How Do Employees Really Feel? The Power of Sentiment Analysis

Written by Lorcan Archer - Content Marketing Specialist at Explorance.

An employee standing in front of a mural that read

Read time: Less than 5 mins.

Synopsis: Employee sentiment can be complex and ever-changing, but it has a huge influence on employee engagement and retention. Sentiment analysis can be a powerful way to efficiently capture, comprehend, and act on it.

The organization that can accurately trace employees’ opinions opens the door to better performance and commitment.  

This is especially important as we navigate strong opinions related to the public health measures and the restrictions around how we work.

Accuracy is key here. Many feedback processes can prioritize short, efficient routes to data gathering. These include limited, multiple-choice questions that funnel opinions into a specific set of categories. This can be highly effective for organizations seeking information as quickly as possible, but nuance and deeper, firmly held beliefs can be glossed over with this approach.

Employees take the time to think and formulate opinions. Presenting the opportunity for them to describe those opinions in an open text comment, in a confidential way and their own words, is a route to more truthful feedback.

The challenge then is understanding and tabulating these text comments. Practically, this could potentially involve tackling tens of thousands of sections of open-ended comments where a single word can drastically alter how an important experience is portrayed.

The power and real-time insight of a comment analysis solution can help overcome this obstacle, and truly get to the core of how employees are feeling – understanding the actions they take (or don’t) as a result of an organization’s governance and policies. Below, we outline some of the key aspects of these solutions. 

  1. Evolution of the tools
    Now an established approach that has applications in marketing, politics, and public research, a sentiment analysis approach can uncover the spectrum of emotion that is expressed in almost any section of the submitted text or employee assessment survey. It is one of the fastest and most efficient ways to process open-ended feedback due to the pace at which these automated solutions can provide insight. The context in which feedback is provided here is crucial. More advanced solutions go far beyond simplistic word-associations, to instead deliver insights on specific comments for overall tone and emotion. This is all built around informed context, which allows the true sentiment behind a comment to be identified, despite the use of indirect language, or expressive methods like sarcasm. These tools have gone from basic indicators, to multi-layered, highly sophisticated solutions that are used to guide internal action plans and culture at some of the world’s most dynamic firms.
  2. Key learning topics
    The convictions that a comment analysis solution can uncover are ranked among the most vital in anyone’s professional life. Explorance’s BlueML, for example, can map responses and label sentiment expressed in text related to make-or-break topics like professional growth opportunities, diversity, quality of training, discrimination, job security, work-life balance, and current workloads. These can have a major influence on an employee’s motivation, output, and likelihood to stay with an organization for a prolonged period. Moreover, delivering insight regarding a hidden sentiment, such as one held across many employees, which was never was revealed in multiple-choice evaluation forms, opens the possibility of adopting a new policy or approach that could comprehensively resolve this issue. By focusing on the sentiment, that elusive, painful, yet undiagnosed problem could be fixed – a positive experience for workers taking the time to provide detailed feedback. This approach places value on the opinions conveyed by confidential, open comments. It is an example of how applying a detailed sentiment analysis solution can actively make a workplace culture better. 
  3. Layering more data on top
    Sentiment analysis can be made even more insightful when it is empowered by additional datasets. This includes incorporating and indexing text analysis results with other datasets. For example, also considering where employee is on in their journey with the company, their department, current training levels, their position in the organization’s hierarchy, and more. Ultimately, sentiment analysis will be strengthened when it’s employed alongside a more comprehensive Experience Management (XM) strategy that provides more and more context. This enriched information environment makes for sentiment analysis with a richer background, filling in the gaps and painting a better picture of each individual Employee Experience.

Recent research has shown that drilling down into employee sentiment can unearth unexpected insight. At Explorance, we’ve found that every experience matters, and that opening the door to employee insight at every touchpoint – including during periods of change – can produce surprising, but crucially important information.

Get in-depth analysis of all your employee’s comments with BlueML

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