Masterclass: How to introduce an HR chatbot

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Chatbots are becoming more commonplace in everyday life, as many websites now feature the familiar ‘chat’ icon in the bottom right-hand corner. This has created a sense of familiarity that has paved the way towards their adoption in HR as employees are more open to using them. The technology has progressed quickly over the past five years, and is now prevalent in many aspects of HR self-service.

A chatbot has programmed responses and works to understand a question, translate it and source an answer. It has elements of machine learning and artificial intelligence that build over time, but it does require some human intervention when it is set up.

If you’re planning to introduce a chatbot, start simple. If you have high volumes of repetitive questions, or simple policies that are homogeneous across your organisation, it could be a good fit. But you should first look at core volumes and transaction volumes and pick out simple questions, such as ‘how do I book annual leave?’ If the chatbot is connected to your HR system correctly it can bring higher levels of personalisation to its responses, from knowing an employee’s name to adding humorous gifs, and that can help make it successful.

The appeal of a chatbot for HR professionals is that it removes the need to answer large volumes of recurring questions while ensuring there is always a clear and consistent answer available. It also significantly reduces the volume of calls to traditional HR helpdesks, meaning staff can focus on answering the more challenging queries.

Where chatbots go wrong is when too much is inputted too fast and content is launched too quickly, which means you end up with too much complexity to produce simple answers. Terms and conditions and policy-based questions can be difficult for a chatbot to handle if they vary from colleague to colleague. A chatbot doesn’t know how to differentiate between colleague A and colleague B who could have entirely different contracts, for example.

Implemented correctly, chatbots enable people to answer more challenging questions that require more research. And in the current buyer’s market, it is easier to purchase a tool than build a solution yourself. You may even have access to the technology already, depending on which HR software provider you use.

Aaron Alburey is chief executive and founder of LACE Partners

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