In a recent research note we highlighted a key trend about Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs) piloting and implementing Workforce Empowerment Systems (WES) to win the war for talent. This trend was noted in our recent Greyhound Research study titled Global CHRO Priorities 2016, where we spoke to 750+ CHROs from across the globe.
As part of the same study, we noted another interesting trend – 6% CHROs are considering possible application of bots in HR related functions. While this may be a small number today, at Greyhound Research, we believe this is an important trend which needs due attention. While much work has been done about using bots to improve customer engagement, the use case of bots to help improve workforce productivity remains largely an unexplored territory.
Before we talk more on this topic, it’s only fitting that we answer a very fundamental question – what is a bot?
At Greyhound Research, we define a bot as “a software-based agent capable of human-like interactions, designed to automate human tasks of a repetitive, scripted nature. Bots ideally exist as part of multi-agent architectures and operate on the principles of self and collective learning. Powered by artificial intelligence, machine learning, or other similar methodologies, bots are meant to handle complex tasks at extreme scales more efficiently and at cheaper costs compared to humans.”
At Greyhound Research, we believe the era of Knowledge Worker is over and the era of Connected Worker is here. The Connected Worker is not just about connected devices. Rather, the Connected Worker is about access to real-time information (as opposed to passive) to make faster, smarter decisions at work.
We at Greyhound Research believe that bots can help cater to needs of this growing breed of workers – their need to stay connected and have access to real-time information. Having said that, we believe that getting the connected workers to accept bots requires careful planning, native integration within existing technology environment and change management. For bots to be truly adopted by this workforce, organisations need to think beyond productivity and focus on workforce experience and empowerment throughout the employee lifecycle.
At Greyhound Research, we divide the employee lifecycle into 7 stages. While vertical specific use cases will differ, below are some of our thoughts about application of bots in each stage of the employee lifecycle:
Stage 1 – Source
While bots have been used in other sectors for sourcing talent, for example, Q&A bot Sgt. Star used by the U.S. Army, the use of bots for sourcing in the corporate sector is yet to gain footing.
At Greyhound Research, we believe for sourcing teams dealing with high demands, bots can help keep active and passive job seekers interested by instantly (and accurately) answering preliminary questions about the organisation, its policies and any other job-related questions.
Stage 2 – Recruit
Despite rapid advancement in technology, most organisations continue to follow the traditional in-person, multiple-round recruitment process. During interviews, candidates are judged in two areas: Technical Skills and Soft Skills.
At Greyhound Research, we believe bots can help simplify and shorten this time taking process. Organisations can use bots to do the initial qualifying rounds for Technical Skills. Bots can then schedule in-person interviews for judging Soft Skills only for candidates who qualify with the right Technical Skills.
Stage 3 – Onboard
One of the biggest challenges organisations face today is scheduling common onboarding sessions for new hires who join at different points in time. Delay in onboarding equals loss of productivity, a potential loss in employee engagement and a negative hit on the organisations’ bottom lines.
At Greyhound Research, we believe bots can help organisations onboard and engage new hires from day one. Bots can be conducting interactive sessions about organisational structure, introduction with team members, assistance with filling mandatory forms, among others.
In parallel, bots can schedule the traditional once-in-a-month, in-person onboarding meeting with organisation heads and make the required travel bookings. To cite an example, bots like X.ai can help schedule meetings by gathering information needed to schedule a meeting, alert you and add the meeting to your calendar.
Stage 4 – Manage
A leave of absence has associated time and productivity losses. A classic example is of an employee going on leave for annual holiday. In addition to the obvious days of absence, the employee spends considerable amount of time in non-productive (and non-revenue) tasks such as applying for leaves, making travel arrangements for the holiday, among others.
At Greyhound Research, we believe organisations can help the workforce minimise this non-productive time of absence by using bots. Bots can study holiday time patterns from past and check for leave balance, suggest dates to avoid overlapping leaves with other team members, book tickets, book hotels, also give weather updates and packing tips.
Some work has already commenced on developing such bots. For instance, Ramco informed us of their ‘Apply Leave’ bot which is currently live. Per the company, on a day when an employee states he/she is not feeling well, this bot offers get well soon wishes, asks if it should apply for a leave request and alerts the employee of any scheduled meetings for the day which will need to be cancelled. Upon confirmation, it applies for a leave on behalf of the employee, cancels the meetings and informs relevant team members.
Stage 5 – Encourage
Organisations often deal with a dichotomy where they want their sales teams to be in the field (generating revenue) and at the same time be up-to-date with all sales related communication.
At Greyhound Research, we believe organisations can use bots to help sales teams get better at their game. Bots can help by giving client briefings prior to meetings, suggesting shortest routes to get to meetings on time, estimate current and potential revenue opportunity in accounts, calculate sales quotas, update lead status in CRM, among others.
Bots can also help sales teams focus on their core task of revenue generation by doing ancillary tasks such as reminding and filling out expense forms and generating sales reports. Take for instance, Slack, a messaging app with bots to help with work-related tasks such as expenses and to-do lists.
Stage 6 – Develop
Each employee has their own individual learning style (audio, visual, kinesthetic) and development area(s). Organisations often struggle to deliver personalised learning to the workforce.
At Greyhound Research, we believe organisations can use bots to deliver need-based learning as per individual learning styles. Take for instance how Ramco is currently working on using bots to facilitate learning for airplane mechanics. Bots are being designed to suggest tools used by other airplane mechanics in the past, show them ‘how to replace’ videos or suggest parts which may need to be replaced.
Stage 7- Offboard
Exit formalities often become a one-sided affair, with employees having to enquire, execute and chase for sign-offs on all offboarding activities. Most organisations fail to keep the human touch in the exit process, making the entire activity transactional. As a result, the workforce experience and the organisational brand is adversely impacted at this crucial stage in the employee lifecycle.
At Greyhound Research, we believe bots can help organisations make the offboarding process smoother. Bots can identify relevant team members for hand-over, schedule knowledge transfer sessions, remind and fill required forms, among others. Bots can also help organisations make the process more humane by scheduling a going away party for the exiting employee. Ironic Bot True!
While the possibilities about use of bots in HR related functions are endless, actual implementation and adoption is a different deal altogether. It requires Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs) to work in tandem and plan carefully.
Look out for our next research note where we will share our thoughts on how to make bots work for your organisation.
Anshoo Nandwaani: Anshoo serves as a Vice President and Principal Analyst with Greyhound Research, an Award-Winning, Global, Independent IT & Telecom Research & Advisory firm. She also serves as Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) of Greyhound Knowledge Group, a Global, Multi-Disciplinary Research & Advisory firm. In her current role, Anshoo leads the research agenda for The Empowered Workforce theme. As part of this theme, she studies the impact of vertical-specific processes and workforce-centric technologies on workforce lifecycle and overall business alignment. At Greyhound Research, we refer to this as the Workforce Empowerment Systems (WES). To read more about her, click here.
Sanchit Vir Gogia: Sanchit is the Chief Analyst & CEO of Greyhound Research, an Award-Winning, Global, Independent IT & Telecom Research & Advisory firm. He also serves as Chief Futurist, Founder & CEO of Greyhound Knowledge Group, a Global, Multi-Disciplinary Research & Advisory firm. Given his expertise and passion for Technology, Sanchit also doubles up as the CIO for Greyhound Knowledge Group companies and is building a technology-led Research & Advisory business. In his another avatar, Sanchit is an Advisor To The Board (for IT & Business decisions) of a US$100 Million+ organisation in the Metal Industry. To read more about him, click here.
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