Chatbots are typically thought of as customer-facing tools — virtual digital assistants that help companies triage customer care or answer easy client questions. But bots have internal uses too, as human resource departments integrate them with Slack, Microsoft Teams, and other messaging platforms employees regularly use.

Initially, usage of tools like Surveybot and Clustaar was more trendy than utilitarian. For example, the tools were typically used to conduct employee polls on what snacks to serve in the break room, whether staff liked the music on the company overhead, and more. But the technology chatbots are built on, called natural language processing (NLP), is a robust branch of machine learning. And — just like the human language it strives to replicate — NLP tools are perfectly capable of discussing more serious matters. Take that same question/answer, data-gathering format that lighter chatbots use, apply it to more critical processes, and you’ve got technology set to dramatically improve the workplace. The following leaders in HR are using chatbots to streamline certain processes.

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Using Chatbots to Improve Onboarding, Training and More

1. To onboard new employees.

Edward Chan was human resources lead for over a year at rLoop, a non-profit design group developing hyperloop transportation. At the project’s height, Chan says nearly 1,000 people from more than 20 countries were working with the project. He only had 10 to 15 hours a week to orient them all. In onboarding, he explains, “a lot of the tasks are very repetitive,” so much of rLoop’s process was “manual, simply Excel spreadsheet upon Excel spreadsheet or checklists on checklists.” But in April 2017, the company implemented a chatbot named Talla. On each team member’s first day, Talla sends a welcome message over Slack, then shepherds that person through orientation, completing checklist points that Chan previously had to track in Excel. Talla then answers common new hire questions, like ‘how do I log my time.’ “It really helps me to focus on something more strategic,” Chan says.

2. To train them.

Learning Opportunities

At Florida State University Credit Union (FSUCU), President and CEO Bradley Blake says chatbot implementation is underway with the goal “to equip employees with the answers they need at the time they need them.” So FSUCU has been loading its existing training manual into the bot, which employees chat with via Microsoft Teams. By framing the data in a question/answer format, Blake says new hires will have “the opportunity to move through training material in the same order as it exists today.” This helps keep staff inboxes under control since, instead of sending their boss an email every time they have a question, employees simply ask the bot.

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3. To help teams work more quickly.

Since chatbots do have those customer-facing roots, it’s natural for companies to use them to make sales teams more efficient. At software design firm STRV, when clients have a question, account representatives find the answer by bot. “Before we had different guides and policies and it was hard to access them and search for information,” says head of HR Matej Matolin. Clients had to wait while reps dug through the company’s knowledge base system for info. Now staff can simply type the question into a messaging platform, which saves employees hours every week.