An increasing number of companies are turning to conversational bots to automate their communications with candidates and employees
Chatbots are computer programs that simulate a conversation using natural language, as if we were talking to a person. These conversations are typically via text (through instant messaging solutions or directly on a website), or via voice (via phone or virtual personal assistants like Alexa). Another characteristic of these programs is that, thanks to the use of artificial intelligence technologies, they learn from each interaction with their users, becoming more agile and effective over time.
The use of chatbots for business purposes began several years ago in the field of customer service as a response to the development of instant messaging solutions -which have ended up becoming the number one conversation channel between people-, and the fact that today consumers aspire to receive a 24/7 service, without waiting.
Now chatbots are also entering, and very fast, in the field of HR. In fact, they have become one of the most visible manifestations of the progressive automation that people management processes of many organizations are experiencing, reflecting the fact that technological innovation in this area is no longer just for large corporations.
It is typical that many of the new technological solutions for the people management that have emerged recently use a chatbot as a channel to interact with their users. Every day more and more companies are designing their own chatbots and taking advantage of the fact that, thanks to platforms such as Manychat, Chatfuel or Mobile Monkey , it is not necessary to know how to build one of these conversational robots; or companies decide to use agencies, which multiply during the heat of this phenomena, so that they design chatbots for them and not only offer help in the design of the basic structure of the conversation, the semantics of the dialogue and its tone, but also training chatbots, thus guiding their learning by incorporating more precise and appropriate vocabulary for their context.
Another factor that has benefited the chatbot phenomenon is the generalization of the use of shared work platforms in companies. Highlighting the case of Slack, thanks to its open API, it has probably become the shared work platform for which more people management chatbots are currently created. Even the term “slackbot” has been coined to refer to the chatbots that run in this environment. Although, of course, there are also “HRbots” that run on other platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Facebook Messenger, or Telegram.
In any case, the key to the success of chatbots in the field of people management has to do with the objective advantages they offer:
On the one hand, its immediacy. If it is necessary to send a quick message, a chatbot is much more effective than an email that can end up buried among many others in the user’s inbox. On the other hand its scope, since a chatbot allows to simultaneously manage communication with thousands of employees. And also in a personalized way, thanks to the knowledge that it acquires from its users.
A personalization of the conversations that the chatbot is able to reconcile with a homogeneity in the tone and content of the messages to, for example, ensure that the answers are consistent with the values that the company wants to promote among its workers. To this we must add that, given its conversational nature, chatbots engage in much more than one-directional emails. If we add to this the ability to capture information on aspects relevant to people management, to respond proactively and at any time to questions from users without the need to have anyone on guard, and to free Human Resources teams of some of their most thankless and time-consuming tasks, it is clear, why this type of solutions is having such a good reception among the professionals of this function.
Regarding the typology of the chatbots, if we look at how the organizations use them, we will find them throughout the whole employee life cycle, although the companies use them mainly for four purposes: recruitment, communication with employees, administrative procedures and employee development.
Chatbots and recruitment
In the field of recruitment, candidates want instant answers to questions that they may have about the company, or about vacancies, or about the process in which they are participating, and these answers can be provided perfectly by a chatbot.
Likewise, chatbots can help in the selection process not only by enabling the company to take into account many more applications, but also by removing biases from the first phases of these processes and helping to carry out rapid background checks. Chatbots also allow you to schedule telephone or in-person interviews with candidates, and ask ahead of time those who decide to leave the process why they make that decision.
Among the bots designed specifically for recruitment purposes we could highlight Ari, Xor, Jobo, JobPal and Karen. In this category we could also include Drafted, a chatbot that proposes to employees of the company people from their network of contacts that they could recommend as candidates for any of the vacancies that occur in the company.
Chatbots and communication with employees
In the field of communication with employees, chatbots allow to transform the “onboarding” of new employees in a self-managed process. They can also significantly reduce the time traditionally spent by HR teams to clarify doubts raised by employees on various issues, such as vacations or leave that correspond to them, health benefits, payroll, etc.
Here we are, for example, with Spoke, whose software learns information about the company and answers the queries of workers through a chatbot. When a company installs Spoke for the first time, they can program it with the answers to the dozen questions that their employees ask most often. From there, Spoke learns on the go, gaining knowledge and refining his answers every time the workers indicate that an interaction was successful.
The Talla assistant responds to this same need, allowing employees to instantly access the exact content of the policy, procedure or benefit information they need at any given time. Or Lucy Abbot, a slackbot programmed to solve the doubts that arise with the employees in their day to day and to facilitate that the managers who manage numerous teams can request feedback to their collaborators.
Within this same category of chatbots designed to facilitate communication with employees, although with a different approach, we can also include Ava, a chatbot developed by Zeal. Ava interacts directly with employees, analyzing the company’s culture and climate and providing real-time information about the “pulse” of the organization. Ava communicates with employees in a customizable schedule throughout their work week. Ava asks them specific and open questions, always keeping the employee’s answers anonymous. Employees can chat with her at any time, about anything. Ava tracks and analyzes the organizational culture of the company and provides a complete report through its scorecard, from which the managers and professionals of Human Resources can monitor in real time the commitment of the employees and the morale of the team.
To mention also Spot, a chatbot that helps employees, who feel victimized by harassment in their workplace, to report it with more peace of mind than if they had to tell a human face to face.
Chatbots and personnel management
The personnel management procedures that employees must comply with in their work represent another of the areas where chatbots are most rapidly penetrating. For example, the above-mentioned Spoke that, in addition to answering questions from employees, allows them to make arrangements, such as booking meeting rooms; LeeveApp, a slackbot that simplifies the application process and approval of vacations and permits; or HealthJoy, a chatbot through which the employees of a company can clarify doubts and manage their health insurance and other health benefits.
Chatbots and learning
Finally, in the field of training and development, chatbots can facilitate the instantaneous exchange of opinions and perceptions about the performance of employees to help them improve professionally. At the same time, the use of chatbots for training purposes enables a more active participation of employees in training activities. In this sense, chatbots that incorporate language learning platforms such as Duolingo or Busuu are good examples of the potential of conversational bots for these purposes.
Also noteworthy is the CoachBot created by Saberr. Based on an initial conversation with the team members, this chatbot identifies the priority aspects to be developed, which are worked through exercise “toolkits”. In addition, CoachBot follows the results and acts as the “voice of conscience” of the employees so that they persevere in the proposed development program.
To conclude, notice that, as always when talking about technological solutions, with chatbots there is a risk that they become the last “bright, shiny object” of HR professionals and there are many who take them as the golden solution. However, we must also recognize that they offer numerous advantages that make them a very attractive resource for professionals of this function, particularly for those who must manage large organizations, and that is just the tip of an iceberg, size of which it is hard to determine today.
We continue exploring.
The author of the article, Santiago Garcia, is the co-founder of Future for Work Institute, which helps companies discover and explore new trends in the world of work. He also leads the Iberian chapter of iOpener. In addition, he is a regular speaker and guest at various universities.
Original article in Spanish