Employee Pulse Survey Questions: The Definitive List

October 20, 2021

What are employee pulse surveys?

An employee pulse survey allows you to regularly gauge the sentiment of your people. Unlike the annual engagement survey that might be 30,40 or 50 questions, an employee pulse survey is short and snappy.

The main characteristics of a pulse survey are 

  • The survey is issued frequently
  • The audience receives it at the same time every week or month
  • The results can be recorded anonymously, confidentially or identifiable depending on the survey and the organisations culture around feedback.
  • It doesn’t take long to complete the survey
  • Use the minimum number of questions to gain the insight - if this could be two or ten 10 questions
  • The answers should be uniform so the information can be collated quickly
  • The questions are tracking the same things so you can establish trends

The idea is that you are keeping your finger on the pulse of your employees’ readiness to work.

Structuring your pulse surveys

If you are wondering why you would need to carry out pulse surveys, check out our blog post on Employee Engagement Plans. In this, we outline how to set objectives for your engagement and how you can use pulse surveys to see whether you are on course to meet your objectives.

If you’re serious about improving engagement among your employees, you need a way to measure if your efforts are working. Employee pulse surveys offer a really effective way of getting this valuable data.

The Medium

The best way to ensure employees will answer your questions is to make the survey really easy to answer.

There are a number of digital tools that will allow you to achieve this. Google Forms, SurveyMonkey, Typeform are just some of the tools we are familiar with.

The Delivery

Similarly, to give your survey the best chance of success you need to be able to reach your people where they are. Asking them to create a profile, password and log in to a new engagement platform will only raise barriers to entry.

A regular email, a Slack channel post, an organisation-wide Teams message, a bulletin in work company communications tool, whatever existing communication tool that is widely adopted by your people, that’s where your employee pulse survey should live.

The Results

It’s quite likely that you haven’t asked your people for feedback very often. Therefore, you have to build up a culture around asking for feedback. employees (possibly rightly so) will be suspicious if having never been asked for feedback and then suddenly asked for a lot. 

It’s worth considering when you’re sending your pulse survey that the recipients understand who is asking the questions. And who will see the results? Your people must understand that your employee pulse check is trying to see trends rather than pinpoint people.

Testing your questions

A common failing of surveys, in general, is the ambiguous question. If the question is not clear about what it is asking about, the data is not going to tell you a story. 

When writing your employee pulse survey questions you need to make sure everyone can read the question and understand the true purpose. Otherwise, they don’t know what they are replying to.

If the question, for example, talks about ‘'senior leadership' ... is an employee clear on who this means? Is it the C-suite, the department head or their line manager?

Also, it’s worth remembering that the respondents may not be replying in their native language. Colloquialisms and slang may not have a direct translation in some languages.

This is an easy problem to overcome. Take a small sample of the audience. Make sure there is some diversity in the sample and road-test your questions. Then… 

  1. Ask the group did they understand the question being asked?
  2. Ask yourself is that the data that you are trying to capture?

Create a habit

Once you have established the questions you’re asking, a uniform structure to getting the answers and the way you will deliver it to your people you want as many to respond as possible. Ideally, you need to send your survey out at the same bat-time, on the same bat channel… This may not always be possible with time zones or the nature of some peoples jobs. If possible you can get people used to completing their Google Form at 1000 on the last Friday of every month. 

As much as we want to create a habit of feedback with employees, the owners of the survey need to create a habit of action around the feedback and a habit of communicating the results and actions to the audience.

It’s important the actions are considered and not a knee jerk response to the results. The action could be an explanation rather than an actual change.

What questions should I ask in my employee pulse survey?

The questions you are asking are designing to be tracking the same topics consistently over time. Ideally, these have been outlined in your employee engagement plan. By tracking the same topics you can use your answers to establish trends and gauge whether your efforts are working or not.

To achieve this you’ll ideally have uniform answers. Some questions may not cater to this and that’s OK. For questions with uniform answers, digital tools can play a pivotal role. Once you’ve established the topic you want to survey you can then ask the question and provide a selection of answers. For example, if you want to ask the question “How likely are you to recommend working on your team?” You can get uniform answers by using 

  • Checkboxes with a range of answers
  • Dropdowns with the same range of answers
  • Scale from 0-10 with numbers applied to the range of answers
  • Multichoice with the range of answers available for selection

For questions that you are trying to dig a little deeper into, a free text box is perfect. Especially if you are trying to uncover new information or things you may not have thought of.

How many questions should an employee pulse survey have?

This one is easy.

Ask as many questions as you need to provide meaningful data. This could be 1-2 to a weekly audience sample or it could be 10 every month to the whole organisation. 

Just like the medium and the delivery, we want to make this as easy as possible for people to respond to.

Categories of pulse survey questions, with examples

Remember, your employee pulse survey questions are a great way to find out if your engagement activities are working. They are also an opportunity to find out what’s working,  and more importantly what is not working, in your teams and your peoples’ lives.

Below are some suggested categories, employee pulse survey questions and what it is you are trying to find out from the question.

Mindset / Sentiment

[Understanding how your people think about work and the people they work with.]

1 - How was your week?

Why are we asking this question? 

This is a great way of establishing a baseline for how the person assesses their whole week both in and out of work. From this, we can ask about the week in work and therefore gauge whether work was a positive or negative contributor.

Suggested answers

Check-boxes: Terrible / Could have been better / Could have been worse / Excellent

2 - My manager wants me to be successful in my work

Why are we asking this question? 

Gallup research estimates that managers account for approximately 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores. Put another way, the manager of a team has a massive impact on how their employees perform. If people don’t believe their manager wants them to be successful, then they are unlikely to try to be successful.

Suggested answers

Dropdown options : Rarely / Sometimes / Always

3 - What were the two biggest challenges last month that stopped you from doing your best work last month?

Why are we asking this question? 

Improving performance is about making small improvements over time. Progress is what drives people forward. If we can identify areas that people are consistently having trouble with, we can help them get better over time.

Suggested answers

Check-boxes or buttons : Select two from: Conflict / Self-care / Disconnecting / Sleep / Distractions / Connection / Schedule / Communication / Movement / Meetings

4 - What were the two best things about work last month?

Why are we asking this question? 

In this question, we are validating whether something is improving rather than being less of a problem. For example, if Conflict / Self-care were flagged as problems one month and then Sleep / Distractions the next month; did Conflict / Self-care improve or did Sleep / Distractions become bigger problems? This question allows us to establish if the real improvement is happening.

Suggested answers

Check-boxes or buttons : Select two from: Conflict / Self-care / Disconnecting / Sleep / Distractions / Connection / Schedule / Communication / Movement / Meetings

Engagement

[Understanding the willingness of your people to not just do their work but go the extra mile.]

5 - How was your week at work?

Why are we asking this question? 

This question works well with ‘How was your week?’ as we can now gauge whether work was a positive or negative contributor.

Suggested answers

Check-boxes: Terrible / Could have been better / Could have been worse / Excellent

6 - Did you feel like you were able to perform your best at work this week?

Why are we asking this question? 

You can use this question to differentiate between challenges and obstacles. Though some people may have had challenges this may have allowed them to perform better in response to the challenge. This question will assess how they feel about their overall performance. You also have the option to follow up with a ‘tell us the reason you were not able to perform?’ and provide a box for a free text answer.

Suggested answers

Dropdown options : Yes / No

7 - When you are involved in group meetings do you feel you have equal opportunity to speak?

Why are we asking this question? 

One of the common denominators in high-performing teams is the feeling amongst team members that they will have the opportunity to contribute.

Suggested answers

Dropdown options : Yes / No

Purpose

[The future workforce cares more about meaning in their roles than money.]

8 - Did you feel you made an impact on the team’s productivity this week?

Why are we asking this question? 

This can be a useful way of gauging if there has been any change in, albeit, perceived productivity in response to any engagement initiatives.

Suggested answers

Check-boxes : No / Somewhat / Yes

9 - Do you feel like your team contributes to the company success?

Why are we asking this question? 

In bigger organisations, it is easy to get lost in the day-to-day nature of ploughing through a task list. When all you have to work towards is a set of output based KPIs or metrics you can lose the sense of why you are doing it.

Suggested answers

Check-boxes: I have no idea/ I have some idea / Yes, I get it

Readiness to work

[Performance in work is not always down to technical skills or qualifications. Distractions may prevent an employee from realising their true potential in work.]

10 - How would you rate your work/life balance?

Why are we asking this question? 

Work/life balance is a very personal pursuit that can vary depending on the role and the point in time. If you ask respondents to base their replies on the period between surveys, you can establish trends on how busy periods impact the lives of employees. 

Suggested answers

Dropdown options: What work/life balance / I’m struggling / I’m managing / I’m thriving

Would like some more pulse survey questions?

Click the image below if you would like 20 sample employee pulse survey questions, with the reason you are asking the question and some ways of framing the answers.


Michelle Fogarty
COO & Co-founder. Proud founding member SERIreland. Ex-Head of HR @ Twitter, Blizzard. Ex-Athlete, a bit broken but still goin!.
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