Rise of the HR Bots in SAP SuccessFactors

Smart Chatbots are here. No, we’re not talking about Skynet gaining consciousness and ultimately leading humanity to its demise in an almighty Judgement Day by talking to us to death (film buffs will know the date for that has already passed!).

We are talking about Artificial Intelligence-driven, interactive, software-based support. Typically, these are embedded within messaging applications and are designed to mimic conversations with a real human person.

Technology leaders such as Microsoft and Facebook see the rise of Chatbots as the all-important new interface between humans and machines and see the conversational threads as the new “apps”. The focus of these companies as well as countless others has seen increased development happening in this area.

Bots are not a new concept. Their ancestors include “Eliza” and “Parry”—an AI created in the 1960’s by a Stanford psychotherapist. Those were built to imitate a human displaying paranoid schizophrenia, and in 1973 they were set up for a bot to bot chat that revealed some interesting conversation.

Modern Chatbot Examples

Thinking about our daily interactions that are driven by communication (texts, emails, conference calls) and you realize very quickly that these interactions have been revolutionized by technology. This should come as no surprise, technology advances at an incredible pace and trying to make the world a smaller place for its 7.4 billion inhabitants is one of the key drivers for this rapid advancement.

In the HCM realm, I didn’t have to jump into my DeLorean (yes, another movie reference!) and travel 5 years into the future to see this technology. These types of interactions have been developed and are currently in use. In fact, chatbots leveraged the SAP CoPilot Web application—what SAP calls Digital Assistants—will start showing up in SuccessFactors very soon. SuccessFactors showed off this capability at SuccessConnect, demonstrating how chatbots can assist with HR tasks such as promotions and compensation.

Additionally, SuccessFactors has partnered with Slack and are developing a Slackbot for SuccessFactors Processes and interactions. Currently the Slack and SAP CoPilot-based bots are still in beta and will be available later this year.

How Chatbots Can Help HR

Typically, within an organization, HR is probably one of the most “administrative task” intensive functions. There are so many manual tasks that HR Administrators do that could be automated, such as form filling and process following.

This is where Chatbots can help HR functions become more efficient and streamlined, allowing the HR professional to concentrate on more value driven tasks. The very nature of HR is People Management and efficiencies in this area are key and intrinsic to the smooth running of the corporate “ship”.

Innovation is now coming back to the forefront of our beloved industry. Innovation that alleviates mundane tasks and drives efficiencies—that’s a two for two in my book! Organizations are embracing this technology to drive these administration intensive tasks and offload them to Chatbots. For example, a bot can interact with employees to log a sick day, pass the information to manager and complete any necessary forms in the background:

  • Sick day acknowledged? Check.
  • Manager notified? Check
  • Sick Forms completed? Check
  • Schedules adjusted? Check

All this occurs without having to even speak to an HR administrator who would need to do those tasks manually.

More importantly, this innovation is not just for the HR administrators, but for the everyday employee partaking in HR processes: job applications (coming back to that in a bit), 360 feedbacks, or the dreaded performance review <shudder>.

Here are two scenarios:

The first is your typical HRIS performance review where the employee is required to go through a long performance review form, rating their goals and objectives for the past year, giving justification for those ratings, checking if they completed on time, and assessing if they completed them to the best of their ability. After that, they review their competencies, organizational core competencies, the job specific competencies, rating, commenting all the while. Then onto future development activities. You get the picture.

Scenario number 2: Interacting within a chat app, being asked similar questions, conversationally (which, let’s be frank, is more natural), where the AI can take over and suggest those ratings from the answers that the employee gives in a now familiar interface. We are an interactive species and more likely to give concise, accurate information whilst conversing than we are when filling in forms.

I know which one I’d prefer, and it doesn’t entail looking at forms for 3 hours at the end of a year.

Imagine now the job application process. When you connect to the chat “agent” it has the familiar conversational flow of when speaking to a human on their keyboard. The flow would go something like this:

Chatbots SAP SuccessFactors

The “agent” then proceeds to ask questions pertaining to the application. You get the gist—essentially the system captures a job application without the candidate even having to see a form and the process is an interactive, pleasant experience.

The thought of being able to not only assist customers with their internal HRIS processes by implementing a HRIS solution, but to then be able to relieve some of the administrative burden from both HR professionals but also their customers (who are employees and potential employees) excites me as we move forward with what I believe is a truly innovative solution that benefits a wide audience.

What do you think of Chatbots in HR? Comment below or tweet at me @anupchavda!