Crunching the data

by Iain Hopkins29 Jan 2015

Diving deeper
McGrathNicol, a company that specialises in using and analysing large volumes of data to solve business problems, has recently broadened its focus from the fraud, risk and compliance-heavy financial services sector to the HR space. Kieran Earnshaw, a director at the company, says there is strong demand from HR professionals for more sophisticated use of data analytics.
“While the original demand came from the risk and compliance perspective, what we’re seeing is a demand from the HR community as well,” he says.
The McGrathNicol analytics tool – in contrast to the Revelian tool – does look at specific word usage. It applies text analytics in order to track:
  1. The ‘colour’ of an individual’s language and how it changes over time. This provides an indication of emotional feeling, state of stress and other indicators of emotional wellbeing.
  2. Interpersonal relations: By looking at some of the patterns between individuals, interpersonal issues can be identified.
  3. Signs of churn: Text analytics can look for indicators around possible employee churn where people are talking about interviewing and looking for other jobs.
“It breaks a stream of text, a chat or a message down into what’s called a bag-of-words, from which we can run sophisticated algorithms to look at the meaning of each of the words in that bag and then look at it within the context of the conversation,” says Earnshaw.
Clients receive a visual dashboard which sits across the apps and models: this allows users to visualise and explore the communication networks and patterns within their organisations – essentially who’s communicating with who – overlaid with the key characteristics of the communication. For example, positive or negative emotion, indicators of unhappiness, or indicators of potential churn. In this sense, it’s similar to measuring customer sentiment via social media channels.
“You can click on an individual and look at how their content and patterns have changed over time. Looking at changes longitudinally is interesting,” says Earnshaw. “An individual may have a particular style of communication that is slightly different to other people – that in itself is not all that interesting. However, it may be that their communication style changes and becomes, for example, more aggressive over time. You can start being proactive and pre-emptive in how you address that.”
In addition, interpersonal issues within a team can be identified, as well as employee/manager relationships which have become slightly toxic and worthy of intervention. However, McGrathNicol is not a full-service HR consulting firm; they do not make recommendations on action to be taken once data results are collated.

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