In this blog and the following series of posts, I’ll share the latest best practices and tips for organizations that want to run high-impact employee engagement programs. Let’s start by examining one of the fundamental questions posed by most organizations and leaders: How frequently should an organization survey its employees?

Why Traditional Employee Engagement Surveys Can Fall Short

Most organizations understand the value of gathering employee feedback. But surveying employees once a year—or even less frequently—can undermine attempts to measure and improve employee engagement.

The annual survey process is time-consuming, cumbersome, and often exhausting for everyone involved. This is true across the entire process—from planning to implementation to results. By the time employees take the survey, and the results are aggregated and analyzed, too much time has passed. The results are no longer meaningful for any leader to take credible action, and employees feel that their input has fallen on deaf ears.

The majority of organizations today compete in an environment characterized by constant change and disruption. Using outdated practices in any part of their business puts them at a disadvantage. This holds true for management and organizational development practices—such as annual employee surveys—where cumbersome approaches and drawn-out timelines simply don’t cut it. All organizations need feedback that matches the fast pace of work and the needs of today’s workforce.

An Agile Approach to Employee Engagement

Today’s top organizations are shifting their employee engagement approach—moving from traditional processes toward real-time feedback and ongoing conversations to gain more timely and meaningful insights. They get there by frequently asking for targeted feedback from employees using short, frequent surveys as part of a strategic and holistic measurement strategy.

Organizations that have made this shift to a more agile approach find that it enables better conversations with their people about what matters most. It helps the organization surface feedback quickly, identify more focused actions for improvement, and drive faster decision making—all of which result in better business and talent outcomes. As organizations seek to become increasingly agile with faster, more focused feedback from and insights on their people, the right technology platform and partner can help. It enables organizations to have high-quality conversations about priorities, performance, and growth at the right time, with the right people, informed by data.

Note that while we [Glint] recommend quarterly employee engagement surveys (known as pulses), it’s not a one-size-fits-all issue. Many organizations now pulse quarterly to align with regular business cycles. Others take a measured approach to increase from annual to bi-annual pulses. It’s vital that organizations identify the right pulse cadence based on their needs, business cycles, and goals.

Why Regular Pulsing is Perfect for the Modern Workforce

So why is frequent pulsing right for today’s employees? Our experiences as consumers have reshaped our expectations in our professional lives. We expect information and services to be available on demand. We want a delightful user experience. We want our employers to make the best use of our time. And, as employees, we want to be a part of making positive changes that improves our overall work experience.

All of those wants are directly tied to more frequent pulsing. Frequent employee engagement surveys pave the way for data-informed conversations between leaders and their teams. When employees give feedback, have regular conversations at work about their experience and performance, and see the feedback taken seriously through action, they are more highly engaged.

Think of it this way: Your employees make a daily choice to remain connected with and committed to your company. If they aren’t feeling heard, valued, and supported, they may lose motivation to do their best to help your company succeed. Giving employees the opportunity to voice wins, concerns, and needs frequently—knowing you’ll address them and discuss input regularly with the team—is key to success.

More frequent and focused pulsing provides additional opportunities to help your people feel involved, valued, and heard throughout the year. This practice also aligns more closely with how your organization manages other key business metrics (i.e., regularly, rather than occasionally).

Move Beyond Listening to Taking Action

Shifting from an annual employee engagement survey to a more frequent pulse strategy built around shorter surveys—equips your organization to have the ongoing dialogue that’s core to an effective employee engagement program.

In the past, ‘listening’ to your employees may have been enough. However, that passive approach fails in a major way—it doesn’t trigger dialogue or action that paves the way for meaningful change. What matters is for companies to solicit feedback and act on it. Acting on feedback means that instead of hoarding the results at the top of the organization, results are accessible to managers to discuss the feedback with their teams, and to collaborate on how to take action based on the input.

Taking action at the local level—by giving managers access to the survey findings and empowering them to discuss the findings with their teams—enables more agility. Leaders and their teams can take micro-actions, measure progress, and course-correct as needed. Our research has shown that managers who take action can improve engagement at more frequent intervals.

The Many Benefits of Frequent Pulsing

In addition to being a more modern approach that makes your organization more competitive, drives employee engagement, and provides a path to action, here are some additional benefits associated with frequent pulsing:

  • Align survey program design to business strategy. The ability to rotate and ‘fine-tune’ items across surveys (e.g., semi-annual, quarterly, or monthly) allows you to ask questions that address current business needs throughout the year. You can use survey insights to inform strategies, investments, and initiatives at the business and talent levels.
  • Take focused actions influenced by feedback. When actions are grounded in data, they address the real needs of your people. Avoid assumptions or misguided efforts. With frequent pulses, you can measure and monitor the impact of actions as scores improve, remain steady, or decline.
  • Access more and better data for predictive and linkage analysis. Linking data you regularly collect to other datasets, such as customer satisfaction feedback or sales goals metrics, allows you to understand how levels of employee engagement influence these business outcomes.

I highly encourage you to explore how your organization can evolve to more frequent pulsing. To get started, check out The Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Your Employee Engagement Pulse Program.