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Employee sentiment and how to measure it

8 min read
Knowing how your employees are feeling is essential for a business to thrive and succeed. Use employee sentiment analysis to see what you’re doing well, and what you need to improve. Here’s how.

What is employee sentiment?

Employee sentiment is what your workers are feeling, and, importantly, why they feel that way.

It can be influenced by internal and external factors. Your goal is to understand how your people feel so you can either continue what you are doing if you score highly on employee happiness, or improve matters if their employee experience scores leave something to be desired.

Start measuring employee sentiment with our Employee Listening software

What is employee sentiment analysis?

Employee sentiment analysis is powerful technology that uses natural language processing (NLP), artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to automatically analyze employee comment, feedback and other unstructured data.

The technology takes all the employee feedback which can be gathered from employee surveys, or, increasingly, conversational Intelligence and analytics software, and interprets it. This way qualitative data carries the same weight as quantitative data.

Employee sentiment analysis can highlight:

  • Strengths and weaknesses in the company
  • Feelings, both positive and negative towards a new initiative or policy
  • Sentiment about workplace culture or change

Human resources leaders can then use the analyzed feedback to address employees’ issues, making decisions about how to improve things. When employees feel listened to, cared about and influential, they are more likely to engage in further useful communication and feedback.

Why is employee sentiment analysis vital for businesses?

Clearly, the best outcome of employee sentiment data analysis is learning that your employees are happy with the company and their working conditions. However, when there is some negativity, this can be used as a springboard for making the company better.

1. Highlights the need for change

Employee sentiment analysis picks up dissatisfaction and disengagement about issues that are fundamental to the business, such as productivity, customer service and work performance. It will be obvious where change needs to happen.

2. Enhances workplace communication and transparency

When employees’ voices are heard, and corrective actions get taken as a result of their feedback, employees feel that their opinions really matter. They are more likely to feel empowered to speak up honestly in the future. This results in transparency, good two-way communication and higher employee engagement.

3. Strengthens your employer branding

Employee branding is how you get your employees on side with your company values, vision, mission, and corporate brand. Once on side, your employees will genuinely and enthusiastically express their feelings for the company – with prospective employees, customers, stakeholders and each other. Your employer brand depends upon what your employees are saying about it – you absolutely need to hear this.

What is the return on investment (ROI) and business outcomes of employee sentiment analysis?

Understanding what your employees think and feel is well worth the investment. When you measure employee sentiment, you will understand its impact on important business outcomes, such as:

Employee productivity

Employee sentiment analysis is an essential tool to help highlight how your people are engaging with their tasks and areas of responsibility. When you understand employee sentiment, you’ll be able to improve employee engagement, which increases productivity.


Employee performance

Employee sentiment analysis works brilliantly with an always on, continuous feedback platform. In real time, you’ll be able to accurately measure performance, and spot disengagement pain points from your employee responses.

Employee retention

When you gauge employee sentiment accurately, you’ll be able to understand which employees have job satisfaction and are likely to stay, and which ones are unhappy and are likely to quit.

You’ll find employee sentiment analysis important for signposting:

  • why you are losing employees
  • future issues that might make people want to leave
  • what measures you can put in place to keep your best people

How to measure employee sentiment

There’s no way you could manually measure what your employees are thinking and feeling, so you will need technologies that automatically analyze employee feedback.

Employee sentiment analysis software uses machine learning technology, AI techniques and natural language processing that ‘understand’ human language and give an accurate sentiment score of what your employees are thinking and feeling.

There are two ways of measuring employee sentiment: with surveys; and now conversational intelligence and analytics – the ultimate software for employee sentiment analysis. This is the smarter way to listen to what employees are saying.

Employee sentiment surveys

Software such as Qualtrics EX25 helps organizations understand the experience of their employees in many different ways. It lets you send out surveys, part of which should have space for open-ended responses that employees can respond to in their own words. When each piece of feedback is received, the NLP software reviews the sentiments contained in its combination of words and phrases, and sorts them into:

  • Positive
  • Negative
  • Neutral

It then gives each employee comment a numerical score for sentiment. When all the employee scores are gathered in – aggregated – the software then uses data visualization to present them to HR managers, business leaders. This can be through one or two dashboards, charts and graphs to tell the story with the data.

EX25 is a suite of solutions across the various parts of the employee experience. It

includes a weekly barometer (a pulse survey asking people how their week has been; they respond with the experience they’ve had).

Conversational intelligence and analytics software

Products such as Discover XM on an Experience Management Platform™ are a suite of tools that help you discover insights in unstructured data, whatever platform it’s shared on, and give you actionable insights into experience gaps.This can help you to understand what employees are saying about your company, whatever platform they’re saying it on. From the contact center to social media to online reviews—and everywhere in between.

With omni-channel listening, you’ll hear every voice, including the quiet ones. The software combs through every platform to understand how employees feel about your company. Using natural language processing, conversational intelligence and analytics software knows the difference in the subtleties of human language (even emojis), to reveal the emotion, intent, and effort of each interaction.

Employee sentiment analysis step by step

1. Collect your data

You need to get good quality data, so ensure that the surveys you send out are the best they can be. Conversational intelligence and analytics will simply sit in the background, listening.

2. Process your data

The software you use will be able to do a variety of processing, including speech-to-text transcription of audio and video files; image text; video captions; and emojis – which are particularly helpful as their sole purpose is to convey nuances of sentiment.

3. Analyze your data

Machine learning will train your platform how to classify the data into datasets. Custom tags will then be applied to themes and aspects in the data. AI will divide up the text based on the tags. The data will then be arranged into topics; the machine learning will know to group certain words together, e.g. ‘phone’, ‘apps’, ‘social media’, ‘website’ could be under the topic ‘contact’. Finally, sentiment scores are applied to themes and aspects so you can extract an overall sentiment for each one.

4. Visualize your data

Nobody wants to look at a lot of numbers. Data visualization turns even highly complex data into dashboards, charts and graphs. You’ll instantly be able to see where employee sentiment is positive and where it is negative – ready for you to take action.

You don’t have to choose between surveys or conversational intelligence and analytics software to find out what your employees are thinking and feeling – you can have both. The world’s most advanced conversational analytics, Qualtrics XM Discover works in tandem with our XM solution™, meaning you won’t miss a thing.

Start measuring employee sentiment with our Employee Listening software