five mistakes leaders make when implementing a team pulse survey

Demian Rosenthal | August 25, 2021

Team Pulse surveys are an incredibly effective tool to give your team members a chance to share what is front of mind for them while giving you an opportunity to keep a finger on the pulse of the team by giving you actionable insights into your teams culture, engagement, mojo, resilience, wellbeing and more. A well-planned, mindset, and executed employee survey can be a key success factor for your organisation to retain talent, improve overall engagement and wellbeing, build an attractive and lasting employee brand and as a consequence drive high-performance outcomes. Finally, it helps you build a work environment that provides the necessary psychological safety for employees to bring their whole self to work. A recent study conducted by Salesforce found that team members who feel their voices are heard at work are 4.6x more likely to give their best at work. At the same time, a poorly planned and implemented team pulse survey can actually create confusion, reduce perceived psychological safety and ultimately disengage staff.

Here are five common mistakes we found you need to avoid when you prepare for rolling out your team pulse survey;

Mistake #1 – Not Mind-Setting the Team

The benefits a team pulse survey offers rely on one key assumption made by the leader: That employees are interested and willing to openly and honestly provide quality feedback. Unfortunately, we often find that this assumption is wrong. Depending on past experiences, employees may be sceptical and doubt the debrief process, the psychological safety, confidentiality and reliability of the tool and how the results may be used. By planning a clear mind setting and communication plan with this in mind, you will ensure that your team will be as excited about the new tool as you are. In addition to using multiple communication channels such as emails, posters, FAQ Documents, and person-to-person meetings, your messaging should aim to alleviate the following concerns:

  • What is the purpose of the survey?
  • Is the survey fully confidential?
  • How will the results be used?

“The benefits of a team pulse survey do not come from the tool itself but from the conversations the tool allows for.”

Mistake #2 – Setting the Wrong Frequency

In recent times, many companies have come to realisation that bi-annual or annual employee surveys with dozens of questions have become a unpopular chore for their employees. As a result, shorter, more regular pulse surveys have become increasingly popular. But what exactly is a good frequency for sending out these surveys? The answer is, it depends. We found that for most of our clients a monthly schedule works best. It gives employees a chance to regularly speak out about the issues front-of-mind for them and ensures that you have a way of measuring your team’s engagement, mojo and productivity.

However, the benefits of a team pulse survey do not come from the tool itself but from the conversations the tool allows for. It is therefore important to ensure that you have at least an hour or two after each results come in to discuss and action plan on what to do with the results.

Mistake #3 – Asking the Wrong Questions

We have talked about the benefits of having regular team pulse surveys previously so we won’t get into that anymore. But a recent article from Harvard Business Review showed that not all employee feedback tools are created equally. This is mainly due to the ambiguity around how engagement is actually defined. Our extensive research has landed us on 7 core engagement questions covering topics such as belonging, job satisfaction, ability and support to innovate, and more. We encourage you to do your research or talk to a specialist in the field to ensure that you cover all the different components of engagement. After all, you can’t improve what you don’t measure.

Mistake #4 – Not Walking the Talk

More important than running regular team pulse surveys is to ensure that you take action based on the results. A study published by Gallup found that companies that send out surveys without taking action actually had lower engagement scores than when they started. The pulse survey results are a great framework for a rich discussion, either 1-on-1 with each team member or with the team and it is your responsibility as a leader to ensure that the conversations will take place.

Mistake #5 – Giving up too Early

The first 3-6 months with a newly introduced employee pulse survey can be challenging as you are trying to create a high-performing team with a culture of transparency. For some team members, this might be the first time they actively and consciously discuss topics such as engagement, productivity and wellbeing. Others may have had negative experiences with other tools. As a results, the initial learning curve can be steep. But after working with 100s of teams, we can say with confidence that the benefits (an article of one of our clients here) of keeping the pulse survey going are plentiful. So hang in there and reach out for help if you get stuck!

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