How HR Chatbots Offer a Better Solution to Employee Self-Service


How HR Chatbots Offer a Better Solution to Employee Self-Service

As HR priorities change and employees come to expect more from their HR interactions, traditional employee self-service (ESS) just doesn’t cut it anymore. Here is why HR chatbots are ready to fill the void, writes Brian Westfall, principal HR and talent management analyst at Capterra.

When it debuted in enterprise software systems back in the early ‘90s, employee self-service (ESS) was a revelation for HR departments. “You mean workers can update their contact info and request time off themselves, freeing me up to tackle bigger problems? Sign me up!” By 1999, ESS adoption was at 15%. By 2018, it hit 78%.

Times change, however, and as we enter the 2020s, ESS is starting to show its age. Though ESS has long been able to support transactional needs, the technology’s inability to deliver value for strategic priorities like learning and development as organizations struggle to reskill and upskill workers is a major pain point.

Moreover, as employees continue to raise their expectations for HR service, and businesses work to deliver a stellar employee experience to retain their top talent, ESS isn’t up to the task—failing to offer anything beyond the bare bones of personalization, let alone a wow-worthy service transaction.

Amidst tight labor markets and high turnover, it’s past time for a newer, sleeker, better version of ESS. Luckily, one such version exists in the form of HR chatbots: automated virtual assistants that integrate with your HR systems to elevate the ESS experience in a number of ways.

Here’s why HR chatbots are the future of ESS.

HR chatbots meet workers where they’re comfortable
Stop me when this hits too close to home. A worker is trying to perform a routine ESS task, such as updating their benefits options when they get lost trying to find the right menu in your company’s human resource information system (HRIS). The user guides and FAQs aren’t helping. Finally, frustrated and needing to get back to work, they end up bugging you and your department for help or to do it for them—distracting from other needs, and defeating the entire purpose of ESS.

This is a common scenario, but one that HR chatbots avoid more easily by integrating with platforms that workers use more often. Instead of having to navigate the myriad of menus in the HRIS themselves, a worker using an HR chatbot integrated with that HRIS can perform the same tasks through a collaboration tool like Slack, or email. The worker simply asks the chatbot to complete a specific task in the HRIS, and the chatbot takes care of it.

The result is a more seamless ESS experience for the employee and a higher likelihood that HR doesn’t need to save the day.

HR chatbots support continuous HR service improvement
In which areas is your HRIS or company intranet falling through the ESS cracks? Unless enough employees complain (which is unlikely with one-off needs) or you conduct a regular audit of your materials and service options to find out, you’ll never know.

With HR chatbots, though, one of their biggest deficiencies can be a source of tremendous gain. Should the HR chatbot be unable to answer an employee question or process a request, it gets thrown to a person in your department to finish out.

The HR chatbot doesn’t sit idly by when this happens though. Leveraging machine learning, HR chatbots can remember the response that the HR worker provides, and leverage it for similar interactions in the future.

Over time, the chatbot will learn how to handle more and more interactions, simultaneously weaning workers off needing human assistance and filling the biggest knowledge gaps in your HR service delivery.

HR chatbots provide more opportunities for on-the-job learning
With traditional ESS, the process ends once employees get the answers they were looking for or make the changes they need. HR chatbots, however, pose the question: What if ESS didn’t end there? What if further actions were recommended to make workers more informed or productive?

This possibility becomes reality when HR chatbots are integrated with your performance or learning management systems. If an employee is looking for an online course to brush up on their sales tactics, for example, an HR chatbot knowledgeable of all your course offerings can recommend additional content to help them develop related skills.

In a similar vein, if a new manager has questions on the employee rating scales at your company come performance review time, an HR chatbot can point that manager toward additional materials to help them with the performance review process.

At a time when workers are quitting their jobs due to a lack of learning and development opportunities, HR chatbots’ ability to provide such opportunities during ESS can help you retain workers.

Learn More: How to Bring Customer Service Agents On Board with Adopting AI-based Chatbots

Employees are ready for HR chatbots. Are you?
A survey by IBM found that 60% of workers are willing to have AI agents like chatbots advise them on HR-related topics. No longer the glitchy, unhelpful assistants of the past, HR chatbots have advanced more than enough to replace traditional ESS and provide employees with better service experiences.

As ready as workers are to have chatbots step in, however, your organization might not be quite so prepared. Before you adopt an HR chatbot of your own, take these important steps:

Organize and update your HR policy information. Your chatbot will only be as good as the information it pulls from. If you’re training your chatbot on bad, outdated, or incomplete data, it will be a nightmare to fix later.

Get ahead of accessibility and compliance concerns. Does your chatbot need to know multiple languages? Is it accessible to disabled employees? These are the things you need to think about now, alongside the information your chatbot shouldn’t be involved in at all (e.g., helping employees make benefits decisions based on desired health outcomes).

Be transparent to workers about the change. As great as chatbots have become, they’re not a human replacement, so sneaking in the transition without telling workers is ill-advised. The last thing you want is for an employee to think they’re talking to someone in HR when they’re really not.

Though the concept of employee self-service itself may be growing older every day, methods of carrying it out continue to evolve. HR chatbots represent that next iteration. Companies that invest now have the opportunity to future-proof their HR department for years to come.

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