You've heard us going on and on about pulse surveys for a couple months now. And you have seen how useful they are for a wide variety of internal comms and employee engagement functions. 

Now you are ready to use an employee pulse survey to boost employee engagement

But where do you start?

What should you measure?

How do you choose the right question?

And how can you use the pulse survey data and momentum to fuel change?

We are going to show you, step-by-step, how to plan your very first pulse survey, and how to get the feedback and data you need to influence change.

Download our Pulse Survey Planning Kit here.

Step 1: Figure out what are you measuring and why are you measuring it.

The first step in planning your premiere employee pulse survey is deciding what you want to measure.

There are about a million different things you could measure with an employee pulse survey, but for your first one it might be good to start with something straightforward, like measuring the reception of your last town hall meeting.

When choosing what to measure, it is very important to consider the following:

    • Why do you want to measure it?
    • What kind of results are you expecting? How will you interpret those results?
    • Will the responses be accurate?
    • Will you be able to take action based on the results?
    • Are employees or leadership interested in what you are measuring?

Let’s walk through these questions with an example scenario so you can see how they will help you to create an awesome pulse survey plan:

 Scenario: You noticed everyone is on their phones during the town hall—and you’ve heard some audible groans when people bring it up. But leadership won’t take action or let you suggest changes without real evidence of discontent. You feel like things could be improved, so you’re going to do a pulse survey to get the data you need to influence change.

  1. Why do I want to measure employees responses to the last town hall?

    • You want to show employees that we are interested in their feedback and invested in making their work experience better.

    • You want to find out how they perceive the town halls so you can judge if your team needs to invest in making improvements.

    • If the data shows people aren’t diggin’ town halls, you want to take it leadership and get approval for making changes to increase engagement.
  2. What kind of results am I expecting? How will I interpret those results?

Based on the rumours you’ve heard, and what you are perceiving during the town halls, you expect medium to low ratings from a majority of respondents. You will take this kind of response to mean that change is needed to engage employees and you will need additional feedback to make positive changes.

It’s also possible that employees don’t actually dislike the town hall, but the few that are vocal about their discontent are catching your attention. In this case, you expect the results to be more positive, with higher ratings for the town hall.

  1. Will the responses be accurate?

You are slightly concerned that people will be hesitant to express their true feelings about the town hall if it could be traced back to them.

To counteract these concerns, you are going to communicate that the data is collected anonymously and reinforce that their participation is important to making a better workplace for everyone.

(In fact, you’ll use this template to make sure everyone is educated and ready to participate.)

  1. Will I be able to take action based on the results?

If a majority of respondents give the town hall a low rating, you will have some data-backed justification for taking the problem to leadership so you can make changes.

Because you anticipate that respondents will give the last town hall a low rating, and you are using this pulse survey to collect data to influence changes to improve them, you will enable anonymous comments for open-ended employee feedback on how to make town halls better.

This open-ended feedback mechanism gives you the opportunity to contextualize the ratings and inspire your post survey action plan.

If you do not see any polarization in the data, taking action to change the town hall won’t really be (or rather shouldn’t be) a priority.

But a neutral or unexpected result doesn’t mean you can’t take action. Regardless of the outcome of the survey, this data can help you set a baseline, or benchmark for measuring the reception of future town balls.

  1. Are employees or leadership interested in what I am measuring?

In this scenario, town halls are mandatory, which is a great reason to make sure they are useful and engaging for employees. Employees are interested in town halls insofar as they are a source of information and a deeper look at what is going on with the company. At their best, they can provide context for employees day-to-day work in the company by giving them a glimpse of the bigger picture.  

Leadership is interested in town halls insofar as they are important to encourage employee advocacy, they are apart of a good communication strategy, they are good for the company and employer brand, as well as engaging employees in their workplace. Optimizing the town halls so they can benefit from better engagement and advocacy is in the organization’s best interest.

Step 2: Get a buy-in from leadership

If you can answer all of the questions listed above, you will have a much easier time convincing leadership that this pulse survey and what it is measuring is a worthwhile pursuit.

But you need to make sure they buy-in, which means more than just approval.

They need to understand how the survey works, why it matters and how it will benefit the organization specifically. Having them buy-in means having support when it comes time to take action based on the results, and presents a united front that really cares about addressing employee feedback and improving the company culture.

Step 3: Avoid asking the wrong questions

A poorly worded question or an inappropriate response scale or type can render your data useless. As such, it’s important to make sure your question is actually gathering the information you want to gather, and the response scale or response type you use is the correct way to measure that information.

Here are some examples of a bad question/response scale combos:


This question/scale combination is poor because the question is leading and the response scale doesn’t allow the respondent to answer the question in a meaningful way.


This question/scale combination doesn’t work because the response scale is inappropriate for the question, and won’t collect meaningful data.  


At first glance this question/response scale combo seems fine. The issue is that asking for a binary response for a question that warrants something more nuanced than just liking or not liking it will not get you the actionable data that you need. It is likely that people don’t feel binary about the topic, it is more nuanced that just liking it or not liking it, so this response type will likely skew your data and not give you actionable results.

Step 4: Send your Pulse Survey

Now it is time to make sure your employees know what’s coming. That means sending out an email explaining what you are doing, why you are doing it, and how the gathered information will be used. 

We’ve created a great template specifically for this type of communication that you can steal and copy-paste into your email. Check it out here.  

Next you need to decide whether you want to send out the survey as a stand-alone email, or as a part of a newsletter. Some pulse surveys will do well as stand alone, especially if you want to measure something timely before people forget.

For example, if your regular newsletter isn’t scheduled for immediately after the Town Hall, people’s emotions may change or wane, or they may not be interested enough in it anymore to even respond.  

Plan your first pulse survey with this free worksheet and presentation template

Are you ready to plan your first pulse survey?

Download our Pulse Survey Planning Kit [includes Pulse Survey Planning Worksheet + Pulse Survey Leadership Presentation Template] below to get started.