Given the U.S.’ low unemployment rates, coupled with the dynamic needs of today’s workforce, businesses are competing for employee talent and retention more than ever. What attracts America’s workers to accept a job – and keep it – are moving targets, and different people operate from different motivations.

It’s essential for employers to understand both why employees take a job and why they keep it – or leave. While quantifiable job considerations like salary, benefits and the company’s financial stability remain important factors in employee acceptance of a position, the drivers of job retention are more often based on subjective feelings about company culture, its appreciation of the employee, the employee’s work enjoyment, and his or her sense of purpose.

So, how can organizations measure employee engagement, happiness and job satisfaction? Ask them. Frequently.

It sounds simple enough, but if your organization doesn’t promote a strong sense of safety and value vulnerability, chances are, employees won’t tell you the truth. Therefore, it is essential that your employees have an anonymous opportunity to provide real, honest feedback.

Gaining insight into your organization’s health is a challenging process, and finding actionable information is doubly so. One way Shipware has identified opportunities for growth is through implementation of weekly pulse surveys. Pulse surveys are a series of questions emailed at regular intervals to each employee, designed to check the pulse of his or her feelings toward the company, work-life balance, trust in management, and other attitudes useful for an employer to poll and measure.

As an organization, you might not like what you hear, but you need to understand what your employees like – and don’t like – about working for you. It’s the only way you’ll be able to begin to fix whatever they perceive as broken.

What Is Unique About a Pulse Survey?

Unlike a typical survey, a pulse survey is specifically designed to be brief, with five to 10 questions. The area of focus is much narrower than a normal survey’s, which allows the surveyor (the employer) to key into what is most important to employees at that moment.

Shipware delivers pulse surveys to all employees on a weekly basis. It only submits one question each week, ensuring that employees don’t feel overwhelmed by the pressure to respond to lengthier surveys, which they can perceive as useless distractions. These surveys have become a competitive differentiator. Shipware seeks to understand how employees honestly feel about leadership, company transparency, job satisfaction, career and professional development, company culture, overall contentedness, and many other measures. Survey results allow the leadership team to continue investing in the areas that result in high job satisfaction. These surveys have had a powerful impact on Shipware’s culture, engagement, job performance, employee retention and revenue; in fact, it was named as one of the best places to work in San Diego.

Shipware uses a platform called TinyPulse to craft a single weekly question to gain insight into communications, leadership and management effectiveness, employee benefits, productivity enhancers and detractors, and much more. The platform ensures total anonymity – essential for honest employee responses – and contributes to a strong corporate culture.

How to Use Pulse Surveys Effectively

Pulse surveys are only as good as the questions they contain. Shipware’s employee survey questions have included the following:

  • Is your promotion and career path clear to you?
  • What drives you crazy here and decreases your productivity?
  • How happy are you at work (scale of 1 to 10)? What would raise your score?
  • In terms of training and professional development, what would you like to see us offer (or continue to offer)?
  • How well are you recognized when you do great work?
  • What’s one thing we’re not doing here but should start doing in order to be more successful?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how comfortable do you feel giving feedback to your manager? Explain.
  • How well do you personally give positive feedback to fellow employees when they do good work?
  • How connected do you feel to your co-workers (scale of 1 to 10)? Explain.

Pulse questions allow leaders to drill into data results and take corrective actions. They’re able to respond directly to the anonymous survey respondent with direct feedback, offering encouragement, thanks or apologies when necessary. Results are summarized in charts and benchmarked against other organizations, including industry peers.

A recent example of how Shipware used a pulse survey was when after implementing a new 401(k) and company match program. For years, employees had requested retirement benefits, and the company wanted to measure employee excitement. Two new employees expressed frustration there was a one-year waiting period, so Shipware went against the recommendation of its 401(k) provider and waived the waiting period. There’s no way to know if the program, with the one-year waiting period, would have led to dissatisfaction and attrition, but those employees feel empowered knowing their voice was heard.

Why Bother?

If you are an organization that cares deeply about employee retention, it’s critical to invest in a process like pulse surveys and gather the intel needed to continuously test the direction of your management decisions.