Pulse surveys: 5 reasons to ditch the annual review

Introduction

When it comes to measuring employee engagement, annual surveys are about as useful as a magic 8 ball for gathering employee feedback. They’re too infrequent, too long and can’t be measured properly. It’s likely you already know this.

Can you think of anything in your personal life that you would just check once a year? The answer is probably not a lot, because it's worth keeping a closer eye on anything that really matters. 

It's the same for your workplace and your employees. While you may have already thought about, or even invested in, an employee engagement survey – if this isn't conducted regularly, it's highly unlikely that it will be able to make a big difference to the workplace. 

So, if you are looking for a more meaningful way to test the temperature of your workforce. The answer, you’ll be glad to know, is at hand: pulse surveys.

Why have HR surveys traditionally been carried out annually?

Despite having the best intentions of driving innovation, many business still fall back on tradition, with the outmoded annual review being a prime example.

There is, of course, merit in looking at year-on-year measurements. Harder financial metrics such as bottom line performance are best observed in consistent and foreseeable environments and therefore lend themselves to annual – or perhaps quarterly – reviews.

The problem develops where this logic has simply been carried across into HR structures. The presumption is, if you want to see trends in your workforce, good or bad, then you needed similarly large chunks of data to compare and contrast.

However the problem is people are not numbers and this approach leads to a very scant, unreliable snapshot of your workforce. 

Why annual surveys don’t work

What do you remember of last year? Your holidays, sure. And perhaps a few standout weekends. Oh and definitely that awful stomach bug.  However anything more granular than this and the details become a little hazy.

The fact of the matter is our memories do not serve us well when it comes to the everyday. If you’re struggling to remember what you did on your birthday, how on earth are you supposed to remember that Wednesday when your manager dumped a tornado of work on your desk?

On top of this, the results can offer an incomplete picture of your workforce. Sending a 10-page questionnaire once a year, covering everything from the quality of office stationery to management structures, is not going to yield usable data.

What is a pulse survey?

The solution to the downfalls of annual HR reviews is fairly straightforward: regularly checking in with your employees without the formalities, focussing on specific topics. However managing this manually, particularly in bigger companies, is next to impossible. The admin alone would be a full-time position.

Enter the pulse survey.

The name itself works twofold, referring both to its administration (in short, frequent bursts) and its purpose (to feel the pulse of your business). You can think of it as a quick and efficient way to gather insights about the 'health' or 'pulse' of a company - just as a doctor would check the pulse of a patient to see how they were doing. 

A pulse survey is one that is short and very specific. Its function is to administer and collect snippets of data from your employees, over a set period of time, and present a whole picture of how your business is running.

The survey focuses the questions on a specific area of the business so that you are able to see a well-rounded view of that precise area, in order to be able to make improvements. 

Think of it like a jigsaw. Where an annual survey would dump 500 or so fragments in a pile on your desk, a pulse survey has assembled the pieces for you. And by removing the need to sort through and organise answers, it gives you more time to spend interpreting the data and making the necessary changes.

Due to the short, frequent nature of pulse surveys, it's also expected that participation rates are much higher. This means that you can engage with more of your employees and overall, make more of a difference to your business. 

Introducing pulse survey solution: Perkbox Insights

Short, frequent survey questions are a good starting point – but more can be done to streamline feedback employee. If you’re looking to get the best results, you need to ask the right questions, look at the metrics that matter and interpret the results in a meaningful way.

This is why we created Perkbox Insights. Designed as an agile pulse survey tool, it enables HR to gather and act  on feedback in a way that improves both company culture and performance.

It’s all very well discussing the theory behind pulse surveys but how can the tool revolutionise your employee feedback?

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What are the advantages of pulse surveys?

1. Improved response rate 

How many of your employees actually make it to the end of an annual survey? It’s likely a pretty small number. According to one study, only 30% of employees actually complete annual surveys.

Think about this from a personal perspective: how many times have you been confronted by a two-page questionnaire and given up without even trying? Now try and imagine being given 10 pages at work with the need for written answers.

However, feed employees shorter, snappier questions in a digestible cadence, and the response rates will far exceed that of an annual survey. Indeed research cited in Forbes claimed that pulse surveys response rates averaged out at 85%. 

2. More textured data

Annual surveys or one-off questionnaires will only ever tell you what your employees feel in that moment. This is a painfully two-dimensional window into your employee’s experience of work. Moods change, circumstances differ – company culture itself is not a fixed entity but fluid.  

It’s why sending regular bursts of questions makes much more sense. By continuously listening to employees, revisiting topics and tracking change over time, you can build a three-dimensional picture of your company culture, and actually fix problems as they happen.

3. One tool to rule them all

Measuring “engagement” can be like trying to catch air. From employee testimonials to exit interviews to engagement surveys, HR is awash with data. It all appears to be valid but just doesn’t fit together.

Harmonising your results can be the hardest part of gathering feedback, which is why Insights houses everything under one roof. Separated into 10 key areas, all your data is vetted and ordered before you even come to look at it. You’ll also have access to a real-time dashboard, where you can review in-depth results and track your evolving engagement score.

4. It comes ready-made

Knowing the questions to ask is the hardest part of creating a survey. What will resonate with your employees and what will miss the mark? This is hard to answer from a management perspective without going directly to employees, which in turn spoils any confidentiality. Moreover, getting your questions right could take several iterations of the survey, creating more work for HR.

Insights has solved this problem by providing a bank of preset, science-backed question that have been extensively researched. What’s more, the same questions have been used by all users, giving you a firm and tangible benchmark to compare your results with.

5. It speaks your language

Interpreting human data is not easy. In fact it’s one of the biggest debates in modern psychology. Being faced with survey results can be a shock to the system, particularly if the responsibility falls on one person. Positive comments, negative comments, what do these results actually tell you when weighed up?

Instead of sifting through the headache of answers, Insights comes with a highly visual  breakdown of your results. Ultimately this helps you cut through the clutter so you can quickly identify your company’s strengths and weaknesses.

insights

How can pulse surveys increase employee engagement?

One of the most important benefits of pulse surveys is their ability to provide companies with a real-time, accurate view of employee engagement. 

When employees are disengaged in their work, productivity, motivation, and standards of work fall. This can increase costs for businesses and leads to low-quality output and low levels of performance. 

When employees are engaged, they are more productive, perform at higher levels and are more committed and loyal to the company.

By asking your employees for regular feedback, you encourage engagement amongst your teams. When someone is asked about a particular area week after week, for example, workplace culture – they are more aware of this topic in general and by frequently being prompted to think about this topic, they are more likely to be mindful of this and think of ways to improve this between polls. 

Regular feedback is also a powerful tool for workplace leaders, as once you have an understanding of what engages your employees and what brings engagement levels down, you are able to harness this information and use it to drive change and improvements in the workplace. Further, when you implement these changes, you remind your staff that you value their feedback. 

Want to find out more?

Evidence shows pulse surveys are the future of measuring employee engagement, but until you’ve experienced the benefits firsthand, the conversation can feel purely academic. So take a look at the platform in action and you can make your own mind up.

In Summary

A pulse survey is one that is short and very specific. 

  • Its function is to administer and collect snippets of data from your employees, over a set period of time, and present a whole picture of how your business is running.
  • It tracks the same item over time, so you can see if your solutions are actually leading to any improvements for your staff. 
  • They are more frequent than traditional surveys, likely conducted on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis.