Continuous Listening and Cognitive Analytics Will Unlock the Employee Experience and Impact Value

Data and technological advancements have significantly augmented the retail customer experience, with seemingly omnipresent touch points and information-gathering mechanisms used to enhance consumer engagement and loyalty.

The same “consumerization” mindset is making its way into the workplace, driven by the fact that more and more employees expect their employers to engage with them like they would their own customers. When employees do not experience this level of engagement (or see competitors who offer it), organizations are likely to face higher turnover, lower morale, and reduced productivity. As in the retail world, the key to unlocking an engaging employee experience is being able to draw insights from feedback from your employees. In order to do this, an organization requires a continuous listening program, backed by cognitive analytics.

As the consumerization of the workplace continues, a shift in how employers address the employee experience is critical. Traditional human capital management processes are often seen as long-term approaches to managing employee roles and responsibilities – and while useful in part, today’s shifting mentality requires an increasingly transitory perspective; whereby, managers must increase their focus on the employee experience within the organization and beyond.

Employees also expect to play an active role in shaping their own employee experience, and are willing to serve as the eyes and ears of their organization. Today’s technology provides organizations with a wealth of options to help improve that experience. But we must ensure that the tools we use provide not only an opportunity to continuously listen across the entire employee experience, but also provide the ability to analyze, extract, and act upon actionable insights that will create a more engaged and efficient workforce to boost business growth.

How Cognitive Analytics Unlock Employee Insights

Given the enormous enhancements in cognitive technologies available today, employers are starting to leverage cognitive analytics to automatically analyze employee sentiment and feedback to unlock valuable business insights. With employees serving as the key link to customers, cognitive technologies can automatically highlight areas of opportunity and suggest critical areas for improvement, allowing managers to directly impact key performance indicators through the collective voice of their organization.

For many organizations looking to improve the employee experience, the traditional annual point-in-time survey is no longer sufficient, as they provide actionable items with a finite life. In other words, what may emerge as a pain point early in the year may be eclipsed by another issue later in the year with no subsequent resolution to the original problem at all.

Alternatively, some organizations have touted the usefulness of conducting multiple “pulse” surveys to provide additional views of the employee experience. However, without the ability to simply and easily link results over time, and without the ability to automatically highlight trends and patterns, these approaches are no better than the isolated point-in-time census survey.

While the annual engagement survey or pulse-based approaches are undoubtedly valuable, the companies we work with are looking to move beyond a simple engagement survey and are transitioning to a continuous engagement model to gain the clearest, on-going insight and the ability to affect meaningful change over time.

Creating Multiple Touch Points for Employee Engagement

If an organization elects to augment their annual census survey with monthly or quarterly pulses, this “active conversation” helps better identify critical factors to business success. Organizations have realized that the traditional employee engagement survey should be augmented to focus on the entire employee experience. Doing so can highlight not only employee engagement, but also business critical factors such as workflow inefficiencies, impediments to innovation, and more. By targeting key organizational constructs more frequently, and automatically linking results from one survey to the next, leadership can receive the time-sensitive and relevant feedback needed for corrective measures to be taken in a drive toward continuous performance improvement.   

Once data collection is in progress, the real magic begins with advanced cognitive analytics. With today’s cognitive capabilities, organizations are able to unlock insights from a combination of available information sources to provide a more holistic perspective for management. Today, analytics tools are available that can easily combine information from employee surveys, customer feedback, key performance indicators, economic data, and more. Organizations are no longer limited in the breadth of information available to derive insights.

Building on the wealth of data available, organizations can leverage cognitive capabilities inherent in analytics tools, which can suggest links between data inputs and automatically identify areas worth investigating. In essence, cognitive applications can take the hard work out of human hands and quickly and easily identify potential solutions for key decision makers at any level. As the level of innovation in cognitive analytics continues to grow, more and more cognitive applications will play a role in the employee experience – from cognitive action planning assistants to next best actions to improve employee engagement and productivity.  

The consumerization of the workplace has begun and is here for the long-term. Organizations are embracing technological advancements and engaging with their employees to improve their employee experience. However, the rubber truly meets the road when that engagement leads to action: a well-crafted, cognitive-enabled communication channel between employees and management is only effective when insights are acted upon and turned into tangible results.

Analysis not supported by action negates the benefits of a continuous conversation, and will likely lead to negative consequences. There is no better time than now to revamp your human capital management practices by leveraging the power of cognitive analytics – how will your organization respond?

serves as the Director of Employee Voice and Assessment for IBM Kenexa. In this role, Jay is directly responsible for ensuring the success of the Employee Voice and Assessment businesses. Jay’s main objective is helping organizations improve their business performance by guiding the delivery of Employee Voice and Assessment solutions.