Pulse Surveys

What is a pulse survey? | How pulse surveys differ from the FEVS
Benefits of pulse surveys | Potential drawbacks to avoid
Using pulse survey results to move to actionExample pulse surveys

What is a Pulse Survey?

A pulse survey is a fast and frequent survey system. It does not replace the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) but supplements it with additional information. Pulse surveys are intentionally designed to provide quick, actionable insights into the health of a park or program, hence the name ‘pulse.’

How Pulse Surveys Differ from the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey

Pulse surveys differ from annual surveys like the FEVS in several important ways. Namely, they are:

  • Conducted on a more regular basis. This helps gain faster, more relevant feedback.
  • Much shorter. Typically only 5-15 questions; therefore not time-consuming to complete.
  • Useful for focusing on a targeted set of questions relating to current objectives.
  • Excellent for evaluating reactions to and helping measure organizational change efforts.

Do you only check your bank account once a year? 
Of course not, that would be crazy.
So why do we only check on our employees once a year?

Benefits of Pulse Surveys

  • Increased employee engagement: By asking your staff regularly for their feedback, you are encouraging positive engagement, which also provides additional organizational benefits, such as:
    • Employee satisfaction: As employees become more engaged, their job satisfaction levels rise and they become more invested in the success of the park, program, and NPS overall.
    • Productivity: Studies show that employees who are more engaged are found to be the top performers. With higher motivation and engagement, they are driven to succeed.
    • Retention: Employees are far more likely to stay with their current park or program when they are engaged and satisfied with their role within their team and work unit.
  • More relevant feedback: Because pulse surveys occur on a regular schedule, you are able to gain a more complete picture of the current state within your park/program, rather than waiting each year to gain insight on information that is 6-9 months old.
  • Communicates that leadership values input: By investing in sending these surveys frequently, you are sending the implicit message that you care about what employees have to say.
  • Encourages employees to focus on topical subjects: Studies have shown that if someone is asked about a particular topic consistently, the habit-forming nature of this activity means they will be more aware of this topic within their day-to-day work.
  • Allow for better trend analysis: Regular pulse survey reports enable you to establish trends. Examining how responses are affected after major or minor internal events, or during times of change can provide powerful insight into employee motivation and morale.
  • Quick completion time: Because they are short and simple, pulse surveys are not time consuming and allow for employees to give their honest input in an efficient, timely matter.
  • Can improve employee wellness: As with productivity, scientific studies have shown that happiness is linked directly to health. It isn’t far-fetched to assume that improving employee happiness will encourage general wellness and healthier employees.
  • Higher response rates: Since they are quick and easy to complete, parks/programs can achieve higher response rates on pulse surveys than the FEVS.
  • Helps promote open communication: Being able to express thoughts, concerns, and motivations is important to all employees. By demonstrating that you want to listen, and creating a safe space for dialogue, people will feel more comfortable giving honest, candid feedback.

Potential Drawbacks to Avoid

Lest we should think the pulse survey is the solution in and of itself, it bears saying that it is not! In fact, pulse surveys can have disadvantages that you should be aware of before you make the decision to proceed with their use.

  • If surveys occur too often, they lose effectiveness: Pulse surveys should follow a set schedule. If employees feel they are surveyed too frequently, they will put less effort into the surveys and the participation rates and accuracy of your information may suffer.
  • You are committing to ACT on results: Because employees are putting effort into providing their honest feedback, proper action must be taken after evaluating their feedback. If you do nothing in response to what employees say, people will quickly grow discouraged. A critical first step lies in assessing whether you have commitment from your leadership team to communicate and act on the outcomes of regular feedback (which is the expectation you are setting).

Fortunately, there is a simple acronym you can use to move to action!

A . C . T .

Image of three trees growing taller with text Acknowledge, Collaborate, Take one small step above each

Taking action is the single most important step of this process. If you are collecting employee feedback and doing nothing with it, that is actually worse than not asking at all! It can be incredibly dispiriting for employees to spend time responding to surveys only to find that nothing happens as a result; this often causes people to feel ignored and devalued – essentially the opposite of what we are aiming for in the list of benefits above.

Example Pulse SurveysExample of a pulse survey form to improve employee morale and safety

Follow this link to see an example of a quick pulse survey designed to help improve morale and safety.


Stay tuned for more on pulse surveys and how to implement them in your park/program/office!

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