HR Chatbots: 5 Inspiring Tips for Improving Employee Experience with Bots

By 5 Minute Read

Employee bots are changing the face of today’s HR management and providing new opportunities to enhance employee experience. Let’s explore.

The Changing Face of Today’s Workplace

From office blocks to coffee shops, desktop PCs to mobile devices, phones and faxes to messaging and collaboration apps, local colleagues to global teams; where we work, how we communicate, and who we work with have fundamentally shifted over the past few decades. Compare today’s typical workspace with that of the popular sitcom, The Office, and it’s easy to see that the traditional office has given way to modern workspaces that can be home, mobile, or shared.

Employee self-service bots

Traditional face-to-face connections that blossomed in the physical environment of an office are being replaced by dispersed virtual relationships, fueled by digital communication and collaboration tools.

With employment rates at historically low levels, a skills shortage has intensified market competition for talent, making employee acquisition and retention critical business objectives. Parallel to this is the increasingly rapid pace of digital innovation that demands ever-changing skill sets and continuous learning that are essential to competitiveness. And then there’s the entry of millennials to the workforce, bringing different work values and attitudes with them, and creating a workforce that is increasingly multi-generational. A combination of these forces has put employee experience more firmly in the spotlight, placing demands on HR to better understand and meet the needs of a more diverse, distributed, and tech-savvy workforce? 

Evolving Digital Interfaces Bring New Opportunities

For many employees, their connection to the workplace is now increasingly influenced by digital interactions and the interfaces that enable them. Over the past two decades interfaces have moved from websites and email in the 90s, to mobile and collaboration apps in the 2000s, and now to messaging and conversational interfaces. Each interface evolution brings with it new engagement models and business opportunities. However, the adoption of conversational interfaces is probably one of the greatest shifts, allowing a business to interact with employees via natural language and not just portals, command lines, and mouse clicks. 

Conversational engagement is set to transform employee interactions across the board. The more accessible, seamless, and personalized these interactions are, the better the employee experience.  HR professionals need to rethink how they engage with employees across the complete lifecycle, from recruitment to employee onboarding, benefits and payroll management, training and skills development, performance management, and more. This is why HR is getting serious about chatbot solutions.

How Employee Chatbots Delight HR

So, what is a chatbot?

Loyalty BotA chatbot is artificial intelligence (AI) software that can simulate a conversation with a user in natural language through messaging applications, websites, mobile apps, voice-activated interfaces, or through the telephone.

But a chatbot is more than just a simple question-and-answer bot. Smart chatbots perform tasks and automate workflows. They understand the intent of an employee and take them through more complex journeys, fulfilling their needs in faster, more convenient and frictionless ways. Powered by AI, they are continuously in training so that they get better over time, expanding their capabilities and making them truly smarter.

Here’s the beauty of chatbots is that:

  • They can respond to queries and deliver employee services 24/7.
  • Bots enable more natural, frictionless interactions via conversations, with an option for human handover when needed.
  • Chatbots engage across multiple channels, wherever the employee is, whether it’s on Slack, MS Teams, other messaging apps, a website, mobile app, or a voice assistant.
  • They handle multiple different use cases across all types of functions. They can be proactive as well as reactive.
  • Conversational bots allow more personalized interactions by injecting data into conversations.
  • They automate tasks and workflows, reducing human involvement and costs.

What Chatbots Can Bring to HR

These characteristics translate into multiple benefits for the HR function of a business, as illustrated in the image.

HR chatbots

But how can HR go about their chatbot projects in a planned way that leads to success? Here are some things to consider.

An Employee Chatbot Journey: 5 Tips

New technologies can be daunting. Between some famous and well-reported chatbot flops to the hype around them replacing large chunks of the workforce, it’s no wonder that businesses are cautious about implementing them. However, no one wants to miss out on the great opportunities that can be achieved through conversational AI. So here are some tips on how to approach your chatbot journey.

1. Start Small and Expand

In any unchartered technology territory, start small. It can be tempting to yield to pressure from business leadership and try to bring multiple bots to market as quickly as possible. However, it’s better to pick a manageable HR use case and roll it out to a small set of employees or a single region or department. This allows kinks to be ironed out and poor experiences avoided. The learnings gained in starting small usually open up new ideas for subsequent use cases, for broader reach, or for additional features.

2. Prioritize the Low Hanging Fruit

Look at the use cases for chatbots that will be relatively easy to implement but that will be bound to yield immediate and attractive results. Identify your HR use cases and prioritize them in terms of the business value and complexity of development. Think outside the box too. Chatbots can transform how you engage with employees and not purely act as a replacement for human interactions or a means of adding more automation.

3. Prototype and Train

Prototyping or a Proof of Concept (PoC) is often the preferred route to test a bot idea and use case before investing in a full-blown project. Experiment and agree on features. Gather feedback from early users so you can iterate to improve the bot experience. Remember that chatbots need to be primed and trained to make them smart and successful, so think about different aspects of conversation and workflow design and test this in controlled rollouts. 

4. Communicate Early and Involve Employees

With AI and automation technology, the fear factor around human employees being replaced by robots, albeit exaggerated, cannot be underestimated. Communicate clearly to gain buy-in and understanding for chatbot projects from your employees, especially those that will be directly affected. Involve employees in the decision-making and design phases. Not only does this help diffuse suspicion, but it also enables valuable input at the earliest stage of bot development.

5. Consider Data Access and Security

Chatbots that respond to a user and immediately handoff to a human are pretty dumb bots. HR chatbots need to do more than this. They should properly identify and authenticate an employee, then execute the necessary tasks to fulfill their needs. This usually requires rules and data, necessitating APIs, security, governance, and synchronization. Security is critical once chatbots need to access HR systems to retrieve sensitive or personal data. Employee authentication, data isolation, governance, and control are a must. 

Reinforcing Organizational Culture using Chatbots.

HR managers face many challenges in today’s competitive employment market, as they balance the need to keep the right talent working to their maximum potential, while still keeping employees fulfilled and satisfied. There are multiple initiatives that help organizations create a positive culture besides technology solutions. However, chatbots can play an important role in reinforcing organizational culture through more frequent, meaningful, and personalized interactions that would be cost-prohibitive for HR staff to manage.

Think of how a chatbot could be used to test employee sentiment in more integrated and automated ways and as part of other routine employee interactions. For example, a chatbot can introduce short satisfaction surveys or ratings into different interaction points or conversations. They also can reach out more frequently and proactively to employees, eliciting feedback on performance, policies, skills training, and reminding them of meetings, events, appraisals etc.

Chatbots alone cannot be responsible for employee experience and organizational culture, nor should they exist in isolation or be viewed solely as human replacements. They need to integrate into the business culture and processes, access relevant data to make them more meaningful, and hand over to human staff when requested or appropriate.  

Conversational interfaces are here to stay and chatbots are on the rise. Whether your employees are on Slack, Microsoft Teams, Email, Web, Messaging apps, Alexa, or other channels, chatbots can be accessible to them on their time and in their channel. They can be reactive and proactive and can engage across the whole employee lifecycle, from recruitment to onboarding, skills training, knowledge management, performance appraisal, payroll and benefits management, and more.

Ready to get started with HR Chatbots? Download our eBook for 10 use cases for employee experience or contact us to learn more about how you can quickly and securely deploy employee chatbots for your business.

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