August 4, 2020

Employee sentiment: A guide for employers

Employee sentiment analysis is one of the hottest things in human resources right now. But what exactly is the point of it? How do you do it effectively? And how can it improve your organisation?

What is employee sentiment and why analyse it?

Employee sentiment analysis involves taking a snapshot of what your employees think and feel about your workplace at a point in time. Its purpose is to show you how your staff perceive your business and their place in it, what they believe you do well and not so well, where they see the company (and themselves) headed and what makes them tick.

This information can give you valuable insights into your workplace culture and highlight any strengths or weaknesses you might have. It can also serve as an action plan for what you need to work on to create a real culture of high performance.

How do you measure employee sentiment?

The truth is, a lot of businesses have been doing some form of employee sentiment analysis for a while. We’ve all filled out one of those employee surveys – the ones that ask us to rate specific statements on a scale of 0-to-10 depending on how much we think it applies to us. That’s a basic form of employee sentiment analysis. So is analysing the HR and payroll data, such as leave sheets, absenteeism, worker’s compensation claims and other information that tells you what employees are experiencing.

These days, however, employee sentiment analysis has moved well beyond pen and paper and into the realm of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. There is software that will automatically analyse reams of data that your organisation stores in an attempt to get an accurate picture of where things are at. This can include quantitative and qualitative information, such as performance reviews, onboarding and exit interviews, performance feedback and, well, any other information that you choose to use.

Tips for carrying out your employee sentiment analysis

If you want to gauge employee sentiment in your workplace here are some things you should always keep in mind.

1. Keep it relevant

If you’re doing manual employee sentiment analysis through surveys, make sure they’re relevant to what people do. A lot of businesses opt for off-the-shelf questionnaires that ask generic questions. Most employees will see through or switch off from this type of polling and treat it as a box-ticking exercise. Give your questions some proper thought and connect them to the reality of your employees’ day-to-day work.

2. Keep it short

As a general rule, the longer something is, the harder it is to keep someone’s attention. If you go in with 100 different questions, people are likely to give up pretty quickly. That means your data will be incomplete or inaccurate.  If you find you’re asking too much, whittle your survey down to no more than about 10 questions. Allow employees to elaborate if they feel the need.

3. Keep it confidential

Nothing will turn people off answering questions truthfully than having their information shared with others. Always guarantee confidentiality over any survey and ensure privacy and anonymity.

4. Keep it up

While a single burst employee sentiment analysis can be great for giving you a snapshot of where your business is at, what’s even better is when you do it frequently so that you compare changes in sentiment. Think of how economists use consumer sentiment to gauge the likely direction of the economy.

Regular analysis can help you identify issues – such as potential staff departures or declining morale –  before they start to hit your bottom line. It can also give you the information you need to keep refining your policies and practices so that you build a high performing team.

Want more HR advice?

If you need help analysing employee sentiment in your workplace, get in touch.

say hi to our author

Merilyn founded Catalina Consultants in 2012 on the belief that all organisations, regardless of size, should have access to top quality bespoke HR services. She enjoys working closely with her clients and believes that the best results are built on relationships of rapport, trust and authenticity. Growing up, Merilyn had her sight set on stardom and dreamed of becoming an actor. She also sang and played the piano, but ended up studying accounting and HR. Whilst she hasn’t won her Grammy just yet, she still loves a good karaoke night. Merilyn loves to travel with her family, with South Africa being one of her most memorable destinations.

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