How to find out how your employees feel - the key is sentiment analytics

21 February 2017

In my experience, being ‘professional’ can sometimes be interpreted as being ‘unemotional’ and I think it’s impossible to separate out emotions and still remain authentic. One way to develop emotional intelligence is through working in a diverse workforce (and I’m including emotional diversity here). Research shows emotionally intelligent employees are more productive, profitable and make fewer mistakes… but don’t we intuitively know that already?

So how can we tap into the emotions of our employees to understand what they really feel and not just what they think in an environment where we are supposed to be ‘unemotional’?

One way is through using sentiment analytics. Sentiment analytics is still a fairly new concept and typically has been used as a way of ‘opinion mining’, often in social media to understand the meaning behind words and improve both brand and marketing. However, let’s take this a step further and instead of trying to interpret what people are saying, ask them how they feel and use the analytics to draw insight from the results. This isn’t new, engagement surveys have been trying to do this for a long time, yet they are a snapshot in time. Real benefits are found when we build up a constant dialogue.

Recently, I was impacted by a significant change in a pension scheme I’m a member of, which changed from a final salary to a career average pension. There were a series of consultations and a number of changes, but at no time did anyone ask how I felt about the changes. I did, however, receive a survey 6 months after the change had been implemented to ask me what I knew and how it had been conveyed… there was no recognition of the impact the change may have had on my personal life and how that in turn could impact my work life. As a result of this, I reached out to one of my colleagues, Chris Venables, who works in pensions and we started to embed sentiment analytics within his pension change projects. We believe this will result in people feeling they have a voice, even when having to be part of a major change. Chris has already seen results with clients:

“We are now in a data driven world and have found having access to real-time information on the underlying sentiment of pension changes has been invaluable and has allowed early interventions and real insight on the degree of acceptability of change.”

This is just one example of how sentiment analysis of your people can work. I feel that to really get your organisation to work at its peak, we need to understand how employees feel and how change can affect them. Continual dialogue is key to building a true picture. The closer we are to our people, the more productive and efficient they will be. Wouldn’t you rather work for an organisation where it is accepted for people to be perceptive, understanding and manage their emotions rather than being distant and disconnected?

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