How chatbots can help HR enhance employee engagement

The pandemic has thrown workforces into disarray. From the transition to remote working to increases in job losses, employees across the globe are grappling with uncertainty and stress. It comes as no surprise that 68pc of professionals report feeling more burned out in a recent Blind survey while working remotely, while an Oracle survey found that 76pc of people believe that their companies should be doing more to support employee mental health.

Now that organisations have made it past the initial hurdle of the shift to remote work and are better able to make informed decisions, they stand at the crux of employee wellbeing – and they must act fast.

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Technology plays a vital role here. Employees themselves identify technology as a key support, as found in the above Oracle survey. However, this is not always easy to balance. While there is a growing demand on the part of workers for top tech to help them with their problems, companies must take a balanced, human-friendly approach while dealing with employees who are currently managing their own stresses.

Here’s where AI comes in: chatbots and associated historical and predictive analytics can help HR departments meaningfully communicate with their employees and get vital, actionable insights into how to promote worker wellness, engagement and positive experiences. With this, your HR team retains control of all communications but can leverage AI to gain intelligence and drive informed decision making for the benefit of the employees.

Asking the right questions at the right time

Gathering intelligence on employee experience is not always easy. Team members seldom want to be bothered with a long survey that adds to their day. In fact, only 22pc of companies actually get meaningful results from their employee surveys, according to an online survey of more than 3,000 HR professionals.

An advanced AI chatbot can help here by delivering single questions via notification to an employee’s device, which are timed exactly when the person is most likely to respond.

For example, if the chatbot looks into various enterprise systems and recognises that a team member has been working consistently long hours without break, it can send a notification to the employee’s device when their schedule is clear to check in about stress levels and offer specific and highly targeted recommendations.

Employees are much more likely to provide a response when the time suits them, the request is relevant and the questions come in one by one. For instance, the chatbot may learn that people are too busy to respond on Mondays, and adjust the timing of the survey question accordingly.

And to really boost experience and support employee downtime, the chatbot could periodically offer personalised benefits such as movie tickets for the company’s film enthusiast or video game discounts for the resident gamer.

Delivering actionable insights

Even if AI automation allows HR teams to bypass manual or semi-automated data-collection methods, they are still left with masses of data to process and analyse once the survey responses are in.

Inundated with this information, it’s impossible for the HR manager to create a custom plan of action for each individual team member, even though this is a necessary step to ensure employee wellbeing.

Self-learning AI algorithms play a key role here as they analyse the data collected and use information on past decisions and successful initiatives to provide actionable insights to the HR professional.

Let’s say multiple employees have had to switch roles and departments in a company due to recent changes to the business. One data point the AI might pick up from their responses is that they feel they are lacking the necessary technical skills to perform in the new roles.

Rather than simply deliver this information to the HR professional, the AI can present it along with actionable advice based on past learnings. For example, it might suggest that the company runs group technical training sessions for the employees in question, and then collect and collate all of the information needed to organise such a session.

However, it’s vital to remember that these insights are purely optional for the HR manager and are intended to supplement decision making, not drive it completely. This choice on the part of the manager – whether to act on the insights or not – provides crucial feedback for the AI algorithm, allowing it to continuously improve its performance based on the success of previous suggested actions.

A 2017 Leadership IQ survey found that only 6pc of people said that their feedback leads to important changes in their organisation. With this in mind, AI presents a more reliable way to channel every team member’s voice into data-driven action.

Chatbots supporting employee wellbeing

Like with any AI, these chatbots must be used as a tool to augment the work of humans, not replace them entirely. In the case of boosting employee experience, HR teams must remember that when it comes to wellbeing, many topics are sensitive and employees might prefer to have direct communication with a qualified human rather than a bot.

For example, if a worker informs the AI that they are struggling emotionally, the AI bot should automatically alert a qualified professional to speak directly with that person. Using natural language processing technologies, the AI is able to detect the kind of language that indicates a person’s wellbeing is at risk.

This helps HR teams unlock unprecedented levels of visibility into employee wellbeing, which has never been more crucial. Rather than leaving all of the communication to the bot, managers can make informed judgement calls as to when they need to step in and deliver a more human approach.

Having said this, it’s hard to talk about mental health, so it’s no surprise that many employees would actually prefer to talk to a chatbot. AI can be as discreet as necessary about personal matters that employees might hesitate to divulge to a human.

Bots are also available to talk 24/7. HR departments can use this as an opportunity to see trends in mental health across the organisation from the anonymised data collected from the conversations, and use those macro-level insights to help build a culture that normalises talking about mental wellbeing.

There’s little doubt that employee experience and wellbeing is the foundation to a healthy, happy and productive workforce. How to achieve this, however, is still up for dispute. By integrating AI chatbots and data analytics in new, innovative ways, HR teams can gather vital insights and take immediate action, all while boosting employee engagement and ensuring their workforce feels more valued than ever before.

By DJ Das

DJ Das is CEO of ThirdEye Data, an AI and big data consulting company based in California.

The post How chatbots can help HR enhance employee engagement appeared first on Silicon Republic.

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Building relationships remotely, and not technology, has been the key to handling the pandemic, Dell and Slack executives say

Summary List PlacementWhile technology has been integral to working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, building relationships among employees has been even more important to a successful work-from-home model, human resources executives from Dell and Slack said during an Insider event.
At Wednesday’s “Workplace Evolution,” hosted by Insider, Najuma Atkinson, the senior vice president of human resources at Dell, and Dawn Sharifan, the vice president of people at Slack, shared how they’ve continued to work with and onboard employees during the pandemic. 
In the session, titled “The Big Shift of 2020,” Atkinson and Sharifan said when their companies went fully remote last year, they had to weigh how to keep employees feeling supported, how to help managers lead a remote workforce, and how to build culture and community.
“Yes we use Slack; yes we use Zoom.” Sharifan said. “But I think really continuing to build that community is the most important thing regardless of what technology you use.”
Atkinson added that, “While technology is our enabler, the other key factor is about the culture.”
Working remotely has opened up opportunities for companies to hire new employees wherever they are, instead of location being a major factor, they said. Work is no longer tied to where we are physically, Atkinson said. “Everyone has a seat at this virtual table now. Because we are remote, you have more access versus less access to senior leaders and to opportunities that you may not have had,” Atkinson added.
People no longer have to leave their communities and homes to come work for a new company, she said. As for Dell, the company is using the remote opportunity to hire under-represented populations, such as women and minorities. The company has even launched a new effort to hire people on the autism spectrum to add to the talent pool. 
The playing field has been leveled for everyone, Sharifan said. One of Slack’s first moves amid the pandemic was to make all current and open positions remote. The company hired several hundred people during the pandemic who have never been into the office. 
With most people working from home, companies have been forced to think about the actual deliverables and skills needed for a job, as opposed to the amount of time spent in the office, Sharifan said.
“It’s less about butt and feet time,” she said. “You’re allowing more space for the moms and dads of the world that also need to be with their kids and don’t need to be seen in the office until 6 or 7 pm at night.”
Making sure employees have the ability to take care of themselves while working has also been key to success during the pandemic, the panelists said.
“Put on your own oxygen mask and take care of yourself,” Sharifan said. “It’s more important than ever for us to be thinking of the entire employee.”Join the conversation about this story »

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