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“Alexa, answer this employee’s question.” A few years ago none of you would have any idea what that sentence was referring to, but today almost all of you will recognize “who” Alexa is. Many of us have, or have seen someone use, Alexa, the chatbot from Amazon. With the explosion of artificial intelligence applications, the use of chatbots is becoming much more common in the workplace. They are taking on roles as virtual assistants and answering questions about a myriad of topics. Amazon is even sponsoring a competition to have Alexa be able to carry on a 20-minute conversation. With this kind of skill how long will it be before we see a chatbot in the HR department?
The Chatbot HR Assistant
Before chatbots became a thing, I wrote about a time when employees could come to the HR department and as they walked through the door the office would recognize them and ask them how they can be helped. In 2016 I wrote Future Friday: Cognitive Computing and the employee experience about how cognitive computing can be used to enhance the employee experience. This is what Alexa is about, using cognitive computing to improve the employee’s experience in dealing with HR.
In The Future Of Work: The Intersection Of Artificial Intelligence And Human Resources, futurist and author, Jeanne Meister, says chatbots will be used widely to answer frequently asked questions from employees. In fact, there is one chatbot, Talla, a product of Slack, that is designed to run your onboarding process.
Fast Response Expectation
Meister says that research has shown that today’s workers expect responses within 10 minutes of asking the question. All of us, as connected consumers, expect rapid responses to simple questions. Our toleration of “slow” has significantly diminished — I know mine has. AI-driven chatbots can provide a rapid response to many of the standard questions found in a company’s HR policies. The AI-driven bot can know the insurance policy inside and out and won’t have to say, “Let me get back to you on that.”
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In addition to answering questions and helping with operational processes, chatbots or AI, has the capabilities of recording and interpreting the thousands of questions being asked. This ability can be extremely valuable to HR departments. These AI bots can recognize patterns of questions that a human HR assistant might not. Management can be alerted to situations that might be developing or employee trends that might be occurring that a human might not be paying attention to. It can also collect a tremendous amount of data that we humans in HR are loathe to collect. This will give HR an opportunity to anticipate and adjust to rapidly changing challenges in the workplace.
The use of AI is becoming very common. H & R Block is not advertising that they use IBM’s Watson to now help in preparing tax returns. Our weather reports are driven by AI. Medical diagnosis is no longer done solely by your doctor. Your phone calls to many companies are now answered by increasingly smart chatbots. It was only a matter of time. Meister reports that according to Eric Lesser, Research Director of IBM Institute for Business Value, “More than half of of the CHROs surveyed believe cognitive computing will affect a wide range of roles in the HR organization, ranging from senior executives to individuals working in service centers.”
If AI is making every other job in the corporate world easier, why shouldn’t it do the same thing in HR. Are you going to be ready for it? The sooner you adopt it, the more of an initial competitive advantage you will have! Embrace it.!