HR leading the way with adoption of chatbots in the workplace

Artificial intelligence applications, such as chatbots, are infiltrating our everyday lives and are now ready to revolutionise the workplace, starting with HR.

A reported published by PwC recently revealed that around 10 million workers are at risk of seeing their jobs taken over by robots over the next 15 years, with around 30% of existing UK jobs vulnerable to automation by the 2030s.

Naturally, people are wary about advances in new artificial intelligence (AI) related technologies and robotics in the workplace, with many fearful that this will put their jobs at risk.

But AI and robotics needn’t be perceived as a threat.

In fact, many are an augmentation…a superpower…your fastest route to a personal assistant.

Freeing up valuable time

In the world of HR and HR systems, this ability to augment manifests itself in areas such as the processing of expenses, holiday administration, absence logging…all transactional tasks that take away our most valuable asset – time – and can easily be dealt with by a bot in real-time.

Let’s be honest – we all despise completing and submitting forms for HR and are guilty of putting them off until the last minute.

But have you ever stopped to consider how much these delays cost your business in time, money and productivity?

Talk to most HR workers and they will admit they spend endless amounts of time chasing workers for relevant forms rather than on the wider HR strategy of attracting, developing and retaining their people.

In an industry where technology has already enabled traditional functions such as attendance and payroll to be automated, the emergence of chatbots is another piece in the jigsaw which empowers HR to be more strategic than ever.

By facilitating real-time collation of data, HR teams can finally rid themselves of endless admin tasks and distractions so they can bring a human touch back to their role and finally fulfil their potential.

But chatbots aren’t just about freeing up HR staff from cumbersome tasks to do their thing.

The conversational interface and user-friendly design of chatbots also makes the HR experience more accessible, transparent and personal for employees too.

Acting as an employee’s personal assistant, HR chatbots empower self-service, instantly solving common everyday queries an employee might have through the power of chat.

Rather than having to visit the HR department or wait for an email response, employees can now talk directly to the HR system in real-time 24/7 where they can check their annual leave balance, administer holidays, absences and overtime through chat, whilst they can scan and photo message receipts to support expense claims.

Forms which would typically take hours to complete can be broken down into bitesize questions, which employees can answer promptly in seconds.

Bridging the communication gap

Open communication with the company HR system also makes it easier for employees to initiate, often otherwise awkward conversations which they might be anxious about bringing up with their HR team.

Discussing a personal illness, for instance, or asking for a pay rise can often be nerve-wracking experiences for employees. By raising the issue with the chatbot first, employees can receive practical guidance on how best to approach difficult and sensitive issues so they have the confidence to speak to their managers.

Aside from bridging the communication gap and streamlining processes, chatbots also provide an opportunity for HR teams to gain valuable insights into the effectiveness of their company policies. If employees keep raising the same questions about a particular subject it may highlight that there is something wrong with a company-wide policy which requires urgent attention and action. By detecting patterns of conversations at the earliest opportunity it allows HR to correct the situation before it damages employee relations.

Engaging with millennials

Whilst many people are fearful that artificial intelligence and robots will ‘take our jobs’, HR is a perfect example of how humans and technology can work together to improve our working lives and drive productivity in the workplace.

With the millennial generation expected to make up 50% of the global workforce by 2020, it is important that organisations embrace mobile messaging platforms, like chatbots, to reach out and engage their employees.

Having grown up with social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp and the ability to do almost anything via their mobile phone, from shopping to banking, millennials expect instant forms of communication in the workplace and chatbots could be the answer.

I don’t want to, nor am I attempting to, paint a bleak picture for HR departments. Chatbots will have their limitations, of course, and will never be able to fully replace HR teams.

But when the bot technology currently on offer can do your heavy lifting and give you back some time, why not put it to work? 

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