4 min read

The FAQs of Pulse Surveys (+Instructions)

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If you own a car, you know regular inspections are vital to keeping your vehicle running at its peak performance. They tell you what’s broken, what to keep an eye on, and what preventative measures you may be able to take. 

What inspections are to cars, pulse surveys are to leaders in the workplace. They’re a valuable tool that, when used effectively, can tell leaders what is working for their team, what is not, and where action needs to be taken. 

If you have questions about what exactly a pulse survey is and the details about conducting on yourself, continue reading as you’ll find answers to the most commonly asked questions about this type of survey. Plus, you’ll find step-by-step instructions included so that you can DIY your own pulse survey.


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What Is a Pulse Survey?

A pulse survey contains a select few questions about an aspect of the workplace and is sent out on a regular basis (weekly, monthly, etc.). The purpose of doing so is to receive feedback and track progress in an area that you deem to be important, such as: 

  • Engagement
  • Job satisfaction
  • Well-being
  • Leadership
  • Team effectiveness and performance
  • Communication
  • Work environment and team culture
  • Change implementation

Unlike other types of surveys commonly used in the workplace, such as engagement surveys, pulse surveys contain only a few questions and are conducted on a far more frequent basis (weekly/monthly vs. yearly). 

Pulse Survey Definition - Niagara Institute


What Makes a Good Pulse Survey?

You can learn and gain a lot from conducting a pulse survey if you take the right approach. So, what exactly makes a good pulse survey?

  • It has a greater purpose behind it that can be clearly articulated to anyone who asks
  • It is quick and easy for respondents to complete It is regularly administered, not done once, and abandoned
  • It is updated and improved as circumstances change and goals evolve
  • The information gained from it is actually used to make noticeable changes and improvements


How Often Should You Do a Pulse Survey?

Pulse surveys should be done on a regular basis, such as weekly, monthly, or quarterly. However, the exact frequency will be up to you as it depends on your goals, audience, and the timeliness of the needed feedback.


How Many Questions Should Be in a Pulse Survey?

Pulse surveys typically include 4-6 questions, though you can include just a few extra if you go for multiple-choice answers as opposed to written answers. In any case, the last thing you want is for your pulse surveys to feel burdensome. If they do, they will lose their effectiveness. To avoid that, the key is to keep it short, simple, and to the point.


Are Pulse Surveys Actually Anonymous?

Whether or not a pulse survey is actually anonymous is entirely up to you as the leader administering and overseeing it. Both answers are correct, so long as you make it abundantly clear to your respondents by putting it into writing directly on the survey whether their responses will be anonymous or not and adhere to what you say. If you don’t do this and then unexpectedly confront them about their answers, it could cost you their trust in the survey and, even worse, in you. 


Can You Do a Pulse Survey For Free?

Yes, you can DIY a pulse survey for free so long as you have the time and capacity to create the survey from scratch, as well as administer it and analyze the results, in a timely manner. If you do, then this route is great for those who have a very small team, who do not have the budget for surveys, or who are just experimenting with the concept. 

In fact, here are step-by-step instructions for how to create your own pulse survey for free using Google Forms: 

  1. Once signed into Google Forms, click “Start a new form,” and select  “Blank.”
  2. In the spot that says “Untitled Form,” name your pulse survey. Also, under “Form Description,” reiterate the purpose of the survey and explicitly state if it’s anonymous or not.
  3. Input the first question of your survey below that where it says “Untitled question.”
  4. On the right-hand side, set the type of question to “Paragraph” and check “Required.”
  5. Repeat steps 3-4 for all questions using the “Add Question” button on the right.
  6. At the top of the page, select “Responses” and turn on “Accepting Response” if it is not already.
  7. Again, at the top of the page, select “Settings” and decide whether or not you want to require an email to submit the survey or if answers can be edited after they are submitted.
  8. If you wish to change the colors or fonts of the survey, click the “Customize Theme” icon that looks like a paint palette in the top right. Now, click the “Preview” button that looks like an eye in the top right to test your survey.
  9. Once you know, it works and appears as it should click the large purple “Send” button to get a link or to send it directly from the platform.

If the DIY option isn’t right for you though, you can use a pulse survey app, such as OfficeVibe or CultureMonkey, to create and administer it, or enlist the help of an expert who provides workplace assessments and surveys, such as Niagara Institute and its network of partners.

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