While employers want workplace cultures that make employees feel good and included, gauging and quantifying that experience can be difficult.
Toronto-based company Receptiviti Inc. is aiming to help employers create and maintain “people-first” workplaces that make culture a priority, recognizing it’s a foundational part of organizational health and business performance. To do this, it’s analyzing language across contexts and over time; instead of focusing on how people say things, it’s focusing on what they say, particularly through emails.
“If we can figure out how to measure these things, these intangibles, and what those differences are, we can actually start creating environments that we associate with great cultures, because we actually know what the constituents are at the end of the day, or what the ingredients are,” says Jonathan Kreindler, co-founder and chief executive officer at Receptiviti.
The application is user-interface based and is integrated with Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft 365, Gmail, Slack or Skype — anywhere information flows in the organization. It generates daily reports of the data collected, but Kreindler recommends employers review the data weekly or monthly as opposed to a very granular, daily analysis.
The findings can help employers become more self-aware of what’s transpiring in their work environment, he says, noting the fact it happens in real time means employers can act proactively as opposed to months later.
“Cultures affects everything from employee happiness to performance to things like health benefits and employer expenses when you’re dealing with things like stress and burnout. And when you try and define what the differences are from a cultural perspective, it is typically defined as there are intangibles that make one company different than another. It’s very hard to describe the difference, ultimately, between what makes a great culture and what doesn’t.”
Speaking in a TED Talk on the secret life of pronouns, James Pennebaker, co-founder and chief scientist of Receptiviti, said little words like “I” and “the” and “and” tend to matter most. Though the English language only has about 500 function words, he said, they reflect 55 to 60 per cent of all the words we’re surrounded by but don’t pay attention to.
By analyzing these words in emails and tweets and other forms of written communication, said Pennebaker, we can gauge someone’s social engagement. For example, people who are depressed use the word “I” more, he added, so understanding this can help employers understand the mental health and overall wellness of their employees.
The data collected by the application doesn’t provide insight at the individual level, notes Kreindler, but is rolled up into minimum sizes of 10 or even 20, so employee privacy is maintained and respected.
“In broad terms, it really is about understanding organizational health, identifying where there were problems and doing everything one can to understand and address them.”