How can employee sentiment analysis enhance your business performance?

Imagine having a real-time pulse on how the people in your business are feeling at your fingertips.
It sounds ideal, right? The ability to make sense of all the valuable data flowing into your HR software and to leverage this data to identify risks and opportunities could help you create a massive positive impact on your business and people.


Employee sentiment analysis is the key to unlocking this ability. These kinds of powerful HR analytics have modernized the way HR processes work and transformed how leaders run their organizations, as a result.

Gaining a better understanding of your employees through measuring their positive and negative sentiment brings you one step closer to building and maintaining an engaged workforce.

Why is this so important? Companies with highly engaged workforces are 22% more profitable, according to Gallup, while each disengaged employee can cost a company up to $3,400 per year for every $10,000 of salary.

We can draw a distinct correlation between having a better understanding of your employees and increasing happiness, productivity, and overall business performance.

RELATED: HR Analytics: What exactly is it?

What is employee sentiment analysis?

Employee sentiment refers to the overall “mood” your people are experiencing within your organization, based on both internal and external factors, which can be measured through sentiment analysis.

Traditionally, HR managers have relied on quantitative data entered into spreadsheets, typically sourced from payroll systems, to conduct their people management. But many have found that there’s only so much information you can extract solely from numbers.

This is where sentiment analysis comes into play. It allows you to analyze and interpret the qualitative HR data sourced from the surveys, pulses and other content shared across your workforce.

Simply put, using software like intelliHR sentiment analysis tool, you can make use of the data received from your employees and managers. By analyzing if it’s negative, positive or neutral – and to what degree – in real-time, we can see patterns, outliers, and predict significant future outcomes relating to employees.

Where exactly does the qualitative data come from?

Each time your employees and managers input text into the intelliHR platform, this information can be drawn out and analyzed. Types of content include:

By identifying sentiment and visualizing it in real-time with analytics you can easily filter and drill down on, HR managers can unlock powerful insights about employees and their supervisors including their current outlook.

RELATED: What to do with sentiment analysis data

How does employee sentiment analysis work?

Let’s break down what happens under the hood to bring you tangible insights about your workforce.

The software uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) – specifically, Natural Language Processing – to predict whether the sentiment in word combinations and phrases is positive, neutral or negative, and applies a numerical sentiment score on a scale of -1.0 to +1.0.

intelliHR sentiment analysis

These scores are aggregated and visually presented to support in-application analysis across multiple dimensions including the data source, business units, supervisors, tenure and other general workforce demographics for your organization.

Sentiment analysis tools can heat-map positive and negative sentiment over the entire business, giving you a visual snapshot, as in the graphic below that shows negative sentiment across an organization over one year. This enables you to pinpoint areas of the business that require attention and areas that are doing well so you can replicate their success.

By visualizing sentiment like this, you can more easily:

  • See where, across the business, employee engagement is highest and lowest.

  • Track employee happiness levels and identify where improvements could be made.

  • Locate instances of business and individual risk that may need to be mitigated.

  • Pull information to improve your performance management frameworks.

Want to dive deeper? Learn more about intelliHR’s powerful HR analytics tools.

Identifying triggers for positive and negative sentiment

Now you’re able to gain a clearer picture of your employees’ sentiment, it’s time to start to understand what’s causing the positivity and negativity felt around your organization.

Looking at your business’s sentiment as a whole can help you identify which of your key processes are evoking what emotions. Using the word cloud, you can easily pick out patterns or themes and hone in on certain words and phrases to see specific instances of sentiment.

Then you can start to ask (and answer) constructive questions about your processes, like:

  • Is there a negative sentiment around our goal setting practices?

  • Is there a specific feedback form that attracts a positive sentiment?

  • Are people generally happy with our onboarding process?

  • Is our offboarding procedure seen as a negative experience?

From there, you can gather a list of immediate action items to put in place based on the data you’re analyzing. This might involve:

  • Changing the questions you’re asking in your performance reviews.

  • Setting goals that are more manageable for your employees.

  • Filling in knowledge gaps when onboarding new team members.

  • Encouraging greater productivity among certain teams.

RELATED: 30 key HR metrics to track and measure in 2021

Using employee sentiment analysis to enhance business performance

Not only can sentiment analysis be put into action in the form of “low-hanging fruit” tasks, but it’s also a powerful way to tackle any bigger picture problems your organization might be facing, for example:

  • Enhancing the employee experience and your overall organizational culture.

  • Increasing employee engagement and productivity across your organization.

  • Managing any compliance and safety issues that could impact the business.

  • Predicting and planning for the future with a data-driven strategy.

Understanding where positive sentiment is trending up across your workforce means you’re able to replicate their experience for those who are engaging negatively. This is particularly helpful if the cause of negative sentiment isn’t immediately obvious.

Looking at a real-world use case, award-winning Australian law firm, Lander and Rogers were able to reach key HR metrics and foster a productive working from home culture using people analytics via intelliHR’s employee sentiment analysis software. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when employee mental health and wellbeing were at risk, maintaining an excellent employee experience was top of mind for the company. The leadership team acted quickly to distribute regular wellbeing pulses through intelliHR that asked team members how they were coping with the stressors and what challenges they were facing while working from home. The team was then able to act accordingly. (Read their story here).

On the flip side, honing in on employees who may be at their critical disengagement point, could save your organization time, resources, and money. This is just one of the reasons why we believe in the importance of a strong HR data strategy and people analytics are at the heart of everything we do.

Perhaps, you’ve noticed that an employee has a negative performance review from their manager. You could simply jump onto your analytics dashboard and explore a combination of reports with insights across happiness tracking, form data from their check-ins, and business sentiment to investigate if and how these metrics are impacting their performance.

Then, it’s a case of either applying resources (e.g., coaching, training, or a PIP) to re-engage this employee back into a phase of profitable performance or offboarding them efficiently to save your company time and money. When used in conjunction with strong lifecycle processes, sentiment analysis can help you identify disengagement proactively and manage it accordingly.

Employee sentiment analysis is the future of HR

With incredibly valuable HR analytics tools like sentiment analysis now at our fingertips, we’re excited to see how they shape the future of HR processes.

What are our predictions for how this might change the game? Traditional performance reviews and engagement surveys will be phased out and spreadsheets for “tracking” these values will go into the (virtual) bin. There will be no need for HR managers to wade through pages and pages of text to find the insights they need. With automated alternatives, you can now process large sums of qualitative data and see the overall tone of responses, in real-time.

This will present a great opportunity to leverage new ways of receiving and organizing your HR data, like conducting regular “check-ins”, removing the need for outdated review and engagement processes.

There’s no doubt that employee sentiment analysis will continue to become even more valuable for helping businesses to get a real-time handle on their people, performance and culture.