Toronto-based start-up, Receptiviti, creates healthier workplaces through AI-powered psychological analysis

You have a lot on your mind at work. On top of the stress of your job, you have the stress that comes with having co-workers and being part of a complex organization. All of this impacts an individual's psychology and creates a group dynamic that impacts everything from job performance to personal well-being. Toronto-based start-up, Receptiviti, has developed a platform that uses the power of AI to analyze the psychology of the workplace. After all, "Companies are social constructs, they're more than just groups of individuals," explains Co-founder and CEO Jonathan Kreindler.

"The goal is to create healthier, less stressful workplaces, and beyond workplaces, improve society itself," he says. This bold goal begins with unlocking the emotional and psychological meaning behind how we communicate.

While written communication can express emotion through tone and content, Receptiviti instead examines the subconscious use of language. Receptiviti's SaaS platform analyzes the way that people use function words – prepositions and pronouns – to detect the writer's psychological state. "We're not looking at what people are talking about, but seeing where they are at from a cognitive perspective," Kreindler explains. "Are they happy? Stressed? Engaged? And how has this changed for them."

When first rolled out, Receptiviti was sometimes met with skepticism. "To some it sounds like witchcraft," admits Kreindler, "but it is rooted in science. There's tons of academic papers and research that has been conducted by us and others in the field." In fact, one of Receptiviti's Co-founders, Dr. James Pennebaker, pioneered the research in this field. Pennebaker, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas, developed the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC), a text analysis framework that connects linguistic patterns and psychological states.

LIWC has been used in academia for psychological analysis for over thirty years, and Receptiviti conducts analysis on a large scale by harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, recognizing patterns to create an ongoing time-series analysis of psychological changes within the teams, groups, and departments within companies. "We help organizations better understand the human experience in their workplace and solve many of their biggest human capital problems," he says.

Minding your business

Instead of using surveys or questionnaires, Receptiviti analyzes communications from within the organization to uncover the true culture of the workforce. The program aggregates and anonymizes all the data, "We're not looking at individuals, we're looking at the group dynamics as a whole," Kreindler clarifies. The goal is to build a real-time, dynamic understanding of what is happening in an organization.

"It can uncover problems in the culture. A toxic workplace can be a wake-up call," Kreindler says. "Looking at the dynamics the platform identifies the issues, maybe even before they escalate. But it can also spot positive news, help companies benchmark and see what is working."

So far, clients that have adopted Receptiviti have been mostly large organizations like banks and insurance companies. "When you have thousands of employees, how do you really know what's going on with your people?" he asks. "These businesses are very risk aware, and they recognize that at the source of many costly scandals are people problems. It goes beyond HR, there's a legal culpability there."

"Culture is a really critical piece to ensuring organizations operate in ethical ways, but it's a hard thing to measure," he notes. Receptiviti allows organizations some added insight into their corporate culture, backed up by data. "With analysis you can see the real influence in the company, which may not be what it says on the org chart."

Landing on MaRS

Receptiviti has experienced rapid growth since landing at MaRS in 2016, a year after its founding. "There are huge benefits to being here, there's a helpful support network and an opportunity to learn from others who have been there and done that," he says. "When you're a start-up you don't necessarily have a marketing or HR department. MaRS can offer some guidance and make introductions."

Related: Toronto scores high on talent, low on costs

Kreindler also recommends Ontario as a great place to grow an innovative business such as his. "Our office is close to the University of Toronto and not far from Waterloo, so there's a lot of great talent graduating, which is important for a company like ours with roots in academia," he says. "On top of the great access to talent here, there's of course a cost benefit compared to being located in the U.S.," he notes.

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February 11, 2019

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