Why such a frenzy about HR Bots ?

Chat bot , Robo everywhere and future marketing concept. Human hand holding white phone , application ui and robot icons with city sunset background

During the latest HRTech conference in last october in Amsterdam, topics relating to artificial intelligence and chatbots hit the center stage. Not because these matters at that new but because they’re now mature enough for practitioners to make sense of them, focusing more on the use case than on technology.

Moreover, under the impact of HR consumerization, it’s becoming more and more popular in the HR sphere, years after it drew the attention of marketing/customer relationship people. But it was so omnipresent during the conference that some of us  wondered if the current frenzy about HR bots was not even bigger that in the marketing world.

So, what’s the current situation ?

HR Bots  : the novelty effect that does not exist in marketing anymore

The perceived gap regarding  chatbots perception in the HR and marketing/customer relationship worlds is a matter of maturity. The customer relationship chatbot used to be a concept a couple of years ago but now it’s a working reality. No always as effective as expected, improvable, but it’s a reality.

Regarding HR Bots, the idea came to HR people one or twi years later so we’re only beginning to see the first concrete utilizations. People talk more about it because it’s new, alive and they can play with it.

Marketing chatbots are about scalability, HR bots about feasibility

On the other hand there’s an explication to the  HR’s craze about chatbots.

Regarding marketing and customer relation, it’s been about activities that have always existed. It was more or less well executed but there’s always been people to talk to the client, whatever the channel. The activity and the principles existed but what was lacking was resources to operate at scale. That’s what chatbots brought : the power to operate at scale. Same things but the capacity to deal with more customers at the same time, 24/7.

Of course the purpose of HR has always been to deal with employees. But customers being a revenue and employees being a cost (at least in too many minds) they rarely got the resources to do it properly. So they logically favored core HR and process delivery over employee relationship taken from a service standpoint. Today concepts like employee relationship, employee service, HR concierge are more and more popular while employee experience is becoming a major issue.

But who should be in charge at the enterprise scale ? HR ? Not enough staff. Line managers ? Some tried but most of time they don’t have time nor the skills and sometimes not even the mindset to do that. When most managers come from the field they know how to manage business and delivery but not always how to manage the people in charge of it.

Between changing scale and exploring new territories it’s sure that excitement is not the same.

HR bots are mot sensitive than marketing chatbots.

Even if HR Bots seem to be blossoming, nothing tells us they will go mainstream as fast as marketing ones did. Why ?

Because the information they process is more sensitive ? Maybe but not really since GDPR now puts employee and customers data at the same level.

In terms of mistake acceptance ? Probably.

Everyone will agree on the fact that when it comes to marketing/customer relationship chatbots, we’ve seen great things but also noticeable fails. Struggles to go beyond the scripted scenario (that’s what happens when one uses a rule engine instead of a learning bot), irrelevant answers…we expect more from chatbots. But that’s not a problem : businesses tried things, they’re learning, they’ll improve over time and clients have other channels to contact them. And in some cases businesses even take the responsibility for such failures : for a promotional game, for instance, what matters is the buzz no matter if the bot poorly does its job : no one will over-invest in a disposable bot.

On the HR side, what’s at stake is different. Employee acceptance regarding inaccuracy is non-existent. The risk for the organization in case of failure may be very high.

Would a bot give a wrong information on things like paid leaves, training programs, do a mistake when processing expenses, give a “bad” advice, apply an inaccurate validation rule… the impact may be huge and the least mistake can be used as a pretext to trigger a fight that was only waiting for a reason to start.

So HR must me very cautious with HR Bots but it’s sure that they won’t be able to go without them in a near future

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