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The Smart Manager - - Contents - *https://www.dec­ca­nchron­i­cle.com/busi­ness/com­pa­nies/060917/hdfc-bankschat­bot-ad­dresses-27-mil­lion-queries-in-6-months.html

Bots are the fu­ture of em­ployee en­gage­ment, says Prashant John, Kwench Global Tech­nolo­gies.

Eva, the chat­bot built for HDFC Bank, ad­dressed 2.7 mil­lion cus­tomer queries in a span of six months in 2017. Ac­cord­ing to Sense­forth AI Re­search, over 5.3 lakh unique vis­i­tors on the bank web­site had 1.2 mil­lion con­ver­sa­tions.* Chat­bots have long been de­ployed in cus­tomer en­gage­ment ini­tia­tives suc­cess­fully. Now, HR too is adopt­ing the tech­nol­ogy to im­prove em­ployee ex­pe­ri­ence.

The def­i­ni­tion of ‘work’ is chang­ing rapidly, es­pe­cially with the com­ing of age of ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and ma­chine learn­ing and other rev­o­lu­tion­ary tech­nolo­gies that threaten to au­to­mate vast tracts of jobs as they ex­ist to­day. While it might take some more time be­fore [War­ren] Ben­nis’s pre­dic­tion be­comes a re­al­ity, tech­nol­ogy that is in­creas­ingly get­ting closer to how hu­mans be­have and in­ter­act is a re­al­ity and is be­ing used in en­ter­prises to in­crease ef­fi­ciency—right now!

So what does the evo­lu­tion of bots and other tech­nolo­gies mean for em­ployee en­gage­ment?

Em­ployee en­gage­ment is now a topic that busi­ness lead­ers rec­og­nize as a key in­gre­di­ent of or­ga­ni­za­tional per­for­mance. Gallup’s State of the Amer­i­can Work­place re­port high­lights their re­search which com­pared com­pa­nies from the high­est and low­est quar­tiles of en­gage­ment lev­els. It found that com­pa­nies who were in the top quar­tile re­ported higher pro­duc­tiv­ity, higher sales, and higher prof­itabil­ity among sev­eral other met­rics, as a con­se­quence of higher em­ployee en­gage­ment lev­els.

There is no doubt that em­ployee en­gage­ment has a di­rect bear­ing on pro­duc­tiv­ity and there­fore on busi­ness goals, which is why it is on ev­ery busi­ness agenda to­day.

much ado about en­gage­ment

Re­searchers and aca­demi­cians have been pub­lish­ing stud­ies over the decades, but em­ployee en­gage­ment still con­tin­ues to be a largely sub­jec­tive mea­sure and there of­ten still seems to be sub­stan­tial de­bate on what re­ally drives it.

The pro­lif­er­a­tion of ac­tive em­ployee en­gage­ment in the lex­i­con of busi­ness lead­ers may be rel­a­tively new, but in re­al­ity it rep­re­sents an age-old stand­off be­tween the trans­ac­tional Tay­lorist man­age­ment and the new-age lead­er­ship that places em­pha­sis on defin­ing pur­pose and val­ues, and sup­port­ing em­ploy­ees to achieve their per­sonal and or­ga­ni­za­tional goals.

Many of the stud­ies on em­ployee mo­ti­va­tion and be­hav­ior still re­fer to Maslow’s Hi­er­ar­chy of Needs from the 1950s as the model through which to un­der­stand en­gage­ment.

Along the way, it has be­come clear that en­gage­ment is not, as lit­er­a­ture of­ten is mis­un­der­stood as im­ply­ing, some­thing that man­agers can ‘do’ to their em­ploy­ees, rather it is a con­se­quence of what they ‘do’. The even­tual men­tal, emo­tional, and phys­i­cal state of the em­ploy­ees is a con­se­quence of man­age­ment style and or­ga­ni­za­tional cul­ture and the dis­cre­tionary ef­fort that em­ploy­ees give. So in­stant recog­ni­tion, clear def­i­ni­tion of work roles, and re­spon­sive­ness from col­leagues and man­agers all add up to driv­ing higher lev­els of en­gage­ment. None of th­ese prin­ci­ples are re­ally new, they have been known and un­der­stood for a long time. What we have not been able to do very well is fig­ure out how to in­cor­po­rate those learn­ings seam­lessly into the daily work rou­tines at of­fice.

Which brings us to the present day with the rise of ad­vanced en­ter­prise com­put­ing. Mar­keters have al­ways been at the fore­front of ex­per­i­ment­ing with and adopt­ing new tech­nolo­gies. Chat­bots and in­tel­li­gent as­sis­tants have been used by mar­ket­ing teams of large or­ga­ni­za­tions to im­prove buy­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for cus­tomers for years now. HR is now play­ing catchup and catch­ing on fast in a quest to ap­ply the same prin­ci­ples to em­ployee ex­pe­ri­ence.

Con­sider this—in a re­search study by Desk.com, more than 22% of mil­len­ni­als in­di­cated they ex­pect some kind of re­sponse within ten min­utes of reach­ing out to a con­sumer brand. Those mil­len­ni­als are now a dom­i­nant co­hort in the work­place and ex­pect the same re­spon­sive­ness at the work­place to their queries and sup­port re­quests.

In­stant recog­ni­tion, clear def­i­ni­tion of work roles, and re­spon­sive­ness from col­leagues and man­agers all add up to driv­ing higher lev­els of en­gage­ment.

The IBM In­sti­tute for Busi­ness Value con­ducted a sur­vey of nearly 400 CHROs re­cently. In­ter­est­ingly, the study found that half of the sur­vey sam­ples rec­og­nize the power of cog­ni­tive com­put­ing to trans­form key di­men­sions of HR.

the chat­bot ad­van­tage

“The ad­vance of tech­nol­ogy is based on mak­ing it fit in so that you don't re­ally even no­tice it, so it's part of every­day life.” – Bill Gates

Chat­bots have evolved from be­ing mere query tools and side men­tions to be­ing part of the larger core tech­nol­ogy strat­egy. They en­able en­ter­prises to cut ex­penses, au­to­mate busi­ness pro­cesses, in­crease pro­duc­tiv­ity, and trans­form em­ployee en­gage­ment.

Why would chat­bots be so well po­si­tioned to trans­form em­ployee ex­pe­ri­ence at the work­place? In the last decade there has been a boom of cloud plat­forms and com­pa­nies have adopted them ea­gerly. This has given rise to a new prob­lem of data frag­men­ta­tion of a dif­fer­ent de­gree. While the API in­ter­faces do al­le­vi­ate the in­ter­con­nect­ed­ness prob­lem to some ex­tent, it is still a lot of ef­fort for the in­di­vid­ual to track down and lo­cate the right data. Bots are uniquely suited for the pur­pose of act­ing as a sin­gle in­ter­me­di­ary who can ac­cess all data sources and pro­vide the rel­e­vant re­sponse back to the user—‘while be­ing em­bed­ded in a nat­u­ral con­ver­sa­tion’. Em­ploy­ees now do not have to wait for some­one to get back with re­sponse to a query, know how to lo­gin to a dozen dif­fer­ent data­bases (each with its own user in­ter­face), have ‘tacit’ knowl­edge of where ‘in­for­ma­tion’ is, or waste hun­dreds of hours do­ing things like book ex­penses, ap­ply for leave, or setup meet­ings.

Bots are in­creas­ingly be­com­ing the new user in­ter­face of en­ter­prise soft­ware. But why is this hap­pen­ing?

Firstly, they are ridicu­lously easy to im­ple­ment. ‘In­stal­la­tion’ on most plat­forms just in­volves ‘invit­ing a bot’ into a chat stream or group—just as you would in­vite a col­league. Fur­ther in­ter­ac­tions with bots no longer re­quire ad­vanced knowl­edge of for­mu­lat­ing SQL queries. Thanks to ad­vances in nat­u­ral lan­guage pro­cess­ing (NLP) and ma­chine learn­ing, con­ver­sa­tions with chat­bots in­creas­ingly mimic nat­u­ral lan­guage.

Se­condly, chat­bots are able to pro­vide a level of ab­strac­tion to iso­late em­ploy­ees from the need to deep dive into com­plex work­flows and re­mem­ber mul­ti­ple vari­ables. It is like hav­ing a friendly men­tor who is al­ways help­ing you out. With chat­bots do­ing the heavy lift­ing of data val­i­da­tion and process ad­her­ence, there can be a marked im­prove­ment in the pro­duc­tiv­ity of em­ploy­ees and there­fore in cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion.

Last and ar­guably the most im­por­tant, thanks to ef­forts from tech­nol­ogy gi­ants like IBM and a whole uni­verse of star­tups like Kwench, chat­bots are in­creas­ingly be­com­ing ac­ces­si­ble to the point that the av­er­age sys­tem ad­min­is­tra­tor can use pub­licly avail­able bots or im­ple­ment cus­tom in­te­gra­tion bots across a huge ar­ray of plat­forms.

Now that we know why bots are well po­si­tioned to im­prove em­ployee en­gage­ment, let us take a quick look at ar­eas where chat­bots help im­prove the em­ployee ex­pe­ri­ence:

query­ing and trans­form­ing data: As I men­tioned be­fore, com­pa­nies now gen­er­ate more data than ever be­fore across di­verse plat­forms. With in­creased com­pu­ta­tional ca­pa­bil­ity and cheaper stor­age, we gen­er­ate and track all kinds of data points. Spread across dif­fer­ent sys­tems and for­mats, all that valu­able data of­ten can get lost along the way. And even if all the data is in one place, an­a­lyz­ing huge amounts of it can be ex­tremely chal­leng­ing.

Chat­bots can iso­late em­ploy­ees from all this over­head and com­plex­ity. Users can is­sue sim­ple com­mands to bots who in turn can ac­quire and an­a­lyze data as re­quired, free­ing up pre­cious band­width to glean bet­ter in­sights.

Chat­bots have evolved from be­ing mere query tools and side men­tions to be­ing part of the larger core tech­nol­ogy strat­egy.

au­tomat­ing and stream­lin­ing busi­ness pro­cesses: Repet­i­tive and mun­dane tasks are one of the big­gest sources of dis­en­gage­ment among em­ploy­ees. Of­ten tasks that re­quire col­lect­ing data from dif­fer­ent team mem­bers or sources and col­lat­ing re­sist the usual al­go­rith­mic au­to­ma­tion.

With bots, it is now pos­si­ble to stream­line those tasks across de­part­ments. This can then free up em­ploy­ees to fo­cus on more pro­duc­tive and rev­enue-gen­er­at­ing tasks. Ad­di­tion­ally, there is an in­creased sense of sat­is­fac­tion from do­ing mean­ing­ful work and this in turn drives en­gage­ment lev­els.

act­ing as per­sonal as­sis­tants: We typ­i­cally imag­ine that only the top man­age­ment in an or­ga­ni­za­tion needs per­sonal as­sis­tants. Take a minute to look at your own work­day. Seem­ingly sim­ple tasks like leave ap­pli­ca­tion and meet­ing set­ups can eat into pro­duc­tive time.

A leave ap­pli­ca­tion re­quires some­one to query pend­ing leaves, for the re­port­ing man­ager to ap­prove, and then no­tify the em­ployee about his ap­proval. The em­ployee in turn then has to in­form col­leagues and set out-of-of­fice no­ti­fi­ca­tion in her email for the time she is away from of­fice. A bot can do all of this in one go.

Same story for the other ex­am­ple. Meet­ing set­ups can be a night­mare, try­ing to syn­chro­nize the avail­abil­ity of all those who need to at­tend. Check in­di­vid­ual cal­en­dars (as­sum­ing they are shared with you) or have back and forth on emails, block the cal­en­dar, book a con­fer­ence bridge or room as re­quired and maybe send re­minders be­fore the meet­ing is to start. Night­mare? No longer— with bots to do all that for you. em­pow­er­ing the HR depart­ment to en­gage bet­ter:

At one end of the spec­trum, bots are ideal tools for HR to free them­selves from rou­tine ques­tions on pol­icy, train­ing, leave, and ap­provals. Es­pe­cially in large or­ga­ni­za­tions, th­ese can be­come quite a task. The sheer vol­ume of queries can re­quire ded­i­cated teams to be set up and even then the em­ployee might be put off by what they see as un­re­spon­sive­ness or in­com­plete in­for­ma­tion be­ing pro­vided. Bots can do all of the heavy lift­ing and au­to­mate a bulk of the process, es­ca­lat­ing to a hu­man only when in cases where data is found want­ing.

At the other end is the power chat­bots have to help HR trans­form the em­ployee ex­pe­ri­ence in the en­tire life­cy­cle start­ing from on­board­ing to on­go­ing en­gage­ment all the way to exit from the or­ga­ni­za­tion. Embed­ding bots en­ables man­agers to de­liver in­stant recog­ni­tion (and re­wards) as a part of the con­ver­sa­tion with teams on the mes­sag­ing plat­form.

the fu­ture is now

The right tech­nol­ogy can help a pro­gres­sive or­ga­ni­za­tion cre­ate an in­spired work­place. But this takes clear vi­sion by the top lead­er­ship, re­lent­less recog­ni­tion of good work and ef­fec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion to es­tab­lish a cul­ture of en­gage­ment. Chat­bots with their dis­tinc­tive ad­van­tages are poised to change the game for­ever. The eu­pho­ria is jus­ti­fied, but we must also pay heed to what Bill Gates said, “The first rule of any tech­nol­ogy used in a busi­ness is that au­to­ma­tion ap­plied to an ef­fi­cient op­er­a­tion will mag­nify the ef­fi­ciency. The se­cond is that au­to­ma­tion ap­plied to an in­ef­fi­cient op­er­a­tion will mag­nify the in­ef­fi­ciency.” ■

The right tech­nol­ogy can help a pro­gres­sive or­ga­ni­za­tion cre­ate an in­spired work­place.

PRASHANT JOHN IS THE CO-FOUNDER AND CHIEF MAR­KET­ING OF­FI­CER AT KWENCH GLOBAL TECH­NOLO­GIES.

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