7 Tips for Creating an Effective Pulse Survey

1. Make a plan for your survey.

  • What purpose does the survey serve?
  • How will the results be used?
  • What needs to be asked so that you can take action afterwards?

2. Keep your survey focused.

  • Focus on only 1-2 key topics of interest per survey.
  • Questions at the beginning of the survey should be general, getting narrower with each question.

3. Keep your survey short.

  • Make a survey that can be completed in less than 2 or 3 minutes.
  • A pulse survey often has no more than 10–12 questions.

4. Keep your survey simple.

  • Avoid longer words; short words are easier to read and are less mentally taxing on your survey-takers.
  • Use words that have a clear meaning rather than words that could be interpreted in multiple ways.
  • Avoid technical jargon; use everyday language.
  • Keep your survey questions short.
  • Avoid negative words, such as “not,” “can’t,” or “don’t”
  • PRO-TIP: Include only one thought per question; avoid having multiple ideas in one question, which is often the case when words like “and” or “or” are used.

5. Aim for rich, meaningful data.

  • If you want to ask a yes/no question, consider if a yes/no item actually makes the most sense for what you're trying to understand about your employees' experiences.
  • If you’ve just written a rather long question, ask yourself: can it be split into two or more questions?
  • If you want feedback about a past event, how long has it been since that event occurred?
  • If you want feedback about an upcoming event, how much time will you have to process and act on survey results?

6. Make sure the response options make sense.

  • The same number of response options should be used for all items of the same kind, such as all multiple-choice questions listing 5, 6, or 7 points.
  • Strike a balance with the number of response options a question has. This is why 4- to 7-point response scales are so popular; there are enough options to be specific, but not so many that the difference between one response option to the next is meaningless.
  • For questions that involve choosing one option from a list, include an “other” option that respondents can then fill in.
  • Include an “out” response options when appropriate. These response options are generally “I don’t know” and some form of non-applicability, like “n/a,” “not applicable,” or “This doesn’t apply to me.”
  • Make sure response options don’t overlap. For example, if respondents are asked how many hours they worked on a certain project, and the response options are “1 – 5 hours,” “5 – 10 hours,” “10 – 15 hours,” and “15 or more hours,” then respondents who worked exactly 5, 10, or 15 hours can choose two options – with both options technically being true.

7. Walk away for a day.

  • After you create a survey, set it aside for a while. 
  • Take time for a final read-through and editing process before sending the survey to respondents.