How a 5 minute pulse survey can drastically boost your Covid-19 workforce strategy

Implementing short, but regular, pulse surveys can be a game-changer for leaders seeking to engage their workforce, solicit employee input, and practice effective, informed change management during these trying times. Already, 73% of health care employers report maintaining employee morale as a challenge; 69% have struggled to adapt fully or in part to remote work.

Now is likely not the time to do full scale engagement surveys and the action planning associated with them for a few key reasons:

  1. lack of resources to respond to full scale surveys
  2. a need to understand and respond faster to employee sentiments—repeatedly
  3. a need to target more specific input on key issues rather than confirm what you already know (e.g., staff are burned out, feel uncertain about the future, etc.)

However, for the unique circumstances in which health care organizations find themselves at present, a pulse survey is an ideal tool: short, easily implementable, accessible to staff, and with the power to provide clear, key insight into how your employees are feeling at the moment.

What is a pulse survey?

A pulse survey is a short set of questions that should be focused on a single topic. Ideally, it should take no longer than 5 minutes for an employee to complete. While you can use a pulse survey to get a snapshot of staff engagement (by asking a subset of questions from your engagement survey), you can also leverage a pulse survey to:

  • Determine how employees are reacting (or anticipate how they will react) to specific events or changes
  • Determine employee needs or preferences
  • Involve employees in broader decision making processes by soliciting input

Logistics of conducting a pulse survey

Organizations should use whatever survey tools are already at their disposal to conduct a pulse survey. There are however, a few key recommendations for implementing a pulse survey:

  1. You should only conduct a pulse survey if you are able to act on the results. In particular, do not ask questions soliciting employee input if you are not in a position to incorporate, fully or in part, their recommendations and preferences into executive action.
  2. The survey can be distributed to a subset of employees (either a randomized group of your entire workforce or a specific functional group) or to the workforce as a whole, depending on the topic.
  3. When sending out a pulse survey to employees, communicate the explicit purpose of the survey. For example, if the primary goal is to solicit staff input, be sure to say so upfront in your communication.
  4. State in your communication how long it will take the employee to fill out the survey (again, it should ideally take no longer than 5 minutes to complete.)
  5. State in your communication how the organization will use the information obtained from the pulse survey. This level of transparency is a big motivator of survey completion and signals a clear commitment from the organization about the importance of the pulse survey.

Use pulse surveys to target these four topics

Concerns from staff returning to work

As organizations transition furloughed or remote staff back to their typical work settings, it is imperative to understand how staff are reacting to changes in their work environment and concerns about their future. Target pulse surveys to address topics such as:

  • Logistical concerns around childcare and transportation (especially perceived safety of public transit where applicable)
  • Perception of organizational resources to assist staff to meet their basic needs
  • Types of organizational supports required to re-integrate employees effectively into the on-site workforce

Perception of safety

Organizations around the world are reporting that their workforce’s single greatest concern is around the safety of their work environment. In fact, many health care providers who have adequate PPE and safety protocols in excess of CDC guidelines still report major staff concern about their safety. Soliciting staff input about workplace safety signals organizational commitment and helps employees feel involved in their own safety. Ask questions to understand:

  • Staff perception of adequacy of PPE available
  • Whether staff working on new units feel they have received enough training
  • Types of routine sanitation they expect to see in their work environment

Effectiveness of executive communication

Executives must communicate change and policy in a way that addresses employee concerns, boosts engagement, and simultaneously minimizes the rumor mill—a tall ask of any organization. That’s why a targeted pulse survey asking about the effectiveness of executive communication during Covid-19 can provide insight into what type of information—and what frequency and channel—your employees most desire. Potential topics to survey:

  • Frequency of communication and preferred channels for staff
  • Perception of organizational commitment to transparency
  • Determining areas of organizational strategy that staff feel uncertain about (e.g., future layoffs, flexible staffing, benefit cuts, etc.)

Remote work

For organizations transitioning staff back to the office, this is a critical opportunity to understand how employees have reacted to the experience of remote work. We spoke with one of our members, a large insurance provider in the Midwest, to learn what types of survey questions they asked to inform their back-to-work policy. Questions were asked on the following sub-topics:

  • Effectiveness of organizational communication during remote work
  • Perceived productivity during remote work
  • Future interest in working remotely

To see the full sample list of questions from our member, click here. For more ways to support staff during Covid-19, check out our starter list here.