Snapshot pulse survey on tablet using emojis

Pulse, pull, mood or engagement – what employee survey type do you need?

The employee survey world has become varied and diverse. Where once the annual employee satisfaction survey was a fixture (for large companies, at least), there are now a host of different approaches and tools from which to choose. For the uninitiated, it can be tricky to know where to start.

Employee listening strategies

For most organisations, a ‘full census’ engagement survey, typically once a year, remains hugely valuable. However, there’s no escaping the fact that, for many of today’s fast-moving businesses, asking employees for their views once every 12 months is just no longer viable.

And it is this increased demand for data that has led to a massive proliferation of employee survey providers and types. Different types of survey are geared to address differing business needs whether that’s for super-fast and quick feedback from staff to get a high-level view of employee engagement or gaining more qualitative, detailed employee insights on a particular topic.

It’s important that you go for the right employee survey frequency and type(s) to suit your business needs and those of your employees. We run through 10 of the most prominent types of employee survey and consider some of the companies using these.

1. Staff satisfaction surveys

A staff satisfaction survey measures an employee’s happiness with their current job. Typically, the information sought relates to ‘HR issues’ covering aspects such as pay and benefits and working conditions.

2. Employee engagement surveys

An employee engagement survey measures their emotional commitment to the organisation, highlighting things like their willingness to put in discretionary effort, whether they’d recommend the organisation and their intention to remain working there in future.

3. Kiosk surveys

Surveying employees in ‘real-time’ is a prominent trend, particularly in a number of global businesses. They’re looking for an ‘always on’ approach capturing employees’ feelings and views. They achieve this by deploying survey kiosks in offices or other communal staff areas. Employees are asked just one (or a few) simple questions like “did you feel valued at work today?”

Kiosk surveys

Companies such as DHL, eBay, Microsoft and Nike use similar types of real-time surveys for their employees.


4. Mood surveys

These are ultra-simple surveys intended to get a very quick overview of the mood among a workforce. Such surveys can come in the form of an online, tablet or smartphone app or on a dedicated device (such as a kiosk – see above). They make participation quick and straightforward typically using touch-based icons (i.e. smiley face), coloured buttons or a slider scale to indicate how they currently feel.

5. Pulse surveys

Pulse surveys, or snap surveys as they’re sometimes called, are typically smaller in scale with less employees invited to take part and/or the fewer number of questions in the survey. Naturally, this reduces the resulting admin. The frequency of ‘pulse check’ surveys is most commonly either monthly or quarterly. Such surveys may be used to check-in on engagement or prominent themes from a full engagement survey or to gauge employees’ views on hot topics.


Employee survey questionnaire and manager reporting software

Pulse surveys have become increasingly prevalent. Among companies known to use pulse surveys to supplement a bigger annual survey and focus on key themes from the full survey or local priority actions are our clients M&S and ITV.


6. IVR (telephone) surveys

IVR or Interactive Voice Response surveys, to give them their full name, are telephone-based. Most commonly associated with gaining customer feedback, IVR surveys can also be a useful survey methodology for when you have groups of employees that are based remotely and perhaps don’t have ready access to the internet.

7. Pull surveys

Some organisations favour a local approach to engagement. They want to give local teams the autonomy and ability to ‘pull’ (or request) an employee survey rather than ‘push’ it. This obviously gives local managers ownership of the process and enables them to create and run surveys on an ad hoc basis to suit their needs.

Several organisations we’ve recently begun working with have asked us for ‘self-service’ employee survey tools. Their intention is to give the power to local teams, regions or business units to create their own ‘pull surveys’ when needed.

8. Culture surveys

Organisational culture is now widely regarded as a top priority for businesses. Naturally, organisations undergoing cultural change are keen to measure progress on this. To do this, they may use a culture survey to get employees’ views on the working culture and identify any obstacles to the desired new culture.

9. Joiners’ surveys

The opening weeks and months in a new job is a formative and hugely important time for employees. Put simply, first impressions count. Many organisations therefore survey new joiners after their first week or month (or both) to capture, among other things, their views on the hiring and on-boarding process.

ETS client LV= leavers survey

Surveying new starters in this way can provide valuable business insights. Our client, insurer LV=, introduced a survey to capture new employees’ views in their first week and a further check-in after 30-60 days. They use the data to inform their induction processes and, even more crucially, the work they do on their employer brand.


10. Leavers’ (or exit) surveys

Capturing the views of employees before they leave can be tremendously insightful. At a time when retaining talent has never been as crucial, a leavers’ survey can highlight themes and patterns in why people choose to leave, helping the business to address things, where necessary.

If you’re still unsure about which type of survey will best fit your business needs, read about what other companies that we work with do in our case studies or get in touch with us.

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