My Future HR COE is a Bot

Sherryanne Meyer
Sherryanne Meyer in Community Advocates, Human Resources May 16, 2017

That personal touch in customer service – friendly, never exasperated, quick and readily available – is no longer a dream. Meet your Center of Excellent robot.


Is your HR Ai? It’s going to be. So get used to those letters being seen together accompanied by the short name for robot.

My first bot was an interactive voice response system (IVR). You know – Press one for this, two for that and 0 to wait in queue to speak to a real person. Not very sophisticated, but it did help us manage 10,000 people calling to find their medical plan phone number. So, I’m not a bot virgin.

Thing is, artificial intelligence seems not so artificial anymore. It has become remarkably more sophisticated and – if you’ll pardon me saying so – human. A few weeks ago a robot veterinarian helped me diagnose my dog’s bacterial infection. She was so nice. She wasn’t real.

Recruit, Retain, Develop, Motivate – Better with a Bot

Support in most human resources departments can be a nightmare to keep up with. Trust me – I know. Dozens of daily calls are from people who need to know how to change their tax withholding, get a copy of a payslip, change their benefit plans or verify employment. It’s a nightmare for any HR team.

It’s singularly important to every individual employee who calls.

One might argue that your company is not in the business of customer service and, therefore, should devote few resources to these types of calls. The more contemporary point of view, however, is that workers who cannot get quick, helpful answers to manage their daily lives have poor productivity, low employee engagement and general dissatisfaction with the company brand.

Bots can change all that. Bots might even be more accurate, less snarly, available in a snowstorm, and more current in their learning. Bots may be able to take the core tasks of recruit, retain, develop and Service matters Workers who cannot get quick, helpful answers to manage their daily lives have poor productivity, low employee engagement and general dissatisfaction with your company brand. And yet, providing service can be costly. Machine Learning used with bots creates the best of both worlds – where employees can be serviced and costs kept low. motivate out of the hands (mouths) of over-worked HR professionals allowing us to finally get that seat at the business decision-making table.

Chat Bots for SuccessFactors

SAP® has created bots exclusively for users of Enterprise Grid from Slack. Not familiar with Slack? Don’t worry many of us mere mortals aren’t. Slack can best be described as a collaboration application that enables electronic team communication beyond email and instant messaging. Slack takes those communication methods and integrates them into one application that can easily be made available across mobile and desktop devices. Imagine getting all your notifications – mail, messaging, social media accounts, support tickets, news, drop box and more – in one application. That was the original concept behind Slack. But – wait! – there’s more. Slack can manage conversations created entirely with technology. This is my IVR system on steroids.

How Does Slack Get Smarter?

Why, with Machine Learning, of course! Meet Clea. Clea is SAP®’s machine learning technology. Clea is embedded into SAP®’s cloud platform and applications. Using algorithms, machine learning enables your computer to find trends, patterns, predictions and more without being programmed explicitlywhere to look.

As an example of how machine learning works, internally, SAP® has been using Clea to help to identify biases inherent in their own business processes. Clea takes advantage of the vast amounts of data now available. Each transaction in the system creates a map that can be analyzed. So, for example, analysis of the transactions and outcomes can reveal patterns that lead to hiring or promoting men over women. SAP® - having identied where bias can occur - can then create rule-based systems that help eliminate the bias.

So, imagine the possibilities. Clea can be used to help understand users’ interaction with the system, predict where help will be needed and build conversations with humans that will occur in a chat bot.

An example of a bot assisting a user with maintaining their talent profile is shown below. The employee gets real time assistance in a conversational manner. The repetitive instructions are easily searchable by the user. And no human interaction is required.

Chatbots can be used to onboard employees; help them select their benefits, provide access to systems, provide verifications to assist with password resets.

Picture a future where repetitive knowledge tasks could be done with a little artificial intelligence. Employees get answers more quickly. Staff is freed to do the real value added work. This – IMHO (that’s “in my humble opinion” for you non-millennials) – is an investment worth making.

Will a Bot Take Your Job?

There’s a natural tendency for us to believe that the dawn of robots can leave us unemployed. In fact, however, the intent of technology is to move us all forward – to be redeployed to more engaging work, to getting to the business of really contributing to the bottom line profits of the organization.

And the truth is – we still need humans. Machine learning is as good as the data. Data remains largely generated from what we humans do.

The way we work will certainly change. Our abilities as workers to remain flexible and continually learning are critical. Our openness to new technologies and what they can do for our businesses is pivotal to long-term growth. And long-term growth is good for all of us.

And for me – as a worker? Well, prompt, accurate service sounds pretty good no matter where it comes from. As long as there’s a human around to solve my more thorny issues.

Read also: Machine Learning and Talent Selection: Moving us back or forward? By Gabriel Burlacu June 24, 2016