By Nils Reisen | 9 minutes reading time

The questions asked in the survey are at the heart of Pulse Feedback. However, formulating effective questions requires expertise and experience. To help you create professional surveys in a few simple clicks, we’ve developed a scientifically based catalogue of questions that covers all the essential topics. In this article, you’ll learn more about our questionnaire’s scientific foundation and content.

How was the Pulse questionnaire developed?

We developed the Pulse questionnaire together with the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts. We started with extensive research of the empirical literature, based on which we created a collection of questions with the key drivers for employee engagement. Furthermore, we subjected all the questions to intensive usability testing to ensure everyone in the company understood them. We’ve been using this questionnaire for a few years, and it’s proven to work successfully.

We constantly added additional questions and topics to our questionnaire during our work with our customers. To optimally integrate them into the initial questionnaire and better support them from a scientific perspective, we use an empirical employee engagement model as a basis.

This has resulted in a very comprehensive questionnaire that’s not only based on scientific research, but also addresses the customers’ specific needs.

The basis: the Job Demands and Resources Model of Work Engagement by Bakker and Demerouti

Let's take a short trip into science. For our questionnaire, we’ve taken the Job Demands and Resources Model, also called the JD-R Model of Work Engagement (Bakker & Demerouti, 2007), as a basis. We’ve enhanced this well-established scientific model with our experience.

In a nutshell, the model assumes that every job comes with certain risk factors that cause stress. We divide these factors into two general categories, “Job Demands” and “Job Resources”. These are the basic building blocks for an inclusive model that can be applied to different occupational contexts.

Job demands

Job demands refer to the aspects of the job that require physical, psychological or social effort. Examples include high pressure, a hostile work environment or emotionally demanding customer interactions. Job demands aren’t harmful in themselves, but only become a burden when employees don’t have the necessary resources to deal with them.

Job resources

The opposite pole to job demands is job resources. Job resources include social support from colleagues and managers, performance feedback and autonomy in doing the job. Here, it’s more about the exchange and relationship with other employees. In parallel, there are also personal resources such as resilience, optimism, or self-confidence. In this case, the focus is on the person: what mindset one has and how one deals with different situations. Job resources are essential to:

  • Achieve work goals
  • Reduce job demands and the physiological and psychological costs associated with them
  • Stimulate personal growth, learning, and development

Job resources are not only necessary to simply deal with job demands, as when you have enough resources, you’re also more motivated and find it easier to do your job successfully.

Arnold Bakker and Evangelia Demerouti, the authors of the model, assume that two processes play a crucial role in the development of workload and motivation:

  1. High demands exhaust the available resources: In the first process, it’s believed that a poor work environment or chronic job demands (e.g., work overload, emotional strain) exhaust employees' mental and physical resources. It’s also assumed that this high workload can lead to a loss of energy and, in the longer term, to health problems such as burnout (Demerouti et al., 2000).

  2. Job resources promote engagement and performance: The second process is motivational. It’s assumed that job resources lead to higher commitment and performance. They promote intrinsic motivation by supporting personal learning and growth. At the same time, they play a role in extrinsic motivation by providing employees with a good physical work environment and enabling them to work and make decisions independently by giving them the necessary autonomy.

Figure 1. The JD-R Model of Work Engagement. Adapted from Bakker & Demerouti (2007)

The interaction of job demands and job resources

Job demands and resources also influence each other. To better understand the concepts of workload and motivation, it’s essential to take a closer look at this relationship. The authors present a buffer hypothesis in this regard. This states that resources can mitigate the effect of stress factors triggered by challenging work demands and thus prevent negative health consequences.

Social support is probably the best-known factor that can help as a buffer against workload. Not only because of instrumental support but also, for example, through constructive exchange with colleagues.

Other supporting factors:

  • Transparent role allocation and feedback: help with anticipating and preparing for stress factors
  • Transparent communication from superiors: understand why processes and tasks are essential, and therefore, why stress factors are present in the first place
  • Autonomy: determines the extent to which employees can control stress factors by themselves

When you have numerous resources, losing some of them or facing higher work demands is easier to handle than if your resources are scarce to begin with. Additionally, people dare to take risks when they have multiple resources to rely on. Let's take a look at the following examples:

Example 1: High demands, few resources
A well-known problem for a high demand: I should finish the work tonight, or by the end of the week, but there’s a slim chance of success.

Motivation and engagement suffer if you also need to get every little decision approved by a superior, have no support from colleagues, and work in a culture where you’re punished if you don't complete the task.

Example 2: High demands, many resources
However, in the same scenario, you have the needed autonomy to make most work-related decisions. Your colleagues who aren’t as busy at that moment may be able to relieve you of some of your work and take over some of your tasks. In addition, there’s a culture in which one feels supported (keyword psychological security). It’s also accepted that despite total commitment, not all the tasks can be done immediately in exceptional situations.

The second scenario sounds better, doesn't it?

Resource-rich companies that focus on autonomy, a good feedback culture or personal development have more committed employees.

Thanks to our experience with our customers, we can confirm that resource-rich companies focused on autonomy, a good feedback culture or personal development have more engaged employees. For example, appropriate feedback supports learning and competence building, while freedom of choice and social support satisfy the need for autonomy and belonging.

Engagement and Performance

Look at research in the field of organisational and occupational psychology. You’ll find a lot of studies show a link between job resources and engagement, as well as between personal resources and engagement. For example, the studies revealed that teachers who handle students with lousy behaviour were more engaged the more support and appreciation they received from superiors and when they evolved in a good working environment. Thus, engagement can still be increased despite high work demands – provided one has the necessary resources to meet the challenges (Bakker, Hakanen, Demerouti, Xanthopoulou, 2007).

Many resources lead to more engagement

In academic literature, engagement is defined as a positive, fulfilling and work-related attitude. Engagement characteristics include a high level of energy, mental resilience during work and, above all, the will to persevere during significant difficulties. Furthermore, a sense of purpose, inspiration, pride, and challenge at work relate to high engagement (Bakker, Schaufeli, Leiter, & Taris, 2008).

Engaged employees ...

  • Go the extra mile
  • Take on extra challenging tasks
  • Are creative
  • Inspire other colleagues

(Bakker, Schaufeli, Leiter, & Taris, 2008)

Engagement and performance may lead to additional resources

High engagement can create an upward spiral, as engaged individuals demand more feedback and support from their colleagues, allowing them to improve continuously. In other words, more engagement and performance also lead to more resources.

Thus, among other things, engagement promotes personal growth or social support, which are among personal resources. In addition, good performance leads to more autonomy or more financial resources, leading to improved job resources.

Summary: Increase engagement by keeping demands in check and investing in resources

  • The Pulse questionnaire is based on the JD-R Model of Work Engagement by Bakker & Demerouti (2007).
  • Demands on the job (Job Demands) and personal resources available in the work environment (Job Resources) influence employee engagement.
  • Resources enable coping with high demands, promote commitment and high performance
  • Resources mitigate the effect of stressors triggered by high demands and thus prevent negative health consequences
  • Engagement and performance generate more resources (positive spiral)
  • To increase engagement, one shouldn’t simply address demands but also increase resources

Content of the questionnaire

To further develop the question bank, we assigned the pre-existing questions to the model’s individual topic areas and formulated additional questions. This way, we’ve ensured that our question bank contains items on all the essential engagement drivers and covers the model as completely as possible. In Figure 2, you see where the model’s specific topic areas are located.

Figure 2. Topic areas in the JD-R Model of Work Engagement, based on Bakker (2009)

Additionally, we offer survey templates for various topics. This way, you’ll easily create surveys about specific question topics. Here are a few examples:

Good to know: in our checklists for employee surveys and our guide to formulate effective questions, you’ll find valuable tips to create successful employee surveys.

Download our free guide to formulate effective questions

Application of the questionnaire

Our questionnaire now offers over 100 questions. Like with a construction kit, you decide which questions you need at any specific moment. With our templates, this only takes a few minutes.

You also have the option of creating your own questions based on current events and company-specific circumstances. This way, you’ll personally address your company’s needs. We’ll be happy to help you formulate your questions.

Conclusion

In the revised version of our questionnaire, we’ve strengthened the scientific basis and incorporated our valuable practical experience. Hence, we ensure covering all the crucial topics and reliability for the questions provided.

Now, creating professional surveys has just become simple and with Pulse you’ll collect constructive feedback within your company, in just a few minutes.

By the way: with Peer Feedback, you now have the option of obtaining personal feedback from colleagues of your choice. This new module also includes a comprehensive questionnaire. Learn more about our 1:1 feedback tool here.

Contact us if you’d like to learn more about the questionnaire, measuring employee engagement or Pulse.

Sources

Bakker, A. B. (2009). Building engagement in the workplace. In R. J. Burke & C.L. Cooper (Eds.), The peak performing organization (pp. 50-72). Oxon, UK: Routledge.

Bakker, A. B., & Demerouti, E. (2007). The job demands‐resources model: State of the art. Journal of managerial psychology, Vol. 22 No. 3, pp. 309-328.

Bakker, A. B., Hakanen, J. J., Demerouti, E., & Xanthopoulou, D. (2007). Job resources boost work engagement, particularly when job demands are high. Journal of educational psychology, 99(2), 274.

Bakker, A. B., Schaufeli, W. B., Leiter, M. P., & Taris, T. W. (2008). Work engagement: An emerging concept in occupational health psychology. Work & Stress, 22(3), 187-200.

Demerouti, E., Bakker, A. B., Nachreiner, F., & Schaufeli, W. B. (2000). A model of burnout and life satisfaction amongst nurses. Journal of advanced nursing, 32(2), 454-464.

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