from the employee data don’t reach the managers and leaders in time, then this whole exercise might turn into a negative employee experience for the employees as they see no action being taken on the relevant feedback they shared.

Oftentimes, carefully investing in reliable technology is the first and right step you need to take. When it comes to pulse survey software, it is important to buy one that can analyze the data and create reports at speed, helping you act faster.

Can we interrupt you for a moment?

Wondering who we are, and why we wrote this?

We are CultureMonkey, an AI powered employee engagement software. Simply put we help you listen to your employees better.

    Please do continue your reading

    How to launch your pulse survey?

    Collating questions, collecting data about the recipients, and putting up google forms to run pulse surveys for your employees sounds least bit fun, right? Especially if you have to do it alongside the million other things that need your attention right now.

    The next best bet is outsourcing it to an employee engagement consultant. Unfortunately, their process would not be much different. The same old Google forms and time - consuming manual processing will not give you magical results except take that workload off your table.

    If you ask us, we would suggest you to invest in an employee engagement software or a pulse survey software.

    For instance, CultureMonkey is an employee engagement platform carefully designed to help you listen, analyze and act on employee feedback and will help you in sustaining and growing your employee engagement.

    Unlike other employee pulse survey tools or methods that take hours, days, and weeks of your time in setting up the process, CultureMonkey lets you assess the pulse of your employees in very simple steps and generates insightful reports with just a click of a button.

    Let's quickly walk you through how to launch your first pulse survey for your employees with CultureMonkey.

    Step 1

    Select a frequency for your pulse survey

    Ideally, the frequency of a pulse survey is dependent on how many questions you ask, the number of engagement drivers you’re covering within a survey, and most importantly, the time required by you to take meaningful action on the survey responses and results.

    Generally, it is ideal that you only send one or two pulse survey questions in one go.

    And, when it comes to scheduling, following a weekly/bi-weekly or monthly frequency will help you collect honest feedback from your employees without causing them survey fatigue.


    CultureMonkey’s pulse survey tool also lets you disable a pulse survey whenever you want without affecting your reporting.

    Remember, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to choosing your pulse survey frequency. Therefore, maintain a frequency that works both in receiving and resolving your employees’ feedback.

    Why choosing the right employee survey questions is important?

    Step 2

    Select employee pulse survey questions and launch the survey

    Pulse surveys are all about asking a few survey questions, powerful enough to get the responses for what you want to know.

    But a common problem while setting up a pulse survey is that there are way too many good survey questions out there! Naturally, you are bound to feel confused about which to choose and which one to ignore.

    And most often than not, what was supposed to be a 2-3 question long pulse survey swells into what looks like an annual survey with way too many questions.

    Here’s where you need to check yourself and ensure you pick and choose the best questions that meet your objective.

    Or, use a tool like CultureMonkey, where you can automatically choose the pulse survey questions from our pre - built pulse survey templates that measure 15 + organizational engagement drivers.


    Every pulse survey sent from CultureMonkey mandatorily contains the e-NPS question to gauge how likely your employees are to recommend your company to their friends and family for work.

    CultureMonkey also visualizes the entire pulse check timeline for you to see what questions are sent in a sprint, and which engagement driver is being measured - across the past and future of a pulse survey schedule.