By Cameron Smith
Can bots enhance the workplace experience? Cameron Smith looks at the opportunities across the employee lifecycle for increasing the day-to-day productivity and engagement of your people.
Some of the early predictions about bots now seem unrealistic. Back in 2016, Gartner said the average person will have more conversations with bots than with their spouse by 2020. That received some resonance on the chattersphere around the same time future gazers were predicting that robots would eliminate human jobs.
Now that we’re hurtling towards the turn of the decade, there is growing evidence that robots – or bots, in their software context – will possibly create more jobs than they will eliminate. Certainly, for those with digital skills and involved in Artificial Intelligence (AI).
More important, for any worker they offer immense potential for productivity and effectiveness, as well as improving the employee experience (EX). This is all the more critical as business leaders come to understand the value of delivering an incredible employee experience – with the vast majority of executives now rating EX as important or very important.
Further, US researcher Jacob Morgan wrote in the Harvard Business Review that, of the organisations he interviewed from the Fortune 100 and various ‘top workplaces’ lists, “those that invested most heavily in employee experience were included 28 times as often among Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies, 11.5 times as often in Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work, 2.1 times as often in Forbes’s list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies, 4.4 times as often in LinkedIn’s list of North America’s Most In-Demand Employers, and twice as often in the American Customer Satisfaction Index”.
To deliver innovative new ways of enhancing EX, bots offer some interesting possibilities. Here are just some of the ideas that are being developed in the real world.
Bots and chatbots in the workplace
Chatbots enable conversations using Natural Language and can be powered by business rules or AI. Best of all, they can be integrated with other systems to both personalise the experience and retrieve data those systems hold. They are especially useful in areas of the business where the same questions are asked time and again: payroll and other finance functions, HR, IT support, facilities, and office management, and many more.
The win-win benefits are obvious. Employees get a fast, accurate response to a question and the support they need when they need it. This enables them to be more productive in their own work. Meanwhile, the people previously tasked with answering these interminably repetitive questions now have the time to perform more rewarding work. They are also more available to solve more difficult issues if and when they are escalated by the bot.
Bots don’t only ‘chat’, and even chatbots can do more. Taking the example of someone asking about their remaining leave days, the bot can be programmed to accept leave requests then gain management sign-off for that leave. This greatly reduces the effort for the employee, their manager, and the payroll team.
Ways bots enhance the employee lifecycle
According to a recent article in HR Technologist, there are three main areas in which AI chatbots will improve EX: recruitment, employee development, and HR service delivery.
In recruitment especially, bots are a way to communicate effectively with multiple candidates throughout the often-lengthy process. This is something many employers fall down on and which can create a bad impression in the marketplace about the value a company and places on people – and in today’s social media-influenced world, can impact on customer loyalty.
AI-based bots can also play a role in the selection of candidates for interview or hire – by expertly and efficiently curating skills and experience to support better rating and faster decision-making. They can also eliminate often unintended human bias in the selection process to create greater diversity, which the most successful companies are now realising can have a positive impact on their bottom line.
Beyond hiring people with the right skills, effectively on boarding them and further developing your existing employees are both critical. Chat bots can be integrated into learning processes to improve outcomes and drive engagement, with trainees given real-time feedback during quizzes and assessments.
Overall, bots can make interactions with the HR team an anywhere, anytime experience by providing fast, personalised responses to both staff and management – whether it’s pointing to the pertinent information on the intranet, taking them directly to a self-service portal or escalating a complex query to the right member of the HR team.
Bots on the coalface
Beyond the acquisition, development, and management of staff, there is much more potential for the use of bots for enhancing employees’ everyday work for greater productivity and workplace satisfaction.
Bots can make your corporate information come alive – putting essential data at employees’ fingertips, in the same way, they google information in their personal lives. Putting an intelligent bot in front of your IT help desk, corporate intranet and tools such as SharePoint make it faster and easier for them to find the information they need.
Bots can organise your data – proactively providing the insights people need to point them to the ‘next best action’ and make real-time decisions based on up-to-date information. In an era of digital disruption, rapid action based on accurate information can make the difference for traditional organisations fending off nimbler competitors.
Importantly for today’s working world and born-digital employees accustomed to anywhere, anytime response, bot conversations can be leveraged across multiple interfaces, enabling the employee to use whichever device they prefer.
Where to get started
While it’s always tempting to focus on the technology first, it’s important to identify the specific business opportunities that bots can address. Focusing on those first will result in bot solutions that create real impact and value for your employees and operations.
At SXiQ we encourage our clients to start small with quick wins that offer business value fast. One way we do this is to collaborate with them using technology offering ‘No Code’ solutions to rapidly build prototypes that test the use of technology to deliver the desired business outcomes.
From these quick wins, we’ve been able to demonstrate tangible results – helping a wide range of organisations to better understand the potential of AI, Natural Language, Machine Learning and other technologies that can enhance the value of bots in the EX equation.
To learn more about how you can create an Intelligent Workplace to maximise your employees’ experience, contact us.
About the Author
Cameron Smith is GM Digital Transformation with SXiQ and responsible for its Intelligent Workplace practice. He has diverse executive experience in running organisations and teams, whilst implementing technology strategies over two decades in the software, financial services, insurance, and domestic construction industries.