Will You Need an Engagement Survey Now That You Can Analyze Emails?

It has long been intriguing to imagine what you might learn from analyzing all the emails and messages employees send. Now, AI tools that do this analysis are ready for organizations to use.

There are many things you could potentially learn from emails, the main ones that vendors are focusing on are traits like:

  • Collaboration
  • Positivity
  • Stress
  • Feedback culture
  • Satisfaction

These tools use natural language processing and draw implications from the emails using sentiment analysis or similar methods. For example, if emails contain a lot of negative language, then that’s a sign that that positivity is down. The heart of the technical breakthrough is simply AI’s growing ability to make sense of the mass of information in emails. Vendors in this space include Advaisors.io and Receptiviti.com.

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Another set of insights can be gleaned by focusing on who is sending emails to whom so that HR can do ongoing organizational network analysis.

Emails are only one approach to “always-on listening.” Humanyze gained fame for their employee badges that tracked who is interacting with whom. Mood analysis by monitoring messaging and collaboration tools is occurring, if not yet common.  There’s no technical reason why companies couldn’t gather data from cameras to gain additional day-to-day insights, in fact retailers are experimenting with using AI to monitor security cameras to detect shoplifters. AI can also use cameras in manufacturing to watch for safety issues. The potential is fascinating.

What is interesting

  • Building the privacy and confidentiality engine in these applications is just as much work as building the analysis engine, but it’s a technical matter, not a showstopper.
  • The amazing thing about this approach is that you can get the analysis every day. Annual engagement surveys will have to find a way to stay relevant in a world where insights can be pulled daily by AI monitoring employees communications, movements and behavior.

What is really important

  • The amount of data we can begin to make sense of on what employees are doing and how they are interacting is about to skyrocket.
  • There will be some value right out of the box with these new applications. It’s ready now.
  • There is a whole lot to learn in how best to leverage the technology; so even if the out-of-the-box value isn’t fully there, the value is sure to come in ways we can’t predict.
  • As with engagement surveys, companies will need to learn to act on the insights AI pulls from the data. That may be the biggest challenge.

David Creelman, CEO of Creelman Research, is a globally recognized thinker on people analytics and talent management. Some of his more interesting projects included:

  • Conducted workshops around the world on the practical aspects of people analytics
  • Took business leaders from Japan’s Recruit Co. on a tour of US tech companies (Recruit eventually bought Indeed.com for $1 billion)
  • Studied the relationship between Boards and HR (won Walker Award)
  • Spoke at the World Bank in Paris on HR reporting
  • Co-authored Lead the Work: Navigating a world beyond employment with John Boudreau and Ravin Jesuthasan. The book was endorsed by the CHROs of IBM, LinkedIn and Starbucks.
  • Worked with Dr. Wanda Wallace on “Leading when you are not the expert” which topped the “Most Popular List” on the Harvard Business Review’s blog.
  • Worked with Dr. Henry Mintzberg on peer coaching, David’s learning modules are among the most popular topics.

Currently David is helping organizations to get on-track with people analytics.

This work led to him being made a Fellow for the Centre of Evidence-based Management (Netherlands) for his contributions to the field.