Text Analytics: How Unstructured HR Data Could Disrupt Human Resources

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Think about the amount of text that employees generate each day through emails, reports, social status updates, chats and more. Text analytics may prove to be an avenue for hiring employees, measuring engagement and identifying leaders. Analytics can help HR understand themes, engagement, identify patterns of success and more. Here's how advancements in text analytics provide an expanded toolkit for HR leaders. As always, check with legal counsel to cover any privacy concerns first.

The Advantage of Listening to Your Employees

Josh Bersin asks, "How can you run a company when you can't 'listen to your employees?'" According to Bersin, this question will set the stage for HR leaders in 2017. Whether you're looking for new ways to measure engagement or identify top talent, text analytics is the employer's equivalent of social listening tools. From tracking mentions of certain topics to gauging satisfaction and sentiment, employee listening is giving employers access to a richer data set. Until recently, unstructured data — such as text — has been difficult to analyze at scale, relying on human analysts to read and categorize it. As technologies become more sophisticated, this input can add nuance and context to analysis.

How Text Analytics Work

As the CEB Talent Analytics Quarterly notes, three core applications of text analytics can help HR leaders to transform the way that they do business today. These include:

1. Counting words and phrase frequency

By counting words and phrase frequency, and combining these with statistical analysis, it's possible to identify trends and themes. This type of analysis can help HR leaders determine what benefits employees care most about by analyzing open-ended questions in surveys.

2. Using natural language capabilities to understand themes

As semantic language becomes more sophisticated, it's possible to analyze text in a way that helps interpret meaning. This approach to text analytics can be used to look for patterns of complaints in open-ended questions such as the need for more vacation time or concerns around policy changes.

3. Identifying features

These types of analysis use large data sets to look for common features within. For example, you might take two batches of resumes of individuals that your business hired and individuals that your business did not hire. From there, an analysis could uncover what similarities occurred in each group to further refine your recruiting strategy.

Putting Text Analytics to Work

If you're interested in using text analytics to expand your understanding of employees, some key areas of focus include looking for patterns among successful or unsuccessful hires. Another area is exploring engagement trends. Text analysis can be used to track the occurrence of certain words, to help HR leaders pinpoint levels of engagement and even identify at-risk employees. They can also provide customized coaching and advice. By running text analytics on the chats of your customer service team, for example, it's possible to develop professional development strategies based on the results.

As HR leaders increasingly rely on big data to make decisions, text analytics will likely play an important role. The ability to understand issues that are influencing your employees is critical. With this information in hand, HR leaders may be better positioned to map engagement and offer personalized experiences.

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