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Build AI chatbots employees want to talk to

How artificial intelligence can accelerate human resources (HR) reinvention

The digital human resources experience

Digital forces are reshaping how enterprises connect with their employees. Competitive market dynamics are driving significant changes in how HR organizations attract, develop, and support talent. In the workplace, enterprise chatbots can provide a one-on-one, personalized employee experience and automate simple tasks. Chatbots can be an integral aspect of the new digital HR experience with user-centric design that builds a motivated and high-performing workforce.

Next-generation AI assistants

In a 2017 global HR survey conducted by the IBM Institute for Business Value in collaboration with the IBM Smarter Workforce Institute, 55 percent of CHROs expected cognitive computing and artificial intelligence (AI) to be a disruptive force in HR. CEOs see the transformative impact as well; 66 percent agree that cognitive technology will drive significant value in HR within three years.

But for many organizations, it remains a challenge to know where to begin the cognitive journey. Enter the conversational enterprise chatbot. A chatbot is an automated program designed to answer user questions via text or chat interface. Chatbots today run the gamut from rudimentary, menu-driven solutions to sophisticated, cognitive-enabled tools that can interpret the nuances of human language patterns. When designed correctly, a chatbot can powerfully engage its audience by providing useful information in natural, conversational dialogue.

Chatbots amplify the Digital Reinvention™ of HR by establishing new user-centric standards for employee experience and enablement, resulting in higher levels of engagement from enhanced self-service and consumer grade, user-centric enterprise applications; a more agile and adaptive workforce empowered with enterprise-wide expertise; and modern knowledge management that centralizes information access and focuses on continuous refresh.

The return on investment (ROI) for an enterprise chatbot is expected to be rapidly realized by reducing dependence on the HR call center. Other longer-term benefits include reduced attrition, accelerated employee development, and higher employee net promoter score (NPS) resulting in stronger employment brand reputation in the marketplace.

Build better chatbots

Given the extent of digital engagement in everyday life, today’s workforce expects to embrace comparable digital HR capabilities in the workplace. Of the 8,600 employees in the 2017 global HR survey, 62 percent would choose to reuse a cognitive-enabled tool like a chatbot to support personal HR decision-making. Of course, when it comes to asking for information from a chatbot or human, what matters most is results.

There are three key principles to keep in mind when deploying a chatbot for the enterprise:

Meet employees where they are. To make a chatbot accessible, deploy it where employees are already working and interacting. For example, a chatbot that answers questions about travel policy obviously provides the most value when embedded in the enterprise travel site. If your organization uses an enterprise messaging platform like Slack, give your chatbot its own identity within the platform so employees can message it directly whenever they need information.

Get the conversation right. Conversation design takes deliberate effort. Work with targeted users to understand their intent and verify that the chatbot is providing accurate responses. Design a personality that engages employees and encourages continued use. Humanize the experience by adding “chit-chat” greetings and salutations that are personable and return funny responses to off-topic questions.

Demonstrate learning. Chatbots must reliably and consistently perform their core function. This is how trust is generated with users, and it’s what builds a reputation for the chatbot that keeps people coming back. Collect employee feedback, evaluate responses and commit to making the chatbot better. And by employing AI, machine learning and other cognitive capabilities, it can become smarter over time.


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Meet the authors

Nicholas Thompson

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, Talent & Engagement, IBM Consulting


Tina Marron-Partridge

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, Managing Partner, Talent Transformation, IBM Consulting


Jon Lester

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, Human Resources, IBM CHQ


Eric Bokelberg

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, Talent & Engagement, IBM Consulting

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Originally published 01 November 2017