03 - 04 December, 2019 | Hilton London Canary Wharf, London, United Kingdom

Are Chatbots HR Ready?

Will robots take over our jobs?

It's a headline we are all too familiar with as HR, wellbeing and talent professionals. Whilst there is some fear that this may be the case, research finds many now want to start leveraging artificial intelligence in their day to day job activities.

According to the study:

“…93 percent of respondents would trust orders given by a robot. They also believe that AI will have a positive impact on their organizations, primarily by increasing productivity.”

Workers aren’t the only ones.

HR teams are also looking to leverage AI in order to help with Learning and Development, performance management, compensation and payroll, recruiting, and employee benefits. But is this something they're ready for? HR leaders at Unilever now say yes.

Chatbot strategy at Unilever to change HR

Their HR leaders have announced that in 106 countries their employees will now be using chatbot technology. They will be using chatbots named Una, which was developed by the company themselves. This will be hosted through Skype for Business, allowing them to connect with the chatbot, Employee Benefits website claims.

Keth Williams, HR Services Director, Unilever commented that Una was created “to remove the need for employees to go into a separate system for HR queries. She has the ability to provide information and carry out transactions using a conversation. “

Once this chatbot goes live it will reach 106 countries, chatting with employees in 32 different dedicated languages. This hints at one of the challenges in developing the chatbot technology.

“When you create a chatbot, it has the language understanding of an 18-month-old child.  If it’s going to be useful, you have to turn it into having the language understanding of an adult, and understand people 95% if the time.”

Change in Mindset

Another key challenge is the shifting of mindsets and change management. With the company's aims signposting their way to a digital lifestyle for its employees, Una will be a clear representation of these goals as they switch off their HR telephone numbers and email address to make Una their one and only point of contact. This creates an “always on HR” system.

Other Unilever AI strategies

Although this is a big step for the company it is not their first leap into the realm of artificial intelligence.  Unilever also uses this in order to attract talent, specifically millennials.

“Our executives expect that 60 per cent of our workforce to be Millennials by 2020,” Melissa Gee Kee said.  She’s the Strategy Director to the CHRO and Global HR4HR Director for Unilever.  “With this in mind, we needed to engage with this generation through innovative technology that is engaging, dynamic, and able to move quickly.”

The company created its own Future Leaders Programme in response to this.  This program has grown to attract over 250,000 applicants with only 800 chosen to participate in the renowned scheme.

However, when they began this process they were outdated. With paper, phone and manual assessments often it would take 6 months to make their way through the 250,000 applicants - signalling the need for a new approach.

The team transformed the outdated recruitment process to focus on speed and to close the time-to-hire gap.  Unilever partnered with multiple solutions to create an end-to-end engaging and digital candidate experience.  Part of that included mobile phone-based recorded video interviews and interview assessment technology.

“We had to ensure we had a digital process, but one that felt very human, not robotic,” Gee Kee said.  “It had to be better and more efficient at selecting candidates than an in-person interview.”

Unilever began to use an artificial intelligence system to filter through their vast pool of candidates, using data points including facial expressions, body language and keywords as part of this. This allowed for a more effective filtering process to be managed in a timely and swift manner leaving a smaller group of candidates with the best potential. 

Here AI improved their process massively. Saving 10's of thousands of hours in candidate times, as well as the company itself saving more than £1 million in just 12 months. With a reduction rate of 90% in time to hire and a 16% increase in diversity hires overall - the new process could not be faltered. 

In Conclusion...

Companies that take these steps to implement AI are seeing a huge role in the workplace and how it is beginning to impact the future of work. The biggest fear at the moment seems to be the fear of the unknown - how the integration process will work.

“71% of employees surveyed believe AI skills and knowledge will be important during the next three years, but half (51 percent) are concerned that they will not be able to adjust to the rapid adoption of AI. In spite of this finding, nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of HR leaders say that their organizations do not offer any type of AI training program. What's more, nine in 10 HR leaders are concerned that they lack the power to address the AI skills gap they see in their workplaces.”

One thing is for certain: respondents believe not adopting Ai will cost companies their competitive edge.  That’s not all.  A failure to adopt the technology could have negative impacts on their careers.

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