Pulse survey is a tool for strategic management

Jun 30, 2017 / by Kirsi Niiranen

A pulse survey is an excellent but challenging management tool. Many of us are fooled into thinking that it is a simple and insignificant metric – of course that’s just what it is, in principle. In reality, the benefits of a pulse survey only become concrete when it is conducted systematically and conscientiously. Benefitting from the results and making benefits visible are critical areas where many have stumbled. A pulse survey should therefore be considered a strategic level management tool.

“A pulse is too simple and dull, we couldn’t get people to respond.”

In principle, by pulse survey, we mean a frequent and regular measurement of staff sentiment, which we use to gauge the organization’s internal pulse and “health status”. Customer feedback surveys have also taken over storefronts and consumer email accounts. The idea of receiving continuous feedback and engaging in continual dialog with staff as well as customers is good, but of course it is theoretical. And very often it takes time for practice and theory to effortlessly walk hand in hand.

  1. Receiving continuous feedback requires motivation from the respondent for the feedback to be genuine. Without motivated respondents, pulse surveys are not valuable.
  2. Continuous dialog requires constant reaction on the company’s part. Merely posing questions and receiving responses do not qualify as dialog. If responses to a pulse survey are not analyzed and reacted to, the respondent becomes an interviewee, and the motivation to respond declines.

Both elements are key success factors but neither is on the task list of the survey’s technical manager – rather, it is the responsibility of the employee- or customer experience owner. In other words, a pulse survey IS NOT A POLL, it is an effective form of interaction. Communicate about the survey’s purpose and benefits, motivate the respondents, execute the survey, react to responses, develop the survey, react, inform about the development and the impact of measures taken, ask, respond, ask, and so forth. And this form of communication should take place at all levels of the company.

“A pulse survey is a manager’s hearing aid, which amplifies the voices of a company’s employees and customers.”

Continual feedback and dialog facilitate a company’s development in a customer- and employee-oriented fashion. Nowadays success requires management and development teams to have a sensitive ear so that needs and potential opportunities are correctly identified. A pulse survey is therefore a manager’s hearing aid that amplifies the voices of a company’s employees and customers. That’s all well and good, but still bigger benefits can be achieved.

We hear the refrain, “Employee experience = customer experience,” everywhere. Happy employees lead to happy customers. We invest in employee satisfaction in a completely different way than we did before. However, this idea contains many assumptions and loose observations. Has employee satisfaction really increased because of the measures undertaken? How much? How far can we assume that customer experience has improved as a result?

It is at this point that we put our faith in numerous studies on the subject and believe that employee experience is a leading indicator of customer experience. In other words, changes in employee experience in one direction or another will foreshadow a corresponding change in customer experience – after a slight delay. Thus there must be a clear way to systematically measure employee and customer experience so that we can evaluate the impact of measures implemented and proactively decide on new actions.

“We are now under pressure to measure customer experience in many ways.”

Employee experience management is customer experience management. A pulse survey sits perfectly in this context. First, we identify central company-specific employee experience elements and begin to measure their development. We engage in discussions with the staff, gather development ideas for these factors, implement procedures and determine their effect. The impact of this systematic work should always reflect on the customer experience. Customer satisfaction surveys should then validate these effects. A company’s internal process challenges, organizational silos and divisions also show up immediately in an employee pulse survey. Fast and appropriate reaction and a return to a positive development curve will minimize these effects on customer experience.

When a pulse survey takes root as a natural part of company culture and the correlation with customer experience is proven in a certain context, the value of personnel responses reaches its peak, and we can even begin to reduce the number of customer surveys. A useful employee pulse survey gives the required information: employee experience can predict a company’s future success. This should also be sufficient motivation for staff to respond to surveys and for management to build a pulse survey and communication model using the appropriate systematics and approach.

Postscript: An indicator is symbolic and leading – it is not a metric that deeply analyzes information. It is more of a thermometer than a lab report. Leading indicators don’t provide comprehensive information but their value lies in providing observations that should be examined in greater depth.

Kirsi Niiranen is an analytical business developer with an optimistic and creative approach. Kirsi’s passion for customer experience management and her broad experience in different sectors ensure that her customers achieve their goals. Kirsi makes change visible and helps develop tools for systematic management.

Topics: Customer Experience, Employee Experience, Customer Experience Management

Kirsi Niiranen

Written by Kirsi Niiranen