Within your organization, there’s a running dialogue that goes on in hallways and conference rooms, between desks, via phone, email, and within chat. Those conversations tell a story, from your employees’ perspective, about how your organization is doing—what’s working, what’s not working, how culture affects performance, how valued employees feel, and why they may leave. It’s a critical narrative, but these are private conversations. So how can we uncover qualitative insights like those from these informal channels?

Help Your Employees Tell Their Story

When it comes to understanding employee engagement, even the organizations that are on top of their employee feedback game (for example, pulsing employees frequently, digesting and communicating results, taking action) may be missing out on crucial connections when looking at pure numerical data, engagement survey pulse scores, and response rates. Quantitative results only cover part of the story.

Open-ended feedback and comments in surveys that are provided by employees—which can number in the thousands or hundreds of thousands—offer a treasure trove of information and context behind the numbers. When accessed and analyzed, they contain the key to identifying systemic or localized issues that may eventually lead to unwanted attrition, poor organizational performance, and even threats to the organization’s reputation. 

Conversely, they also can highlight strengths to build on. What’s more, employees often identify and share root causes of problems along with suggestions and solutions that lead to improvement. By leveraging real-time comment analytics, only made possible by artificial intelligence, you can truly understand the underlying, front-line stories and take action where it counts.

However, many organizations miss opportunities to collect this critical information because they are not enabling or allowing employees to leave comments in pulse surveys. At Glint, we find that employees are typically very interested in providing comments given the opportunity. When empowered to provide open-ended feedback, we’ve seen 80% of employees leave at least one comment over the course of a year of quarterly surveys. 

This is the treasure trove we are talking about—thousands of pieces of feedback that give you and your leadership team greater insight—color and context—into all levels of your organization.

Break Down the Plot with Comment Analytics

Like the best stories, aggregated comment data can be complex, nuanced, and contain many sub-plots. Paired with solid technology, comments can illuminate what’s trending, connections that may otherwise be missed, where problems lie, and how those problems are impacting the employee experience and the organization’s goals. In order to analyze comments effectively, it’s crucial to look at:

  • Frequency of specific topics: How often is a particular topic coming up?
  • Relative sentiment: Are your comments skewing negative or positive?
  • Related concepts and topics: Are particular comment themes consistently appearing together in the same comments (e.g., career development and learning)?
  • Underlying stories: What topics are surfacing in comments that you are not asking about in your scalar (rated) questions?
  • Prescriptive comments: Is there any constructive criticism or are solutions being offered by your employees, and can these suggestions be applied to programs, practices and approaches?
  • Impact on business outcomes: How are specific challenges impacting the organization’s success?
  • Topics by population: How do employee perspectives differ across unique employee populations (departments, job roles, tenure, locations, etc.)?
  • Trend: How have the comment themes and sentiment evolved over time?

Help Write the Next Chapter by Taking Action

Understanding the connections and suggestions provided by employee comments leads to targeted action that facilitate positive change. Here are some examples of how to use comment data to take action:

  1. Distinguish comment themes in order to facilitate team discussions during meetings. For example: Is company culture a high-impact engagement driver and frequently linked to negative sentiment within comments? Use this type of information to facilitate a discussion with your employees on how to improve the culture of your organization.
  2. Identify prescriptive comments that help you take effective action. Employees may leave suggestions within their comments on how to improve a certain aspect of their role or the company, such as creating a stronger platform for recognition. Take advantage of these suggestions and share them with the right leaders to effect change within the organization.
  3. Surface and solve systemic or localized issues. Comments can surface problems not asked about in closed-ended pulse questions. You may be able to pinpoint or direct your efforts based on the feedback. Continuing the prior example, your pulse survey may ask employees about your organization’s recognition efforts, and return low scores related to this topic. While your instinct may be to re-examine your public recognition policies, you may find through comment analysis that the issue is really a growth opportunities deficit—allowing you to take the right action and impact the ROI of your engagement initiatives.

Let Artificial Intelligence Help you Focus on Action, not Analysis

Analyzing employee comments and summarizing the feedback into useful, actionable information and insight usually requires labor-intensive manual content coding. The process usually takes weeks or months, reducing the relevance of the insights. Finally, traditional comment data analyses only count what employees are talking about, but don’t make the critical connections that identify the underlying story and actionable steps that can be taken.

Natural Language Processing (NLP) is a form of artificial intelligence focused on translating language into data, so it can be more effectively analyzed. Here at Glint, we use our own NLP engine called Glint Narrative Intelligence(TM). This next-generation engine helps connect the dots between words, feelings, and outcomes—all in real time. New advancements like this are a game-changer when it comes to analyzing and gathering insights from comment data and moving on quickly to taking action.

Where to start? The first step is to enable your employees to leave comments in your next pulse. Then, check out the technology available to you when it comes to analyzing comments efficiently. Using the latest technologies allows organizations to get the most insights out of their comment data, resulting in more effective decisions, more confident managers and leaders, happier and more successful employees, and ultimately better business outcomes.