Covid-19 has changed how we work and has enforced working from home strategies, overburdening HR and IT teams with request from employees across different locations and time zones. Many changes in the workforce will last beyond the pandemic, and businesses are turning to digital transformation to find solutions and boost productivity. Artificial Intelligence and HR Chatbots now find themselves in the spotlight.
Much has been said about the effects COVID-19 is going to have on society, cities, and the work environment. To say that the world is going to change is not far-fetched; global crises have always had a direct impact on redefining the status quo, and many of these crises have come from pandemics.
The Athens plague in 430 BC restructured the city’s laws and identity; the Black Death in the Middle Ages transformed the balance of class power in Europe, and the spates of Cholera in the 19th century introduced wide city embankments to provide modern sewerage systems.
There is a history of pandemics that drive profound societal and structural changes.
This time around, one of the many changes we will see will affect how we work and the role of technology in reforming work processes. Like city embankments in the past, intelligent chatbots, automation, and AI may be the landmarks of these new changes.
Currently, we are in the midst of an immense shift. With COVID-19 confining many people to their homes, businesses have had to adopt global work from home strategies overnight, raising questions as to which of these adjustments will persist once the pandemic is over.
COVID-19 has redefined how companies and their employees are going to work and interact now and in the future. The longer the social distancing, the bigger the need for companies to readjust internal procedures. This sudden change has brought new challenges to HR and IT departments who need to find ways to support a vast number of employees across multiple time zones.
Companies have found solutions in digital transformation. Most employees will not return to physical workstations until the crisis is over, and companies that can rely on remote workers are swiftly incorporating technologies, like HR chatbots, to maintain productivity levels.
HR Chatbots Are Stepping Up Digital Transformation in the Workplace
Companies and HR teams have had to accelerate their digital transformation. With employees spread over different locations, everyone must have access to the same essential information and tools to do their jobs efficiently.
Even though companies have had to forcefully adapt to having remote workers, there was already a growing surge of interest in the benefits of working from home, with 75% of remote employees saying that working offsite improved their work-life balance.
Corporations have cut their focus on business travel and concentrated on reinforcing remote working arrangements. Digital channels such as videoconferencing and webinars are on the rise, and communicating via different platforms like Skype and Microsoft Teams is gaining increased importance.
However, with the extension of confinement periods, working-from-home requires more than just web-conferencing systems. Employees must have access to training portals, presentations, updates, and key information, as well as be able to flexibly carry out requests that were originally done face-to-face.
Companies have begun to invest in new technologies and artificial intelligence to make working-from-home more productive. These investments are not temporary fixes though. There is a need to look ahead and to prepare for post-COVID-19 conditions.
There have been irreversible changes, and it is unlikely that companies will abandon the resources they have invested in when COVID-19 runs its course.
In short, remote working arrangements are not going to dissipate with the pandemic, and companies must adjust to having staff working from home regularly. These adjustments will affect the whole company, but HR departments are particularly bearing the brunt of these new changes and the challenges that come with them.
Machines, chatbots, and artificial intelligence are going to be essential to help employees and HR teams work smarter, remotely, and more efficiently, and companies that are investing in these technologies will soon have a competitive advantage.
Challenges to HR Teams During and After Covid-19
Adapting to drastic changes can be arduous at first. The increasing need for integration between employees, their peers and their managers, means that HR and IT teams must centralize and easily manage communication processes to ensure coordination between teams.
These processes must be implemented quickly and easily so that HR teams can deploy them without technical problems. However, HR teams are going to face several challenges, here are some of them:
Maintain Teams Informed
HR and IT must focus on platforms to unite teams and provide proficient employee assistance. Employees turn to HR teams as a trusted corporate source for accurate and up-to-date information on COVID-19 and any changes that are impacting the organization.
Therefore, HR has the responsibility to avoid sharing untrustworthy information from social media and to refer to trusted sources, contextualizing information so that it relates to the company.
Provide Team Guidelines
HR is responsible for providing team guidelines. Remote work needs to be more flexible and tailored to every specific employee’s present needs, given the exceptional circumstances they are in, with school closures and additional responsibilities due to the confinement.
Strengthen Communication and Team Cohesion
HR teams must encourage peer-to-peer interactions. Employees should maintain regular professional and personal interactions with their colleagues, carrying out virtual check-ins with managers and teams, and introducing new tools to facilitate this coordination.
This can be a challenge as it requires finding platforms that are easy to access and use, that can guarantee reach out to employees and can be accessed in turn by them, and thus encourages them to stay involved.
Prevent Cyber-security Risks
With employees living in different ares, cities, and countries workers are more vulnerable to breaking security and privacy policies when working remotely. Up to 25% of remote employees admit to breaking security policies while working from home. Preventing security threats requires having a comprehensive remote work policy, with guidelines and best practices when dealing with networks, data, passwords, and confidential information.
HR must provide information on cyber-security risks to ensure that steps to ensure that private information is secure.
Automate the Return to the Office
HR teams will prepare to coordinate the eventual return to the office and are going to receive persistent requests that will need quick and efficient replies.
Technology can help them with this task, but HR teams must find solutions that are easy to deploy. Solutions such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can automate repetitive processes and adjustments in work policies and contract agreements due to the pandemic, and the use of chatbots is a highly effective way to provide relief and assistance to HR teams.
HR Chatbots: New Solutions for New Working Environments
Technologies can help HR teams deal with the transformations that are happening in the workspace. The adoption of HR chatbots can substantially help teams in numerous tasks and boost business performance. However, optimized chatbots ensure that there is quality customer experience and satisfaction.
The applications of chatbots in the HR department are broad. Starting from the recruitment and onboarding processes, they can facilitate transitions and answer common FAQs and queries around company policies and procedures. Chatbots can also assist employees by providing step-by-step guides for their enrollments and gathering information, data, or reviews of these workers that can be sent to HR, analyzed or surveyed.
Once employees request access to training and presentations, modern HR chatbots can use gathered information to help make these activities more interactive and personalized, providing a top user experience.
The advantages of using conversational bots for HR teams are noteworthy, especially given the challenges these teams are currently facing. Chatbots are highly efficient, as they operate 24/7 and do not have sick days. Employees can turn to these platforms at any time of the day and are not dependent on office hours.
Chatbots and Artificial Intelligence will not remove the human factor from HR. On the contrary, the purpose of conversational bots is to free up space and time for HR teams to focus on complex issues and to assist their employees.
Whenever complex questions arise that may, for example, have legal health or ethical concerns, they should still be routed to people who can solve them. More frequent issues can be automated by taking advantage of machine learning capabilities. Chatbots can handle massive amounts of conversations at once, and specialized HR teams can dedicate more time to intricate concerns, reinforcing quality service over quantity.