SEMA News—April 2021


Keeping in Touch With Remote Workers

Employee Pulse Surveys

By Joe Dysart

Businesses are keeping in touch with remote staff with
employee pulse surveys.

With increasing numbers of workers finding themselves working from home these days, businesses are keeping in touch with their staff with employee pulse surveys. Generally as easy to use as standard surveying software, these solutions often feature questionnaires designed by psychiatrists and psychologists that deeply probe employee sentiment and, ideally, lead to insights and changes that enhance a business’s overall performance.

As with performance reviews, employee pulse surveying is usually overseen by company human resources (HR) departments, but they differ from traditional HR surveying techniques in that the employee surveying is often ongoing and frequent rather than a once- or twice-a-year affair.

“Today, organizations are beginning to embrace ‘continuous listening,’“ said Emily Hardy, a marketing manager at Peakon, a maker of employee survey software. “They gather feedback frequently, digitally and anonymously. At Peakon, for instance, we ask our own employees for weekly feedback. The more frequent your surveys, the fewer questions your employees are required to answer each time, and the more up-to-date your data is.”

Employee pulse survey solutions differ by manufacturer, of course, but most at least offer the ability to send out prefabricated questionnaires as well as custom questionnaires that can be designed by HR or department heads. Some solutions, in fact, offer hundreds of prefabricated surveys, which are designed to measure and analyze virtually every employee sentiment

Many of these surveys are based on the Full Potential Index, “a one-of-a-kind tool to help individuals and organizations discover the depths of their potential and help them to reach new heights of self-actualization,” according to psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman.

Still other survey makers offer users the ability to pick and choose individual queries from libraries of questions, targeting even more specific company

Virtually all of the solutions rely on digitally inputted employee feedback, which is whisked back into the software where analytics look for trends, insights and opportunities for profitable change. In some cases, artificial intelligence is built into the analytics.

Once the data is crunched, the analysis is often displayed in the form of charts, graphs and similar data visualizations, and some packages even offer HR the option to auto-route analysis of a pulse survey to a specific department head or to a specific group of interested parties.

Even before the move in early 2020 to widespread remote working, employee pulse surveying was being used by companies to ferret out workplace factors that were discouraging employees from putting in a good day’s work. Driving that use were studies such as the one released by Gallup in 2019, which found that only 35% workers in workplaces were engaged, 13% were actively disengaged, and 52% were completely disengaged. (

But the need for pulse monitoring grew even more intense beginning in March 2020, when multitudes of workplaces dealing with the epidemic began encouraging employees to work from home.

It’s a trend that continues to this day.

“During uncertain times, it’s more critical than ever to understand employee sentiment in order to drive engagement, productivity, well-being and ultimately uphold a dynamic workplace culture,” said Didier Elzinga, CEO of Culture Amp.

Jason McPherson, a chief scientist at survey maker Culture Amp and holder of a PhD in psychology, said that his company’s software looks for insights such as:

  • Employees at a business who feel that they’re part of a team.
  • Employees who believe they have good career opportunities where they’re working.
  • Employees who are satisfied with their compensation and benefits.

But the same question-and-answer approach can also be used to predict if there will be a mass exodus of employees in coming months due to an underlying and fundamental problem with management or company structure, McPherson added. He said that Culture Amp’s solution can make those predictions because the scientists behind the software are able to compare results from one study against a database of insights drawn from the same study implemented at numerous businesses.

For example, Culture Amp’s ability to predict when a significant number of employees will most likely leave a specific organization is based on data about employee departures collated from more than 2,000 companies that employ hundreds of thousands of workers.

No matter which employee pulse survey solution you choose, one of the key drivers behind your success will be the implementation of requested changes where warranted, according to Peakon’s Hardy. After all, employees will most likely grow skeptical of ongoing surveys if they never see any of the changes they request in their responses.

“If members of your team are reporting a lack of work-life balance, for example, you should consider making changes to your flexible working policies,” Hardy said. “Then you can compare your employee engagement scores to thousands of those from other relevant companies across the globe using our benchmarking tools, and set benchmarks for yourself in the areas you’d like to improve on.

“You should also share your insights throughout the organization. That will encourage increased participation and act as a reminder that everyone has a part to play in driving employee engagement and success.”

Also key to the success of your employee pulse surveying is the absolute guarantee of survey-taker anonymity. Few employees are willing to critique their workplace, department or even the department head if they know that their grievances will be tagged to them.

“If you want a high number of honest responses, you must ensure that your survey is anonymous and remains that way,” Hardy said. “If employees feel even slightly unsafe giving honest feedback, they will withhold information—or worse, choose not to participate in the survey at all.”

Dr. Jeff Smith, a cognitive psychologist and director of the Best-Self Academy at 15Five, another maker of employee pulse surveying software, agreed: “Anonymous surveys offer everyone an opportunity to speak up without fear of consequences.

A good way to check out the market in employee pulse surveys is to look at these top 10 packages in the industry, according to Select Software Reviews:


Joe Dysart is an internet speaker and business consultant based in Manhattan.


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