Taking the Plunge into Pulsing 

A pulse survey, unlike its older cousin the annual survey is designed to give quick and instant insights into the health of a company, hence ‘pulse‘. 

For many organisations, the annual survey as the main source of employee voice and measure of engagement was already on the way out, being complimented by regular pulse surveys. Millennials (who now make up over 50% of our workforce) and Gen Z, born into a world where their voices are sought and encouraged, love to give feedback and expect their voices to be heard. Even in a world BC (before Covid-19) one third of under 25s wanted to be asked for feedback every single week. It’s the future of employee voice (Enabler #3).

With Covid-19 forcing a newly distributed workforce and with wellbeing at the top of agenda, tapping into what your people are thinking and feeling right now matters more than ever. Pulse surveys are a brilliant, super flexible way of doing this. For organisations who have traditionally relied on the annual employee engagement survey however, this could be a daunting thought.  To help your organisation take the plunge, we’ve five top tips for you, along with two case studies and a list of pulse survey providers who are kindly offering Covid-19 wellbeing tools for free.

EFS’s top tips for pulsing your people

  1. Anonymity
    There’s always a little push back when introducing a new initiative in the workplace and this is no different.  Reassurance that what people say is anonymous, confidential and that their data is in no way compromised will always be questions you’re asked. Do your homework when choosing a provider and pick one that guarantees respondent confidentiality. Make it clear in your launch comms that their anonymity is assured (this will be particularly important right now so people can voice concerns and worries in confidence).



  2. Feedback and action
    Your people need to know they’re not talking into a vacuum. Employee voice is a two-way transaction between employee and employer.  Have a plan in place for how you’re going to feedback what you learned and what actions are everyone will take as a result. Remember all teams should be acting for themselves on their own results (as well as top-down actions)

Capturing these and sharing themes can feed comms and boost engagement and a sense of momentum. Vlogs from leaders are a quick and easy way to feedback. Keep the tone and content of these as simple, quick and regular as the pulses themselves.

  1. Be brave
    You’re not always going to like what you hear. Sometimes the truth hurts. Uncovering any potentially toxic issues and dealing with them before they snowball will help keep a culture healthy.



  2. Keep going
    Choose your provider carefully then stick with them. Familiarity with a format will help keep participation rates high. You’ll also be able to benchmark against your own progress by consistently using the same engagement measure (a regular, recurring set of questions).
  3. Trust and transparency
    To get the most out of your pulse surveys you need to earn the trust of your people. Doing 1-4 above will certainly help, but transparency will drive trust even more. Be open in sharing the results (warts and all) and create an exec summary that captures all the key findings and action points.
    Some pulse survey tools also come with an option that allows everyone to see what others are saying in real time, and even allow voting on what ideas or sentiments are liked best. 

A word of caution

Pulse survey are more difficult to do well – every requirement and constraint that exists with an annual survey is still there, but you have to deal with them repeatedly. Pulse is the gold standard, but if you struggle to get value from an annual survey, then you may not be ready for Pulse.

Case studies

Pulse surveys can be for everyone, regardless of size of organisation. We spoke to a London Housing association about their experience with their chosen pulse survey tool.

Islington and Shoreditch Housing Association

Islington and Shoreditch Housing Association (ISHA) is a community and neighbourhood-based housing association managing and developing quality affordable housing for people in North and East London. With over 2,400 houses, they are a major provider of truly affordable housing in North London. They are a values-driven organisation who put their people and their residents at the heart of all they do.

ISHA has 65 employees, working (before Covid) in one office location in London. They are proud of their record on diversity, which embraces age, gender and ethnic background. ISHA describes its culture as friendly, positive, committed, supportive, empowering, open and collegiate.

Why they took the plunge to pulse
It’s probably fair to say they stumbled upon a dedicated pulse survey tool almost by accident. Previously they’d relied on an annual engagement survey supported by survey monkey.

This changed in 2017 when ISHA undertook a refresh of their values and associated organisational behaviours. As part of their listening to employee voice they used Waggl, a digital pulse platform recommended by Woodreed, the consultancy delivering the culture programme.  

Understanding that culture needs to be managed as carefully inside as the brand is managed outside, they wanted a more rigorous and frequent temperature check of culture, alongside a longer engagement survey each year. 

“Taking the temperature of our culture every three months means we can identify and seek to resolve issues quickly. It makes measurement of our culture feel manageable and actionable.” 
Judith Leigh, Head of people and organisational development

How ISHA made it happen

Their people were introduced to the platform in a staff meeting. Judith and her team made a short, fun, memorable video showing the dance of the honeybees (which is where Waggl gets its name) and people were able to ask any questions about the platform and the process.  As a result, everyone embraced the process and there were no reservations.  The link to the ‘Quarterly Culture’ pulse (four recurring closed questions and one open) was embedded in an email which reiterated the process and the assurances of anonymity. The pulse was live for two weeks with a couple of reminders sent during that time. Everyone was able to see what their colleagues were thinking and feeling with results in real time and transparent. Participants were also able to vote on the ideas from the open questions they liked most. 

How did feedback happen?

Even though people could see all the results for themselves, the results were also reported on posters and sent as PDFs to everyone. A more formal report was prepared for the board.

Any advice for first time pulse users?

ISHA are so pleased they made the commitment to keep on top of their culture with regular pulse surveys.  Judith’s advice would be:

  • Think really carefully about the recurring questions as you don’t want to be chopping and changing them. 
  • Be brave. You might not always like what you’re told, but it’s always better to know. 
  • Keep going to see progress against your initial benchmark scores.

ISHA also likes how Waggl has the option for total transparency of answers in real time. It helps create a culture of openness. They’ve even done ‘live Waggls’ at conferences.

As Judith says “Just do it! You really won’t regret it”.

Free resources to help your organisation right now

Hult Ashridge and EFS have collaborated on a major new team engagement diagnostic they’ve called ‘Shades of Grey’. You can find more out about here <link to whatever you can share>

There are also a number of pulse survey tool providers who are doing their bit by offering their tools for free during the pandemic. You can find them by following the links below.

Peachy Monday ‘Employee pulse check’

Qualtrics ‘Remote work pulse’ 

Waggl ‘Putting people first during Covid-19’

Author Bio: Charlotte Dahl is Creative Planning Director at Woodreed, sign up for essential digests on culture, branding and engagement.

Photo Credit: Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

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