Using Pulse Surveys to Engage Your Team: Developing Pulse Survey Questions (web version)
Team pulse surveys are short, easy-to-complete sets of questions sent electronically on a regular basis to do a "pulse check" of employees in areas such as engagement, satisfaction, relationships, and the work environment. They are useful for getting feedback from your team members, monitoring team effectiveness, and identifying opportunities for improvement.
This fifth job aid in the series examines survey questions in detail. The success of a pulse survey depends in large part on the quality of the questions and the survey design. Consider the following best practices.
Developing questions: Do
- Provide clear instructions
- Consider whether respondents would be willing to answer the question and answer truthfully
- Ensure questions will be interpreted consistently
- Define key words that could be misinterpreted
- Ask questions for which answers are possible
- Ask questions for which answers suggest follow-up activities
- Use inclusive language
- Make questions short, clear and direct
- Be specific about what is being asked
- Use personalized language
- Specify a time frame in the questions as needed for clarity (e.g., "In the last month,…")
- Validate questions against survey goals
- Pre-test questions and invite team input (individual, small group, and technical dry run testing)
Developing questions: Avoid
- Leading or biased questions (specific response suggested in question)
- Double-barrelled questions (that cover two topics but allow only one answer)
- Overly complex questions, jargon and terminology
- Overly broad questions
- Anything irrelevant
- Poor grammar and spelling, wordiness or confusing language
- Generic question templates that may not fit your team
Match your survey question wording to the most appropriate response options. You may need to test more than one.
My organization promotes healthy and respectful workplaces.
Select one | Select all that apply
How did you learn about this learning series? (Check all that apply)
What is the most meaningful part of your job?
Please rate the quality of our support services.
Rate from 1 to 5 stars
Are you willing to volunteer to promote the team pulse survey?
Fill-in-the-blank (single word)
I feel that .
Examples of team pulse survey questions
How would you describe your energy level right now?
Are you recognized for the good work you do?
What was your first impression of our updated security pass?
Do most of our work processes enable us to get our work done?
Rate your experience of the following professional development activities:
What technologies and workplace devices are essential to your ability to successfully work remotely? (select three)
Consider using branching questions to improve the flow of your team pulse survey. Based on the response to a previous question, you can add or skip questions for individual respondents.
Example of branching
1. Question for all: Pulse surveys can help us improve team engagement.
2. Branch question: Are you willing to volunteer to promote our team pulse survey among team members?
3a. Yes question: When are you available to start? (Check one)
3b. No question: What is preventing you from volunteering? (Check all that apply)
3b. No (Skip the question)
Order of questions
Give careful consideration to the order of your pulse survey questions as it can influence the responses you get. Follow the outline below:
- Introduction: Provide a brief introduction and instructions on completing the survey.
- All questions: Order questions logically within topics (i.e., general to specific) and randomly order similar questions. Use branching where appropriate and review questions to see if earlier answers could influence later ones.
- Earlier questions: Place more general or higher-interest questions first to engage respondents, and follow with important and open-ended questions.
- Later questions: More detailed or potentially sensitive questions should come later, with any demographic questions coming last.
- Conclusion: End the pulse survey by thanking the team and explaining how and when to access the results.
Consider the following aspects when reviewing your pulse survey questions:
Ensure clarity and understanding on first reading
Questions are straightforward and easily answered
Response options are sufficient to cover a range of answers
Intended meaning is clear in both languages and writing is of equal quality
GBA Plus factors
Assess how different women, men and gender-diverse people may experience the questions
Biases or sensitivities
Sensitive questions or language is carefully employed and potential bias is removed
Questions are thoughtfully ordered and branching is maximized
Various remaining issues or weaknesses are addressed
This series of ten job aids is intended for work teams who want to learn how to design and implement their own pulse surveys to support employee engagement, positivity and productivity in the workplace. Each offers background and practical advice on many of the key steps in the process, following a best practices model.