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Four Ways to Understand the True Sentiment of Your Workforce

12 months ago

The ability to understand how your employees feel is far more elusive than ever. It’s a constant truth that employees will never truly be honest about how they feel about their jobs, their managers or their benefits. 

Even before the pandemic, it was a challenge to holistically know how your employees felt about their jobs. At least you had a few in-person data points to evaluate based on their behavior at work and their responses and body language during meetings. With a workforce almost predominantly at home, you no longer have that luxury.   

Without a clear perception of their attitudes and morale, you might find it difficult to know if employees are truly thriving. This lack of insight could come back to haunt you when trying to retain employees in the long run. It will also impact the company’s overall productivity and efficiency. 

Surveys have always been a great way to gauge how your employees feel about issues at work. If you’re already down that path, it demonstrates your concern and interest in the general wellbeing of your employees. But surveys have limitations that can be counterbalanced by artificial intelligence (AI).  

Employees are not always honest in surveys for fear of being found out if they offer negative feedback. Plus, there’s the time and resources needed to tabulate and interpret their answers.  

AI and natural language processing (NLP) technology can help determine your employees’ general sentiment by evaluating their overall written communications, including email, online collaboration tools, and messaging apps. 

To be clear, this is not an exercise of monitoring individual emails and interoffice communications. Rather, it’s a process of anonymously evaluating all language collectively across all communications inside an organization. Here’s a quick look at four ways AI and NLP can help your organization communicate and perform at a higher level.  

The big picture – employee sentiment

Just as you might have a dashboard that reveals your network’s health and security, it’s possible to develop a visual representation of organizational sentiment, ranging from positive or negative and on a scale of 1 to 10 on any particular issue. 

Unlocking this data at your fingertips allows you to measure sentiment by the topic AI and NLP software detects. Actionable data allows managers to understand whether employees are confident in making decisions, emotionally secure in their work, or frustrated with specific topics or efforts. 

Sentiments on a topic might include: 

  • Positive/Negative 
  • Confidence/Indecisiveness
  • Known/Unknown
  • Good/Bad/Mediocre
  • Supportive/Unsupportive
  • Responsible/Irresponsible
  • Delegating/Doing
  • Agree/Disagree

Confidence levels

You can gauge employee confidence to take on risks, question processes or offer new ideas by the way they communicate. For example, NLP can detect nuanced differences in language and conditional clauses in communications such as: 

  • “It might be a good idea to” versus  “We should.” 
  •  “We should consider taking a different approach” versus  “Our current approach is hurting our results.”

Emotional temperature 

Employee emotions can also be measured by the way employees write about a project, organizational change or introduction of a new healthcare plan. Knowing if they’re happy, sad, frustrated or angry can be measured by how frequently these topics are paired with adjectives and phrases like:

  • “aggravating” 
  • “I can’t believe” 
  • “incredible.” 

The little (but equally valuable) picture-subject sentiment

It’s clear that understanding HOW your organization feels in a measurable way will help improve culture. But the key to instituting changes is understanding WHY they feel a certain way. Just as you can determine the overall sentiment of your workforce, you can also understand how employees perceive specific subjects.  For example, if you determine your employee sentiment is 80 percent negative, you can dig into what topics are driving the most angst. 

How we do it

As mentioned above, determining how your employees feel isn’t based on searches of individual emails. Instead, it’s done through a collective search of the words and phrases used by all of your employees – not just one. This makes it much easier to discover how they really feel without hoping for honest answers on surveys. 

No matter how well intentioned your policies might be, you will still come up short on employee satisfaction, engagement, and innovation unless you truly understand how your employees feel. AI and NLP provide another way to actively listen to what your employees are saying. LitLingo can help you know what they’re really saying, how they’re saying it and what’s troubling or exciting them the most.