Pulse surveys

What is a Pulse survey?

A Pulse survey is a short survey that elicits feedback from respondents on a small number of topics. It should have no more than 10 questions, take no more than 5 minutes to complete and have a quick turnaround time in terms of responses.

Pulse surveys allow Schools and Divisions to keep in touch with staff, to hear the things that make a difference/are problematic for staff and to keep doing so on a regular basis so that improvements can be measured.

What would a useful question set look like?

It’s up to you whether you ask open questions with free text responses (more time consuming to collate and difficult to measure improvements) or ask respondents to choose their replies from a list of options or to score their response to a statement. You may choose to use a combination of these.

Assuming that many of us will be interested in using a Pulse survey to monitor the mood of our staff and take practical actions during the current uncertainty caused by the Covid pandemic, here are some sample questions that you may wish to use (courtesy of Schools and Divisions who have used them).

  • Is your ability to complete teaching/research/professional service tasks adversely affected? (yes/no) If yes, in what ways?
  • Do you need assistance with any aspect of your workload?  (yes/no) If yes, please describe
  • Do you have any extra capacity — would you be willing for me to contact you if urgent tasks require cover? (This does not mean that you have to say “yes”!)
  • If you are working from home, have you completed a display screen assessment? (yes/no)
  • Would any of the following be useful to you?
  • Regular chat/check-in with a dedicated Buddy
  • Becoming a Buddy for someone else
  • Meet up with random staff for coffee, drinks, cake etc
  • Themed meet up of choice (please let us know what would interest you)
  • Other
    • If you've found any great resources and ideas or have suggestions that might help others, please share with us. 
    • If you would like to discuss any of your responses, have any suggestions or anything else causing you issues, please state your name below or email us at a.n.other@sussex.ac.uk and we’ll do our best to help you find a solution:
    • Current level of support and suggestions for improvement - How do you feel about the level of support you are currently receiving from your line manager, the wider Division and the wider University? (It’s about right/I need more support/I need less support, plus a free text box)
    • We would like to understand what kind of support you’re receiving, and whether you have any suggestions on how to improve this. Do you find the following useful? (team meetings, ad hoc catch ups, structures one to ones, communications from the Head of School/Director/Vice-Chancellor, Chief Operating Officer, IT, HR weekly University bulletins
    • Do you have any suggestions on how we could improve any of these communication channels?
    • Do you have any suggestions for further methods of support or communication that we could consider adopting in the School/Division?

How often should we use Pulse surveys?

In a period of high uncertainty, you may wish to run surveys once every four to six weeks so that you can keep in touch with your staff. Other than this, once a term should be sufficient.

How can we run a survey?

The Office 365 suite contains a survey tool called Microsoft Forms. Training on how to use Forms is available on LinkedIn Learning.

We need to remember that all data should be managed in line with data protection regulations.

How do we make Pulse surveys meaningful?

A survey should always be launched by a message from a Head of school or Divisional Director, explaining the purpose, explaining how the responses will be collated and used, making clear the commitment to action as a result, asking staff to take part and giving an indication of how long it will take to complete.

A small team should be assigned to running the survey and collating responses and a leadership group created to agree actions, implement them and communicate those responses to staff. If staff see action, they will be more willing to contribute to future surveys.