Insight HR analytics

What to do with sentiment analysis data

Written by Padraic Mooney on 02 Jul 2020

Recently we compared how employees were feeling in 2019 to the COVID-19 outbreak of 2020. Sentiment analysis data can be a powerful way to track how your team is going, but sometimes when you take a few steps back, it can be hard to see the trees from the forest. This is why we’re writing an article on this topic today, whether you’re a team leader, business leader or just interested in learning about sentiment analysis, it’s important to know what to do with the data provided and what it actually means.

Firstly, a quality sentiment analysis tool will survey your team members to gather data on their general sentiment within their work and the business. At intelliHR, our sentiment analysis uses AI to categorize sentiment and pull keywords out so you can see key trends across the business, but also for individual teams. This means that you can look at your quantitative results and drill down into qualitative data with ease. Our happiness rating is the active data that is submitted with a ranking of how happy an employee is at work.

It can help to remember this handy equation when looking at your survey data: “Sentiment Data (passive) + Happiness data (active) = overall picture of employee health”

The Trends

When you first approach your happiness and sentiment analysis data, you may jump straight to the averages to see how your entire business or your team is tracking. Though this can be a useful tool for tracking success, it’s important to be mindful of where these stats are coming from.

For example, if you’re using a scale of 1-10 to track happiness, and the average score is a 7 for the past few months, this doesn’t mean that everyone is tracking at the same level from their previous surveys. Happiness may have changed quite drastically, with some team’s peaking higher and others having lower results, but this may lead to the same average score. It’s always important to dig deeper. Those who are ranking their happiness as unsatisfactory will need a different approach that involves the team leader being open and willing to listen to the issues.

The Analysis

HR analytics are different from other studies. In a lot of stats investigations you try to find ways to exclude outliers. In HR analytics your individual anomalies are often your most important data points because there’s a human being on the other side of that data point. Look at team results to see how they’re progressing, pay close attention to individual results rather than just looking at the averages. Compare the individual results to those of previously submitted answers to see where the variance is. Though these numerical datasets are a great way to form generalizations in data and show organizational growth, it is important to continue to drill down. These types of analysis can be done through using an intelliHR performance report, allowing you to best understand the progress of your people.

performance summary

Text responses to answers are a fantastic way to begin to understand the reason for a rating, if you distribute a sentiment survey, be sure to include plenty of opportunities for respondents to share their thoughts. Occasionally some respondents may provide a consistent numerical answer for happiness, but the text answer will vary greatly. For example, they may rank their happiness an 8/10, but in their text response they’ll speak about their concerns surrounding a project and that they’re worried about team dynamics. This is why it’s so important to also consistently look at text responses and compare them with previous survey answers.

When comparing your data with years or months previous, be sure to look at variations in teams rather than viewing from only an organizational perspective. Look at the trends that a team may have with happiness and sentiment throughout the year, you may notice that in certain months the happiness ratings may be down and when looking at sentiment analysis you’ll find consistency in the response reasoning. You may also find that some teams have similar trends and others have inverse trends, drill down into the answers of your people to uncover why.

The Response

Answers to these surveys are only the beginning of the conversation. Your happiness and sentiment analysis results should be the gateway to sitting down with your team members and discussing how they’re progressing and where you can offer more assistance.

Even if your team members are tracking well in sentiment and happiness results, it’s important to check in with them so that you help them continue to be satisfied with their role. No survey will ever replace a genuine conversation, and instilling a culture of open dialogue is key to creating a positive team environment. It’s the leader’s job in these meetings to understand why there may be negative sentiment or to discover the reason for positive, sentiment and work with your team to continue to foster a thriving culture.

Conversations around negative sentiment analysis aren’t always easy, it’s important that leaders go into these conversations with an open mind and a willingness to listen. Consider that your team members have external stressors and may need some leeway with projects they’re working on. If the issue that your team member is having involves the work at hand or perhaps a strained working relationship with a colleague, it’s vital that the leader communicates actionable steps they will take to help resolve the issue. It’s then up to the leader to action these items in a timely manner and keep an open line of communication with the team member. Even though the issue may still cause stress, seeing a manager take an active role in solving the problem can be beneficial to the employees happiness as they recognise they are being listened to.

If you’re in HR and you’re looking at the trends of individual teams, it’s also key that you follow up with your managers around the sentiment of their team members. Here you will gain a better understanding of why their team members may be submitting the results that they are, and take steps to help improve culture or learn from how they are creating success in their teams to replicate it elsewhere.

Culture isn’t easy to measure, but with the right sentiment analysis tool business leaders can understand where work is needed and start the conversations to improve the working environment. Use your data to work with your team and direct your efforts, but remember to take your team along with you to better the environment for your business.

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