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What is a Pulse Survey?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 16, 2024
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A pulse survey is typically a type of survey given to employees of a company to better gauge and evaluate employee satisfaction, productivity, and overall attitude. These types of surveys are often given once or twice a year, on a regularly scheduled basis, and may be given to all employees and then broken down into specific departments or categories later. They are often kept confidential so employees can be open and honest with their answers, and are usually designed and evaluated by an outside company. A pulse survey is intended to allow management at varying levels to get a sense of the “health” of the company regarding the employees working within it.

The name “pulse survey” is based on an analogy between this type of survey and medical devices that electronically monitor the heart beat, or pulse, of a person. As those devices monitor a person’s pulse and display the information graphically, these surveys are intended to allow the managers of a company to monitor the “heart beat” of the company itself. The primary focus and intention of a pulse survey is typically to indicate and provide evaluation regarding employee issues such as job satisfaction, support from supervisors, work environment, and pay satisfaction.

A pulse survey is usually designed by a company other than the one for which it is being provided. Much like other forms of corporate testing and employee evaluation, these surveys are usually designed by professional psychologists and other professionals who study human behavior. The questions on this type of survey can vary greatly and may be open questions an employee can answer freely, multiple choice questions, or use a ratings scale. A pulse survey that uses a ratings scale, for example, will typically include statements such as “I feel my supervisors listen to me,” with possible responses like “Strongly Agree,” “Agree,” “Disagree,” and “Strongly Disagree.”

The employee will read the statements on the pulse survey and then choose the response that best fits his or her own feelings or attitudes. This type of survey will likely include dozens of questions regarding various aspects of the workplace, and the responses are then entered into a computer. A visual representation of employee satisfaction regarding different issues can then be created, which resembles the peaks or flat lines of a medical pulse monitor. This data can also be categorized in specific ways to show responses only from employees from a certain store, department within the store, and even employees of a particular salary level or those who have recently been promoted.

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Discussion Comments
By John57 — On Apr 19, 2012

In addition to an employee satisfaction survey, I am also familiar with a market pulse survey that is given to get a feel for consumer spending habits.

I work in marketing and our company is always interested in what motivates people to spend their money.

I have always been interested in the answers of a survey like this. For example, there are a lot more people who are eating at home instead of eating out because of the economy.

They are looking for other ways to save their money by making their own coffee at home instead of buying one on the way to work every day.

The attitude that many people have about the economy is usually a good indication of how they spend any extra money they have. If they feel like the economy is not getting any better, they are much more conservative when it comes to buying things they don't need.

By LisaLou — On Apr 18, 2012
I worked in the personnel department of a manufacturing company many years ago. I was able to see the results when we gave a pulse survey to our employees.

Not only did we give this to those employees who worked on the floor, but also those who worked in the office.It was interesting to see the difference in overall employee satisfaction between these two groups.

Even though many of the factory workers had been with the company for a long time, they did not have nearly has high of a level of satisfaction as those who worked in the office.

I attribute this to the nature of the work they were required to do. Most of the jobs on the floor were not very challenging and they did the same thing day after day.

This made a big impact on me as I clearly saw how those who had a college education were much more satisfied with their job than those who didn't. Those who didn't have any schooling beyond high school also didn't have many options for other jobs that would pay them more or give them other types of work.

I think many of them voiced this frustration through their answers to the pulse survery.

By golf07 — On Apr 18, 2012

I have taken pulse surveys in the past and wonder if the information they gather makes much of a difference or not.

I can't ever remember many positive changes after completing something like that. At one company where we answered pulse survey questions, they didn't have one question about how satisfied we were with our pay.

As far as an employee satisfaction survey, this is one area where I feel they should address. Many studies have shown that if employees don't feel like they are being adequately compensated for their work, their morale is not very high.

By SarahSon — On Apr 17, 2012

I think it is a good investment for companies to pay for an employee pulse survey. Especially when these are done anonymously, it should give them a good indication of how most of their employees feel about their job.

Once I worked at a company where the morale in my department was pretty low. I attributed this to our supervisor who was not very good at managing people or conflict.

Many of the other employees in my department must have answered their questions in a similar way. A few months after the test, we saw some positive changes and our supervisor was also let go.

I really don't know if the pulse survey had anything to do with it or not, but it gave all of us a chance to tell how we felt without fear of losing our job.

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