A business is a cooperative collaboration between its employees and the management. The operational efficiency and growth of a company depend on effective communication between the two, resulting in improved problem-solving and decision-making. But when these critical processes fail to function smoothly, they affect employees (and their productivity) and dent the company’s efficiency. That is why employee engagement has become a business imperative in recent years.
A research paper by Bengaluru-based CMR University states that an engaged workforce actuates positive business outcomes such as higher employee retention, greater productivity, lower absenteeism, and higher customer satisfaction and loyalty. As companies in India and abroad increasingly explore the growing power of employee engagement and its many benefits, several players are entering this new-age HR tech space and offering a host of digital solutions to help businesses get their strategies right.
According to Research and Markets, a market research company, globally, the employee engagement software market may reach $2.13 Bn by 2026 from $817 Mn in 2019, growing at a CAGR of 14.7%. In India, players like Clarizen, Emplify, Leena AI and inFeedo have come up with solutions so that companies may improve employee motivation and help them feel more connected to their respective organisations.
Among these players, Delhi-NCR-based inFeedo was set up in 2015 and initially operated as a platform for companies where employees could anonymously post ideas and crowdsource solutions to key problems faced by their organisations. But realising that the challenge lay in getting employees to contribute regularly, the startup pivoted and developed an employee experience bot called Amber in 2017. Today, Amber is the core module of inFeedo’s employee engagement platform and offers a slew of HR insights in real-time.
How Amber Gauges Employee Sentiment To Derive Actionable Insights
Although it works like any other chatbot with preset questions, Amber speaks 4 languages which are Malay, English, French and Indonesian and analyses both individual and organisational sentiment, checks employee morale, highlights each person’s pain points and also predicts attrition. The bot does it by engaging with people through a series of questions or quizzes and examines the responses with the help of its sentiment analysis algorithms to derive insights and actionable agenda items for HR managers.
Amber asks specific questions curated by inFeedo’s in-house team of People Scientists. Each question is governed by what inFeedo refers to as the Employee Experience (EN-EX) framework consisting of seven key experience drivers and 52 corresponding elements that provide a complete psychographic profile of an employee.
As companies can control access to employee responses, Amber works well across geographies and work cultures. Employees are also informed of who will have access to their responses as a part of a ‘trust statement’ that is shared at the beginning of every conversation so that they learn to trust Amber and respond candidly.
Built around a seamless structure for conversation and engagement, Amber can be integrated with most human resource management (HRM) systems and also works in sync with various communication tools such as Slack and WhatsApp.
The vision behind Amber is to provide every employee with an interactive tool that can track his/her state of mind, work-related challenges and any other reason for feeling disengaged.
The sentiment analysis part is built on a lexicon-based algorithm called TexSens that is capable of deciphering positive, neutral and negative sentiments. Subsequently, the AI bot also reports measurable insights, including engagement, mood, high-risk employees, driver-element heat maps and more. More than a million employee responses power the sentiment analysis engine, and as more answers come in, the accuracy improves.
Why Employee Experience Matters Amid The Pandemic
The importance of employee engagement tools like Amber has become even more critical as most people are working from home/hybrid offices during the pandemic. Being away from the physical office for a long time often increases employee disconnect within an organisation as constant and meaningful conversations are not as frequent as they should be. Recent data also supports this as working from home has seen higher stress levels among 88% of the employees, according to USA-based mental healthcare organisation, Ginger.
Several other factors like work-life balance, pandemic panic, fear of job loss/missed opportunity and professional burnout are also adding to that stress. Realising how these issues are collectively impacting their team members, many startups are taking various measures to help them.
But having effective communication with each person is particularly difficult in large organisations with thousands of employees. And that is where Amber’s employee engagement solutions become crucial.
“We realised early on that the current times would increasingly require a fast-evolving, enhanced employee experience and engagement tactic. Keeping that in mind, we are working on the backend to improve Amber’s efficiency each week. Amber is learning more quickly than ever to meet the needs of the employees today,” said Nipun Chawla, senior software engineer at inFeedo.
To improve latency and reduce downtime, the startup has increased its number of servers from two to three, he adds. It has also implemented elastic load balancers from AWS to make its framework more robust so that there is no operational failure.
During the period of April-August in 2020, inFeedo also worked on a new module for its chatbot. Earlier, Amber could monitor an employee’s engagement level by triggering conversations on a periodic basis. But The new module enables a company to do custom check-ins with an employee through Amber and get employee feedback whenever it is required.
Helping the startup with this new module is AWS. The startup has told Inc42 that it is leveraging AmazonRedshift, a data warehouse service, to handle heavy queries and ensure prompt responses. It has also started using AmazonInspector, an automated data security assessment service.
The startup relies heavily on AWS for optimising its resources to focus on scalability, said Chawla, “The strong support system and responsiveness of AWS led us to choose it as our cloud partner. It has helped us build and grow our startup without any DevOps team. Instead, we are using its services to manage our server-based operations.”
The Future of Bottom-Up Leadership
inFeedo and its employee engagement chatbot Amber kicked off with 30 clients in 2017 (after the pivot). Currently, the startup has on board 128 enterprise customers and engages with more than 500K employees from 50 countries. Its key clients include GE Healthcare, Lenovo, Airtel, Myntra, OYO and many more.
In sync with its product, the startup also believes in the culture of bottom-up management and its internal functioning that revolves around the ideology. Bottom-up leadership is where goals and vision are informed largely by employee feedback. Bottom-up leaders contribute towards employee experience, with the principle of “lead as if you were following”. According to Chawla, both customer and employee feedback is an integral part of the product roadmap at inFeedo.
Based on the feedback, the company has set up its current tech goals, including improved speed of operation, better NLP (natural language processing) accuracy, a fluid UX and a more streamlined product.
The startup was a part of Y Combinator’s Winter 2020 cohort. Utilising the insights and guidance from the Y-Combinator accelerator programme, inFeedo has intensified its product development in remote workforce engagement and manager effectiveness and plans to run pulse surveys, a short and regular set of questions to continuously gain employee views on the work environment.
The company raised $3.2 Mn in its latest funding round in November 2020 and wants to hire for leadership roles in product engineering and marketing to expand its customer base in the Southeast Asia region.
“We want to double down in Southeast Asia and help customers remotely connect with their employees in a better way,” said Chawla.