There is a reason “unprecedented” is regularly used to describe the start of this new decade. Life as we know it is a far cry from life as we knew it, with sudden global shifts to supply chains and operating conditions impacting heavily upon startups. More than half of Canadian startups report their industry as being “affected significantly” by the pandemic, and perhaps even more concerning is the toll on mental wellbeing.
With employees dispersed from the office and no definitive end in sight to the health crisis, four out of five report that their mental health has been negatively affected. Worse still, this alarming statistic is further compounded by the unknowns of this moment.
The reality is we do not know what the long-term impact of the coronavirus will be on the startup landscape, or the medium and long-term pressures that it will place on organisations and the people that comprise them. As such, startups must prioritize mental wellbeing and ensure their teams remain supported during this period, however long it may be.
The new challenges of today require new tools in the space of human resources (HR) to best support global workers. Increasingly, small outfits and large companies alike are turning to tech to make this possible. AI, for example, is growing quickly to help companies navigate an increasingly digitized workplace.
From self-service access to health resources, on-demand counselling services, proactive health monitoring tools, access to wellness or meditation apps, and chatbots to answer health-related questions, smart digital tools are proving to succinctly support workers through whatever they are feeling as they are feeling it.
Deeper integrations like sentiment analysis are also showing promise to alert startups to things which might have otherwise gone unnoticed. This technology was previously used by businesses to get a sense of how their target audience felt towards their brand by analyzing social media streams. Recent algorithm advances mean that sentiment analysis can be put to use in the workplace and offer HR managers a better understanding of their workforce.
This AI tool integrates with workplace communication platforms such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Gmail and derive insights on employee mood, friction between coworkers, and the potential for burnout, giving them a better sense of their overall mental wellbeing.
This real-time solution – known as people analytics by industry leader Erudit AI – accurately graphs employee engagement without employee surveys and email feedback, both of which frequently offer insincere feedback. Over time, sentiment analysis enables startup founders and HR professionals to understand the evolution of employees’ feelings and depict trends over days, weeks, months, and years.
An important caveat to mention here is privacy. A sentiment analysis platform like the one described does not display anything related to the content of people’s conversations and would be used only with the consent of everyone in the organization. The data of the employee communications pass through a neural network and only the semantic interpretation is presented to managers using analytics graphs.
For startups, this solution privately measures something subjective (emotion) in an objective way (long-term individual KPIs) to best inform decision making.
And it is better decision making regarding mental health which startups need right now. Small businesses find themselves in a precarious position, balancing an economic downturn and international virus outbreak. Nonetheless, startup leaders mustn’t turn a blind eye to those who drive their businesses forward during good times and bad.
Startup staff continue to need support despite the fact they are no longer working from one designated place – and tech is proving itself to arm managers with the necessary information to provide this support.