HR in the New Blended Workforce: Bots & Humans

[guestpost]This is a guest post by Sophie Parker. She blogs over at Surehand, where industrial safety professionals can find their perfect job. It is her aim to help create a safer world, one inspector at a time.[/guestpost]

Technology has become an integral part of modern human life in the 21st century.

However, just because we have already welcomed technology into many aspects of our lives, it doesn’t mean that we have achieved everything possible.

There are still many aspects of life in which technological innovation continues to add value.

Human Resources is one of those areas.

While most people think of engineering, medicine, construction, and such when asked which professions can benefit most from automated technology, few realize that HR is among that list.

In many ways, HR has been slow to adopt new technology and revolutionize its workforce.

But that’s changing, largely thanks to bots.


What are Bots?

The term “bot” can refer to a range of interactive technology. In its simplest version, a bot –  or “internet bot” or “web robot” – is a software application that runs automated tasks over the internet.

The beauty of this technology is that it can perform straightforward, structurally repetitive tasks at an exponentially faster rate than a human.

Plus, bots don’t get bored.

If you’ve ever had a repetitive, uninspiring job, you’ll understand how important that detail is for performance.

This type of application can be divided into two types: front-end bots and bot-assisted agents.

The front-end version interacts directly with customers without human intervention. The second type describes a “partnership” between a human agent and a bot assistant.


Bots in the Workforce

Bots were first developed back in the late 1980s, but they didn’t enter the mainstream workforce until much later.

They are very similar to Artificial Intelligence (AI) but don’t quite achieve the complexity required to belong to that category of technology.

Today, these applications are an integral part of a wide variety of fields. You can find bots hard at work in Customer Service, marketing, supply chain, sales, risk management, IT, and, of course, HR.


How HR Benefits from Automation

The ways in which HR can benefit from automation are too many to list here. Instead, we will highlight some of the most important benefits.

Automating Tasks

Getting info from applicants, giving instructions, running background checks, conducting onboarding and training, and answering FAQs are all examples of actions that can be easily automated by a bot.

Improving Speed

All of those tasks mentioned above are tedious, but, even worse, they are time-consuming. Computer applications can tackle these loathsome tasks at super-human speed and not even ask for a bathroom break.

In other words, productivity increases when you utilize bots.

Quality Control

Computers don’t make mistakes; humans do. Utilizing this technology will remove human error from the equation and result in better outcomes and cleaner audits.

With the help of bots, you’ll no longer have to worry about misspelled names or typos.

Cost Reduction

Bots cost much less than human employees and require no time to train. Plus, they don’t need vacation time or benefits packages. Additionally, one bot can usually do the work of several people.

All of these factors result in significant cost reductions for the company.

Remove Bias

Luckily, computers have not yet developed the capacity to judge people. Therefore, whatever conclusions that bots come to will be based purely on fact.

This is of particular benefit in HR because so many topics are sensitive or confidential.

In fact, many people prefer to interact with computers during their initial consultations around sensitive issues. Consider this; is it preferable to ask your friend Betty in HR or a bot what will happen to your benefits after a divorce if you haven’t shared your separation with anyone at the office yet?

[callout]READ: How Jinie (the HR Chatbot by PeopleStrong) can handle your HR queries 24/7[/callout]

Challenges for HR with This Blended Workforce

Information Security

Because HR often deals with such sensitive information, it can be risky to have computers handling that information without human oversight.

High-level encryption and security audits are both necessary inclusions to any bot-centered work plan.

Ethical and Legal Issues

There are many murky waters under the purview of HR, and bots can’t detect danger like a human can.

There are ways to design the application so as to side-step ethically complex or legally vague questions.

Two common ways to do that are to direct the customer to a generic answer page or connect her to a human who can better assist her.

Lack of Nuance

When things are automated, people become mere keywords and numbers.

For example, an applicant might be perfect for a particular job opening, but she does not use the correct keywords in her cover letter. Because bots are programmed to look for specific things and do not (yet) possess human intuition, this applicant and many others like her will get passed over.

Bots are also unable to handle multiple issues at once or answer complex questions. This can cause frustration for the customer or employee and lead to adverse outcomes.


Conclusion: What the Future Holds

Despite some imperfections and opportunities for improvement, bots – or some form of technology very similar to them – are certainly the future of HR.

While many have decried the “invasion” of automated technology in the modern workforce, much of the hysteria is overblown.

Yes, robots and technology will cause some people to lose their jobs in some sectors. Unfortunately, that’s inevitable, just as it has been with every previous technological revolution.

However, the benefits that these modernizations bring will also result in significant improvements to the services that HR companies and departments offer.

As bots and associated technology increasingly integrate into HR, they will free up existing human capital to perform other, more complex, and vital tasks.

In other words, these applications are there to lift the burden of routine processes and make everyone’s lives easier.

Plus, once integrated, this technology is easy to scale, meaning that your bots can grow along with your company.

As long as companies continue to invest in these bots and associated technology, they will continue to reap the benefits of new developments and stay competitive in the global economy.

And that’s what everyone is really looking to do at the end of the day, isn’t it?

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