Real-time pulse surveys vs. annual employee engagement surveys 

October 12, 2021

Employee engagement is at the top of the agenda for HR leaders across the globe, and for good reason. Engaged employees mean improved productivity, increased retention, and a stronger employer brand. But how often should you measure engagement?

We are right now in the middle of a paradigm shift, where the formal, annual surveys of the past are being replaced with more modern tools. Instead of using extensive yearly surveys, a quickly increasing number of companies are opting for real-time pulse surveys to monitor the state of their organisation. 

While annual surveys only provide a snapshot from that particular moment in time, pulse surveys offer a more accurate view of employee engagement as it changes and evolves over time.

Pulse surveys enable an agile and data-driven approach to employee engagement

Annual surveys are better than not measuring at all, but they fail to capture the changing nature of the employee experience. With the traditional annual surveys, asking each employee over 50 questions, it often takes a month or more to review the feedback and plan for organisational action. This is an outdated approach that is not compatible with the modern-day expectations on HR to run a data-driven operation.

“The increased use of real-time analytics and recommendation engines in both consumer and business technologies has raised concern that feedback gathered from traditional engagement surveys every two years (or even yearly) is not frequent enough to provide a complete and current perspective,” says Gartner’s Senior Director Analyst Helen Poitevin.

This graphic from Gartner clearly shows how strong the trend is, and how regular pulse surveys are quickly becoming the new norm.

Read the full Gartner article here: Is It Time to Toss Out Your Old Employee Engagement Survey?

Annual surveys are usually long and arduous, which in itself can cause stress for your employees. It can also lead to people rushing to the questions to get back to work, which can affect the validity of your results.

Pulse surveys, on the other hand, will barely impact your employee’s day as they only take a minute or two to answer. This means more people will complete your surveys and the validity of the results will improve, as respondents are more likely to give each question their full attention.

Benefits of pulse surveys

Measuring employee engagement and monitoring the employee experience regularly instead of once a year has many advantages. Pulse surveys allow you to create an ongoing, two-way communication with your people so that you always know what's going on in the organisation.

Real-time insights 

Engagement, and the different drivers of engagement, change over time. If you ask a question in January and ask the same person the same question in June, the answer may have changed entirely. This is why the results of annual surveys quickly become obsolete. With regular pulse surveys, you always have access to real-time insights about the state of your organisation.

Data-driven people decisions

Without accurate data about engagement, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to know how well things are working in your organisation. Without easy access to data, many decisions tend to be made based on hunches, gut feelings, and personal opinions, which means you risk focusing your efforts on the wrong things. Data also allows HR teams to track, visualise and report on the progress of different HR initiatives.

An early-warning system

Pulse surveys serve as early-warning systems that highlight areas of concern before these problems result in a costly turnover or widespread issues within the company. Realtime data about the state of engagement empowers HR and managers to be proactive and invest time and effort in the areas where it’s most needed. 

Pulse surveys show employees that their feedback is valued

Pulse surveys aren’t only about frequency and real-time data. They also indicate an organization’s willingness to invest in and respond to the feedback and requirements of their employees. By providing a safe channel for employee feedback, pulse surveys help build a culture of inclusion and communication where everyone’s voice is heard and valued.   

Related reading: Employee engagement software – how to pick the right vendor