Shaking hands of a businessperson and a robot. - AI and employee experience concept
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This is part 2, in a three part article series sponsored by PeopleDoc.

As technology evolves, your employees have come to expect a personalized experience in all facets of their lives — including their experience at work.

In a small company, HR and the rest of the leadership team have enough in-person time with the members on the team that employees feel known, and that they have a truly personal relationship with the company. But as companies scale, it’s significantly harder for leaders to maintain that level of connection with more than a handful of employees. Luckily, advances in AI and machine learning are helping companies bridge that communications gap.

It's difficult to embark on improving the employee experience without first knowing what employees value, care about, and expect from your company. That’s why one of the most essential tools for improving employee experience is the AI-powered employee survey. A traditional employee survey with a static set of questions returns data that may be able, at best, to identify employee dissatisfaction. But when you use open-ended questions, combined with an AI engine, you go beyond what you get from a static set of the same questions for every employee. By pairing AI and employee experience, you gain insight into how employees currently feel about their interactions with HR, and how their individual experience can be improved.

Related Article: How Technology Can Help HR Avoid Breakdowns in the Employee Experience

Crafting an Employee Survey That Identifies What Employees Really Care About

According to a 2016 study conducted by the Center for Generational Kinetics and commissioned by Ultimate Software, managers can improve employee retention 75% by merely listening to and addressing employee concerns. While this may seem basic, it’s quite difficult to scale listening to the voice of the employee. To do so, many companies deploy standardized annual employee surveys from global vendors. While these surveys have the benefit of having industry and regional benchmarking to compare your results against, templatized, quantitative-only surveys by their nature aren’t effective for improving employee experience at the individual level.

The best surveys for getting an accurate picture of your company’s employee experience and where it needs improvement combine a mix of qualitative and quantitative prompts. Qualitative, open-ended questions are the best way to get at employee emotion, which isn't possible to get at in a multiple choice question or a Likert scale. Think about it—you don't discuss something you're passionate about in survey terms like "somewhat agree," "agree," etc., do you? By listening to and analyzing the language employees use when talking about their experience, you gain deep insight into emotion — and potential issues that need addressing.

Set The Right Cadence for Employee Surveying

Employee surveys shouldn’t be limited to a set annual point in time. If you are truly committed to improving employee experience, consider instead, additionally surveying your employees at critical points in their tenure and after HR touchpoints such as:

  • 30, 60, and 90 days after hiring or taking on a new role: This enables you to see how your new hire is adapting to your workplace culture and how you can improve your new employee onboarding process.
  • One year after an employee’s hire date: Seek feedback on how their first year went and any recommendations they would provide for onboarding and supporting future new hires.
  • After a major employee lifecycle event: From getting divorced, to earning a promotion, or returning from an overseas assignment, it’s important to gather feedback during major employee lifecycle events. Use this opportunity to see how their experience was with HR and other touchpoints, and see how to improve future such experiences.

This approach to surveying employees previously required significant resources to analyze, but improvements in AI and sentiment analysis make it just as easy to do as its less effective quantitative-only counterpart. AI-powered employee sentiment analysis provides HR and managers real-time data on employee pain points so they can act on the feedback quickly.

When combined with predictive analytics, these surveys give you access to a multidimensional analysis, drawing relationships within data to find common themes. This in-depth analysis can give you 20-50% better results than a traditional, descriptive approach.

Transforming Employee Experience with AI and Machine Learning to Drive Retention

HR technology has evolved from simply performing routine, repetitive HR processes to predicting future employee outcomes. Today, AI and machine learning powered technology solutions can quickly apply advanced mathematical algorithms to employee survey and activity data to find patterns, trends, and outliers. This insight, in turn, can transform how managers approach everything from hiring to performance success to flight risk.

AI can start to improve your employee retention process even before a candidate joins your company. During the hiring process, AI and machine learning can identify the traits and experience that indicate which candidates are the best fit for the job, and, during the offer stage, how to compensate and recognize them for their achievements. When the right candidate with the right package joins your company, the natural outcome is an improved retention rate, as well as increased satisfaction amongst your existing employees.

Similarly, AI can improve day-to-day employee experience, and proactively identify potential flight risks — and propose proactive actions to take. Although the adage of “people leave managers, not companies” rings true in some cases, there are actually a number of other reasons people leave their jobs, including:

  • They do not enjoy their job
  • They can get paid a lot more elsewhere for doing the same work
  • They aren’t using their strengths
  • They aren’t growing in their careers
  • They’ve had a negative experience with HR
  • They are planning an exit due to a change in family status

The good news is that most — if not all — of these reasons for leaving have identifiable signals that regular, ongoing AI-assisted employee surveys can readily uncover. Further, most of these issues can be preempted through a dedicated focus on improving the employee experience.

Helping turn around employee experience before it gets to the severance of employment stage is critical due to the direct and indirect costs companies accrue as a result of employee turnover. In the United States, companies are paying around $530 billion per year in voluntary turnover costs alone. SHRM has estimated that every time a business replaces a salaried employee, it costs 6 to 9 months’ salary on average. Not to mention that disengaged workers can also mean 37% more absenteeism and 60% more errors and defects with products.

With ROI like this, isn’t it time you invested in the data and people insights your team needs to improve your employee experience?