Why pulse surveys may be the key to ensuring employee emotional wellbeing

Why pulse surveys may be the key to ensuring employee emotional wellbeing

Why pulse surveys may be the key to ensuring employee emotional wellbeing

Why pulse surveys may be the key to ensuring employee emotional wellbeing

Why pulse surveys may be the key to ensuring employee emotional wellbeing

Can pulse survey questions be the key to employee wellness?

For the last several years, the people management industry has been focused on answering important questions surrounding employee wellbeing, and the impact it may have on business function.

In fact, employee wellbeing initiatives have seen a huge rise in popularity in organizations in recent years. Not just the gym discounts and office yoga either (although these are great perks).

With the pandemic bringing topics of burnout and mental health to the forefront of the conversation, leaders are calling for new ways to better support their people. Employee pulse surveys are one of the ways this call has been answered.

Pulse surveys, as the name suggests, are designed to help leaders take a “pulse” of their business and get a quick glance at employee sentiment in relation to specific topics. They are short surveys that usually comprise 1-10 questions around a particular topic. Pulse survey questions are also designed to be easy to answer, and to produce responses that are both easy to track and analyze.

But how do these short surveys provide a solution for the challenges employers face with respect to employee wellness? Well in order to answer that, we have to take a look at the nature of employee emotional wellbeing, and how it relates to business success.

What is emotional wellbeing?

Emotional wellbeing refers to an individual’s ability to produce positive emotions, feelings and thoughts, as well as their ability to exhibit resilience and adapt to stressful or negative situations.

It’s the important conversations around mental health and burnout in the workplace that have resulted in organizations implementing processes that recognize and support their employees’ emotional wellbeing, as much as their physical or financial wellness.

Why should you care about employee emotional wellbeing?

Employees with low emotional wellbeing are likely to be more susceptible to experiencing burnout, dissatisfaction and stress within a workplace, whilst simultaneously being less able to adapt when faced with work stressors. Burned-out employees are also more likely to be disengaged and demotivated at work.

On the flipside, research shows that employees who report higher levels of emotional wellbeing are:

  1. 27% more likely to have their performance rated as “excellent” by their organization.
  2. 45% more likely to report high levels of adaptability in the presence of change.
  3. 37% more likely to report always recovering “fully” after illness, injury, or hardship.
  4. 59% less likely to look for a job with a different organization in the next 12 months.
  5. 18% less likely to change employers in a 12-month period.

Simply put, if an employee’s emotional wellbeing is not taken care of, it has a direct negative impact on employee engagement and performance.

Emotional wellbeing and engagement

Employee engagement has been yet another popular buzzword in HR for some time now, and rightfully so. Organizations have finally stopped viewing engagement as just another HR initiative, and have begun to recognize it as an essential component of a successful business strategy.

Strategies that may improve employee emotional wellbeing, like improving communication, ensuring employees feel valued and heard within the workplace, or implementing easy employee access to resources and support, are also the exact same tools required to boost engagement within the workplace. While it may seem obvious to state, employees that feel supported in the workplace are more likely to be engaged within their roles, and believe in the company’s mission overall.

Employee wellbeing and engagement are inextricably linked, and by supporting one, leaders will simultaneously be supporting the other, which reaps incredible benefits for businesses as a whole.

Engaged employees consistently outperform their disengaged peers on several fronts. Engaged workers have been proven to be more productive, less prone to absenteeism and less likely to leave their organizations. A study conducted by Gallup found that in organizations with high turnover, highly engaged business units had 24% less turnover.

Engagement can therefore be seen as a predictor of business success, and leaders who learn to leverage engagement data early give themselves an edge over their competitors.

Wellbeing as a predictor of business success

So far we have seen a direct correlation between employee emotional wellbeing and engagement, which then links to productivity and overall business success. It makes sense then, that initiatives that support and boost employee emotional wellbeing, are likely to result in higher levels of engagement from those employees. Similarly, by measuring employee emotional wellbeing and engagement at regular intervals, one can predict trends in overall business performance.

How to measure employee emotional wellbeing

Measuring employee emotional wellbeing therefore becomes a powerful predictive tool for any organization. But how does one measure emotional wellbeing?

The simplest solution adopted so far has been employee surveys. They provide an easy way to check in on how your employees are doing, whilst simultaneously standardizing the process to some extent, allowing for better and more efficient data collection. There are many different kinds of surveys, with the most popular being the annual or end-of-year survey. These surveys however do present certain challenges, including:

  • Length of time between surveys: employees may have to wait to voice their opinions if they’re only sent at the end of the year. This may result in recency bias.
  • Annual surveys as the only channel of communication: if the surveys are the only way an employee can report on how they’re doing, it might result in them not feeling valued in the workplace, leading to disengagement.
  • Tedious surveys and non-responses: annual surveys have a reputation for being loooong. This might lead to employees not participating in the survey at all – which will of course negatively impact the data collected.
  • Follow-up on the survey: Receiving bulk feedback at a single point in time can make it challenging to follow up on and enact meaningful change. Delays in follow-up or unresolved feedback can leave employees feeling unheard and undervalued by their organization.

The survey format that has arisen in response to these problems is the pulse survey.

Why is the pulse survey a better fit?

As stated previously, pulse surveys are designed to be much shorter than traditional surveys and are usually focused on a specific data set or area of improvement. They can therefore be created, distributed and completed faster.

This allows companies to collect more timely responses from employees that can be analyzed more easily than their gargantuan annual counterparts. When it comes to measuring employee wellbeing, engagement and performance, it allows for ongoing communication between employees and their employer.

A successful pulse survey therefore takes only a few minutes to complete and can pull insightful and measurable data that is both immediate and can easily be actioned upon.

The length of the survey also allows employers to be more specific in how they craft their pulse survey questions. Depending on the information employers want to collect, and the way the employee survey questions are phrased, there are several different ways pulse surveys can be utilized to measure an employee’s emotional wellbeing.

Examples of pulse survey questions

  1. The check-in
  2. Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS)
  3. Engagement and performance self-reports
  4. Response to change in organization

1. The check-in

Pulse surveys provide an easy way for employers to conduct regular and ongoing wellbeing or mental health check-ins with their employees. By designing a short survey dedicated to getting responses from employees about their current emotional wellbeing, employers can also provide them a safe space where they can request resources or support they might require.

Regular check-ins also allow managers to track how their employees are doing over a period of time and be more sensitive to shifts and changes.

Some sample employee pulse survey questions you could include in your check-in survey are:

  • How happy are you at work currently on a scale of 1-10?
  • How would you rate your work-life balance on a scale of 1-10
  • How would you rate the current levels of stress within your role?
  • What wellbeing resources provided by xyz company have proven most beneficial to you?
  • Are there any resources xyz company can provide you to better support your mental and physical health?

2. Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS)

The employee net promoter score, or the eNPS score, is a quick way to measure employee engagement and loyalty to their company. It is also a simple way to gauge how employees feel about their daily work environment. A company culture that prioritzes employee emotional wellbeing and engagement, will result in employees that feel valued and supported and have a better overall opinion of their workplace. A report conducted by the American Psychological Association showed that in workplaces where employees don’t feel like their leadership is committed to their wellbeing, only 17% would recommend their company as a good place to work.

So the eNPS survey can provide a snapshot of employee sentiment that is easy to track and measure.

The eNPS survey typically consists of one simple question:

  • How likely are you to recommend this company to a friend or family?

At intelliHR we prefer to add another question to this short survey:

  • If there is one thing you would improve at this organization, what would it be?

This simple two-question survey allows employees to quickly report their feelings and insights about the organization, and allows them to share meaningful feedback that can then be used to improve the organization. Regular check-ins also allow leaders to get an accurate snapshot of the culture within their organization, and the overall employee engagement they are currently working with in their individual teams.

(For a full breakdown of what each of these mean, check out this eNPS-explained guide).

3. Engagement and performance self-reports

Similar to the wellbeing check-ins, the engagement and performance pulse survey will allow employees to self-report on how they feel in their role, as well as how well they believe they are performing within their role.

Employees with higher levels of emotional wellbeing are 27% more likely than their peers to report “excellent” ratings for their own performance at work. They are also more likely to be rated as having “excellent” performance by their organizations. Pulse survey questions that allow employees to review their performance, can therefore be used as a further indicator of employee emotional wellbeing.

These pulse check-ins also allow leaders to bypass the aforementioned recency bias and time limitations of more lengthy annual reviews. Regular pulse surveys on how employees are progressing within their roles will also allow leaders to provide ongoing support and training to employees by providing more timely feedback.

Some sample engagement pulse survey questions you could include are:

  • How are you progressing with your goals for the week?
  • How would you rate your performance within the role on a scale of 1-10?
  • Are there any recent achievements you are proud of? 
  • Are there any areas of improvement you have noticed within your performance?

4. Response to change in organization

Organizations are frequently subject to periods of change or transition, and employees often need to adapt to new environments rapidly. These changes may be something physical like moving to a new office space, or they may be more complex, such as a change in leadership or processes within the organization. These periods of transition can be jarring to employees, and can leave them feeling disconnected or overwhelmed within their role.

By easing employees through this transition, business leaders can mitigate any friction or damage during such periods, and the easiest way to do this is by understanding how their employees feel about said changes. Resilience and the ability to adapt to such changes are large parts of emotional wellbeing. By providing support through these changes, employers can boost resilience within their teams and thereby support the emotional wellness of their people

Pulse surveys can also give employers more clarity on employee sentiment in relation to any major change within the company. They also provide a channel for employees to provide feedback and request support during these times.

Some sample pulse survey questions you could include are:

  • How do you feel about the xyz transition on a scale of 1-10?
  • Are there any changes or improvements you believe could be made with respect to xyz change?
  • Are there any tools or resources you require in light of the xyz change?

The success of pulse surveys

In the end, the success of a survey comes down to asking the right pulse survey questions and using the collected data effectively. Using data effectively also means going beyond analysis and predictive trends, and actually actioning the feedback collected from employees. If the feedback doesn’t produce measurable results that can be experienced by employees, employers risk losing their trust and pushing their employees further towards disengagement and dissatisfaction.

On the other hand, if used correctly, these surveys provide an easy way for organizations to start an ongoing dialogue with their employees that benefits both parties and results in the overall success of the business.


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