Pulse Surveys vs Annual Surveys – Why Pulse is Better

Pulse surveys vs annual surveys

Photo credit: Sarah Bardsley – 11 Eleven Media

Employee satisfaction surveys are one of the cornerstones of HR. This is supported by Forbes contributor, Kevin Kruse – “{employee satisfaction surveys} should form the backbone of any employee engagement initiative.”

The driving force behind your business is your people. The right employee survey programme will effectively measure the happiness, engagement, loyalty and sentiment of your people. It will also create cultural alignment – which is essential if you have remote workers and multi-site teams.

By collecting and measuring your employee’s feedback, you can gauge how everyone is feeling and take appropriate action. This will let everyone know that you value their input.

Employee satisfaction surveys

You should not be asking if employee satisfaction surveys are worthwhile – as the benefits are clear. The real question you should be asking is “what type of survey should I be using… pulse or annual?”

We will highlight why we think that pulse surveys are the better option for you:

What are pulse surveys?

Right off the bat, let’s address the name. They are known as pulse surveys because they allow you to “keep on the pulse” of your team’s engagement and satisfaction. Put simply, this means you can gather real-time insights to measure how your people are feeling at any given time.

Pulse surveys allow you to create ongoing, two-way conversations with your people. This allows you pinpoint what you should stop, start, change and continue to improve culture and boost business. The surveys are conducted regularly and will typically only comprise of a few questions.

By implementing pulse surveys and collecting real-time insights you can:

  • Increase productivity and performance.
  • Attract and retain talent.
  • Reduce recruitment and onboarding costs.
  • Increase wellbeing and engagement.
  • Easily identify areas for innovation or improvement.
  • Locate problems early and prevent them escalating.
  • Empower your people.
  • Benchmark against other divisions, teams and companies.
  • Identify skills gaps.
  • Reduce absenteeism and presenteeism.
  • Analyse trends to help predict future developments.

The trouble with annual surveys

Annual surveys are still more common than pulse surveys and are the focal point for many HR departments. Focusing on asking a wide range of questions in large quantities – they are typically very long and detailed.

CIPD states that “Only 14% of business leaders are happy with the data HR is providing. This presents a strong case for adopting a new employee survey programme.

Here are some more stats which highlight a clear need for pulse surveys in HR:

8% of HR leaders are using any sort of analytics and people measurement tool. (CIPD)

12% of executives believe their companies are driving the right culture, and fewer than one in three executives even understand their organization’s culture. (Deloitte)

8% of organisations thought their business was strong in the area of people analytics, despite 75% realising its importance. (Deloitte)

Let’s examine why traditional surveys fall short when compared to pulse surveys:


Annual surveys are very long and arduous, which can lead to everyone rushing through to finish the long list of questions. This can affect the validity of your results – as people will be focused on finishing the survey, rather than giving each question the measured thought it requires.

A survey will typically consist of about 100 questions and can therefore take a long time to complete. This can lead to high drop-off rates; whereby people start the survey and are too fatigued to finish.

Pulse surveys will barely impact upon your employee’s day and will typically only consist of about 5-10 questions. This ensures that more people will complete the surveys and the validity of your results will improve because the respondents will be more likely to give each question their full attention.

Invalid insights

Most businesses will collect regular analytics that provide insights into their key financial metrics… Why don’t we collect real-time feedback from our people also?

Annual surveys cover the whole year, but most of your people will only feedback about recent events. This creates huge gaps where no data is being gathered, which is highly counter-intuitive. By the time you gather the feedback, analyse it and start to create plans, the data will more than likely be out-dated and therefore invalid. You will have missed significant opportunities to combat existing problems and build on successes.

Through pulse surveys, you can gather feedback regularly and take immediate action. This is far more effective than actioning historical feedback ten months later.

Unreliable data

Many HR departments still use annual surveys in their quest to boost employee engagement. The problem with this is that they don’t provide many insights.

Annual surveys won’t help to locate and solve problems when they are at their most critical. Instead of providing insight into the factors that influence staff engagement, the traditional annual survey simply delivers a two-dimensional view of your organisation and its people – over a short period only.

Pulse surveys make it easier for business leaders to keep their finger on the pulse of their organisation and measure their most important asset – their people and leaders. This is achieved by collecting real-time feedback and transforming it into data-driven and actionable insights. This will ensure you have constant opportunities to remedy concerns and build on successes – allowing you to make constant improvements that will drive all business forward and boost profits.

In today’s fast-paced world where everything is just one click away – people expect everything to be instant. There’s no more waiting in line and everything happens in real-time. So, given the choice, wouldn’t it be better to have real-time employee engagement programmes too?


Author: Tony Latter

Tony has over 10 years’ new business and account management experience, working for 2 of the UK’s largest companies; IPC Media and AXA.

Share This Post On
468 ad