How AI is Helping HR Gauge Employee Sentiment in Real Time

By Anne Shaw, Contributor

Employee retention, especially in the technology and healthcare sectors, has become a top concern for today’s organizations. One way for companies to stay on top of what matters most to their workforce, ensuring their employees come to work motivated and enthusiastic each day, is to better understand employee sentiment.

Today, many organizations use annual employee surveys to assess workplace satisfaction, engagement, and culture. And while comprehensive, these types of surveys eat up much of Human Resources’ time and, for all that HR departmental work, quickly became outdated.

By the time HR teams can scrutinize data and turn feedback into valuable insights, new issues arise that won’t show up until the next year’s annual survey.

To capture timely feedback and better understand real-time employee sentiment, many companies—from LinkedIn to Mercy Health—have begun to turn to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) solutions.

Spotting Intelligent Trends

Software suites, such as Glint and Culture Amp, offer automated and customized pulse surveys—that is, shorter and more frequent employee surveys that help executives obtain a holistic picture of their employees’ engagement levels. Data analytics – or people analytics – features included in these apps employ machine learning algorithms that categorize common feedback phrases to identify larger trends.

Algorithms comb through, organize and analyze survey data—including qualitative employee feedback. Leadership teams then get on-demand access to actionable insights on what employees both appreciate and criticize. Based on research by SAP, intelligent HR software creates an opportunity to map HR transactions to business value by giving leaders the insights necessary to proactively address issues and enhance positive sentiment.

Advanced intelligence companies like Glint, for example, identify which factors are linked to negative experiences and higher turnover, thereby reducing attrition.

Empowering the People

The key for companies tapping into sentiment technology lies in its data. Depending on the software type, the data analytics tools can layer in organizational and departmental context—for instance, tenure of employee groups, average time between promotions, and which leader a department reports to. The technology then identifies real-time trends in employee sentiment, for example, a desire for a more structured professional development program or a new type of benefit. With intelligently collected and organized data presented in an easy, interactive format, mid-level managers are empowered to address the issues most important to their specific teams.

“We want to make [HR] decisions based off of data,” Ben Hatch, the employee engagement manager at LinkedIn shared in a Glint testimonial. “We want to be able to not just say, ‘Hey, it feels like this is what our employees are telling us.’ We want to be able to know what our employees are telling us, and it’s X.'”

For Michelle Deneau, Intuit’s director of HR business intelligence, Glint saves her team hours of sifting through innumerable employee comments to understand Intuit’s employee experience.

“It’s one of those technologies that once you start using it, you wonder what you did for so long without it,” she said in a recent Glint announcement.

Some companies with the right internal talent have even built their own AI tech solutions, allowing them to customize the software for their exact goals and culture. For instance, Loka, a company that helps other companies develop mobile apps, created Jane, an AI-powered chatbot to provide real-time answers to common HR questions.

With Jane in place, Loka could automate a bulk of its HR work at the same time it could monitor commonly-asked questions. By applying sentiment analysis to Jane, the bot was able to determine when to raise a red flag to Loka’s HR leaders.

With the help of the evolving sentiment applications, organizations are achieving a closer connection to their employee experience. They are then using this improved insight to empower employees, nurture their highest performers, and achieve higher productivity levels.