Pulse Surveys vs. Engagement Surveys: How to Choose

By Chiradeep BasuMallick - Last Updated on February 2, 2024
Pulse Surveys vs. Engagement Surveys

Workplace surveys are a great way to preserve business values, enhance employee engagement, and boost morale. However, the question remains: what’s the best employee survey yielding the most favorable outcomes?

For people managers in 2024, pulse and engagement surveys are the two best options.

Pulse Surveys vs. Engagement Surveys: What’s the Difference?

Pulse surveys are brief, frequent questionnaires that let you collect employee feedback consistently so that you can take note of the issues at hand and take immediate action. On the flip side, employee engagement surveys generally consist of a minimum of 50 distinct questions that solicit responses from individuals using rating scales. They are held annually.

There are five ways pulse surveys differ from regular, annual surveys – when, how, why, what it isn’t, and what next. Let’s break these down in detail:

1. When

The frequency of employee pulse surveys is higher than that of engagement surveys. In contrast to the yearly or biannual nature of engagement surveys, pulse surveys tend to be carried out monthly, quarterly, or even weekly.

2. How

The overall length of employee pulse surveys is considerably shorter than that of employee engagement surveys. They take only a few minutes to complete and throw up only a couple of queries. Employee engagement surveys are much longer and comprise scores of questions, each leading to a broader understanding of organizational culture.

3. Why

The general idea of any pulse survey is to collect feedback regarding specific issues or concerns, like managerial support, work-life balance, or collaboration. On the contrary, employee engagement surveys seek to assess satisfaction and overall engagement with the company.

4. What it isn’t

Rigid regulations don’t govern pulse surveys; the subject matter of each survey is at your discretion. This lets your company zero in on what’s currently most important. Contrary to what one might think, engagement surveys are the exact opposite. Their purpose is to detect more significant trends within the workforce – and for this reason, they abide by a specific roster of inquiries and often pose identical or similar questions year after year.

5. What next

Insights gathered through employee pulse surveys are more immediate and actionable, enabling rapid modifications and enhancements. Engagement surveys, on the other hand, offer a more holistic understanding of employee engagement, which can be leveraged to guide initiatives and strategies over a longer timeframe.

Pulse Surveys vs. Engagement Surveys: How to Choose the Right Option for Your Organization?

It can be hard to determine which survey type is right for an organization, given that decisions will be made partly based on the data gathered. Look for a suitable number of questions that avoid omitting important data without bombarding your employees with excessive responses.

Evaluate these factors when choosing a survey methodology:

  • The number of separate departments, business units, and teams must answer various inquiries.
  • Any critical business decisions that demand immediate opinions, such as modifying hybrid work policies.
  • The organization’s culture, adaptability, and receptiveness to change,
  • The overarching objectives and purposes of the survey that you aim for– e.g., do you need to check employee sentiment on a recent decision, or collect data for an annual report?
  • HR process frameworks that facilitate periodic surveys and any process roadblocks – e.g., do you have the time and resources to analyze frequently collected data?

Pulse Surveys vs. Engagement Surveys: It’s Not an “Either Or”

Business leaders must recognize that both these surveys offer tremendous value. It’s, therefore, prudent to avoid adopting an either/or position. Combining the two survey types will result in your organization’s highest possible returns on investment (ROI).

Bear in mind that annual surveys work wonderfully when it comes to assessing employee behavior and related trends. They are incredibly effective in developing relevant reports and historical insights. An exhaustive accumulation of data is necessary for an engagement survey and is helpful for long-term people analytics.

Employees achieve a sense of belonging with engagement surveys –  strengthening trust and loyalty between businesses and employees. They also enable you to collect feedback concurrently on various topics.

However, pulse surveys, as their name implies, offer a precise and instantaneous representation of employee commitment and engagement. Real-time feedback is more in-the-moment and optimally adjusted to the dynamic nature of the workplace.

A pulse survey requires a minimal investment of time. As a result, people offer candid and authentic feedback. Usually, they aren’t associated with annual evaluations; the lack of bias in the findings encourages further participation in the survey.

Ultimately, it demonstrates remarkable efficacy for tracking transient/evolving patterns annually. The pulse survey data is valuable, relevant, and, above all else, highly actionable because of its immediacy.

Using Pulse Surveys and Engagement Surveys Together

The pairing of yearly employee surveys with pulse surveys improves their advantages, making them more effective when used in tandem.

One can share pulse surveys weekly, biweekly, or monthly to collect prompt and straightforward responses. You can use annual employee surveys with substantially more extensive and detailed inquiries. This feature enables a contextual analysis of the interrelationships among all survey responses.

Let’s consider a scenario where a pulse survey query elicits responses from only one employee, who reveals problems maintaining focus during online meetings. Further inquiry may be challenging because only one individual was involved.

Subsequently, the person in question might share in a lengthy annual survey – how WiFi complications in their home office impair their ability to conduct virtual meetings. You now clearly understand how to correctly offer the person in question what they need to resolve their issue.

When Should You Conduct Pulse Surveys?

Unlike engagement surveys, which are held once every year at a preset time, a pulse survey can be significantly impacted by timing.

When major shifts in the business take place, it’s a good idea to carry out surveys like these. Evaluating the effects of critical organizational changes such as mergers, acquisitions, or restructuring on employee engagement – is of the utmost importance.

Moreover, engagement surveys must be conducted before and after introducing specific interventions or projects, such as new flexible working policies, compensation announcements, product pivots, etc. This tests the efficacy of these measures in enhancing employee engagement.

Maintaining the feedback cycle is, in conclusion, critical. Implementing action plans based on the feedback collected from a prior survey and eventually conducting another study is helpful. This tells employees that their feedback was taken into account and acted upon.

In Conclusion: Using Technology to Streamline Your Survey Strategy

You could select an annual engagement survey or pulse survey as your preferred strategy –  technology and the many tools freely available today will support surveys’ development, dissemination, and evaluation.

Using online survey platforms makes it possible to interact with employees in various time zones and locations possible. Their accessibility ensures increased response rates and greater participation, yielding more accurate and representative data.

Numerous survey options, like eNPS, pulse surveys, or employee engagement surveys, are offered by most platforms –to accurately gauge and improve your employees’ engagement levels of your employees. Organizations can ensure that their employees aren’t facing significant challenges by integrating anonymous real-time feedback. Moreover, artificial intelligence features reveal hidden trends by extracting data from open-ended responses.

As companies navigate highly dynamic workplaces amid a volatile economy, accurately gauging employee sentiment is crucial. Pulse and employee surveys can help you gather actionable insights by listening to the Voice of the Employee (VoE).

For more ideas to improve HR outcomes, download the whitepaper on The Impact of Employee Engagement on Your Organization. If you liked reading this article, share it with your network by clicking on the social media buttons at the top.

Chiradeep BasuMallick | Chiradeep BasuMallick is a content marketing expert, startup incubator, and tech journalism specialist with over 11 years of experience. His background includes advertising, marketing communications, corporate communications, and content marketing. He has collaborated with several global and multinational companies. Presently, he runs a content marketing startup in Kolkata, India. Chiradeep writes extensively on IT, banking and financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, hospitality, financial analysis, and stock markets. He holds a literature and public relations degree and contributes independently to leading publications.

Chiradeep BasuMallick | Chiradeep BasuMallick is a content marketing expert, startup incubator, and tech journalism specialist with over 11 years of experience. His backgr...


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