People Culture

Annual employee survey or real-time surveys – what’s better for your organization?

Arunima Shrivastava

Arunima Shrivastava

May 29, 2023 7 min read

Listen to this article

Scenario 1

Organization ABC measures its employee satisfaction and morale annually through its traditional survey which is detailed, very lengthy (comprises of more than 50 questions) and was made 5 years back. After conducting the survey, it takes couple of months to analyse the feedback and little more time to take informed decisions.

Scenario 2

Organization XYZ conducts 3- 4 surveys intermittently to measure employee satisfaction and morale. These surveys are focused, yet short and are reviewed for their relevance before the launch. The responses for all the surveys are collated easily and analysed to take informed decisions quickly.

Have you spotted any of the aforementioned trends in your organization? According to you, which organization practices more efficient feedback mechanism that will lead to better employee engagement and satisfaction?

It is a basic human tendency to feel heard and valued. Within the organizational setup, employees feel more engaged, motivated and inspired to contribute when their views and opinions are gathered and given due regard. However, when this need is jeopardized, organizations face adverse outcomes like non-performance, low employee motivation and higher attrition rates.  Employee engagement remains a top priority for HR leaders in 2023 across the globe, mainly because of the rising attrition rates and also engagement is largely intangible and difficult to measure. Therefore, organizations often resort to detailed employee engagement surveys to gather insights.

Surveys are safe and easy way to gather feedback from a large pool of employees at once. Surveys provide a comprehensive platform for employees to share their thoughts, opinions, and experiences. This feedback then helps organizations gain valuable insights into employee satisfaction, engagement levels, workplace culture, and other areas of improvement. Surveys also provide the option of giving answers anonymously, making the entire process more inclusive and safer for employees who wish to remain unidentified.

Despite the significance of surveys within the organizational setup, the frequency of conducting these surveys however remain a challenge for many organizations.  Research supports that the insights gathered every two year or annually are not sufficient to present a reliable and holistic picture of the status of employee engagement. Though many organizations are still relying on annual surveys to gather employee perspectives, many smart organizations are replacing traditional, yearly surveys with more frequent, real-time or pulse surveys. Such surveys apart for collecting real time insights, enables an agile and data-driven approach to employee engagement, making it look more lucrative for employees as well as for HR leaders, the real custodian of the process. Real-time surveys further allow you to maintain organization’s health and happiness with rapid and more frequent check-ins. Let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits of using real-time surveys over annual surveys:

Ability to capture comprehensive, real-time information

While annual surveys only capture a snapshot from that particular moment in time, frequent pulse surveys offer a more detailed and accurate view of employee engagement and other aspects as it changes and evolves over a period of time.

Breaking the chain of monotony

Since annual surveys are conducted just once, they are mostly long and arduous. But in this process, surveys become lengthy with never-ending questions around various aspects of workplace. Employees do not feel enthused about giving their response and want to get back to work. This may lead to inconsistency in capturing their accurate response, impacting the overall validity of your results. Real time surveys on the other hand are relatively shorter with fresh themes and different set of questions which generate interest among employees and thus response rate gets better. Real time surveys barely impact employee’s commitments as they only take couple of minutes to answer. This improves the validity of results as respondents are more likely to give each question their full attention.

More efficient and data-driven post-survey analyses

Traditional annual surveys being comprehensive in nature, may ask each employee over 50 questions. Once conducted, it takes good amount of time to gather the responses, review the same and analyse it. This cumbersome approach takes months to plan for some organised plan and action making employees as well as other key stakeholders lose interest in the process.

Proactive approach

Annual surveys being a yearly affair, mostly collects data in retrospect while frequent real time surveys, highlight areas of concern before these problems escalate and become widespread issues within the organization. Realtime data about employees will empower HR leaders as well as managers to be proactive and invest time and effort in the areas where it’s most needed.

Creating a culture of inclusivity and feedback

Pulse surveys because of their higher frequency, naturally creates a culture of feedback and continuous improvement. People feel heard and more valued at work when they have a platform for giving feedback on a constant basis.

A word of caution for HR leaders

Well-made and well-administered surveys will remain an integral part of organizations mainly because of their ability to fetch response from a large sample. Organizations are exploring newer ways to run surveys and relying on HR tech to make the entire process smoother and streamlined. However, HR leaders need to be cautious of that fact that employees shouldn’t feel any ‘survey fatigue’ especially with real-time surveys which may be sent out too often, and/or the same questions being asked repeatedly; employees might get bored and may choose not to respond. Therefore, HR leaders must closely monitor the survey fatigue while conducting pulse surveys. Balancing the right number of questions with the right frequency is one of the most important aspects of conducting effective pulse surveys.


Both tools might prove beneficial when administered efficiently to gather employee feedback and sentiments, however, HR leaders in their pursuit to establish a continuous channel of communication between employees and organizations will rely more on the real-time surveys in the years to come. These surveys can be made more specific to uncover different aspects which may be short-term in nature, for example, a quick pulse survey can be created and run to gauge employees’ reactions about the latest merger and acquisition that happened. This will provide instant feedback from the workforce. HR leaders may also look at the judicious mix of both the tools to derive greater benefits; the annual comprehensive survey juxtaposed with 2-3 pulse surveys will immensely help to present a holistic view of the employee’s perceptions about their workplace.

Unlock your organisation's leadership potential

Empower your organization with our AI Powered leadership assessment and development platform.