The world of human resources is dominated by multi-step processes that require action by several people. Think about the process a candidate goes through from applying for a position to scheduling a time for interviews. Or consider the process of submitting a time off request: it typically requires the employee to use cumbersome software, that does not feel as if it was truly adapted to the individual (for instance, a salaried worker who needs to enter the number of hours they will take off in a given day). It may also lack clarity as to how and when the request will be viewed and approved.

When you break down what occurs in these workflows you'll see a lot of tedious information gathering and information sharing on the part of multiple parties. For instance, consider the candidate who needs to provide their two-decade-long work history. It can be similarly tedious to retrieve specific information — think of the last time you tried to locate your company’s most recent travel policy, or the list of approved software applications. Tedious tasks like these present great opportunities for automation — and chatbots can be of great help here.

A caution: chatbots are not a magical solution, as we've seen from the negative user feedback on chatbots readily available. However, with some knowledge and care, chatbots can be built to be user-friendly, and can be a viable way to make HR processes more seamless. Here are three key aspects to take into account when defining and creating chatbots that will enhance the candidate or employee experience.

Make Your Chatbot a True Representative of the Voice of the Company

A chatbot is an artifact, for lack of a better word, a “thing” that represents the company to candidates and employees. A chatbot in HR needs to align with the brand, and needs to reflect the company as an employer.

An obvious first step is to consider the visual representation. The colors in the chatbot window must be part of the company’s branding color scheme, and the style of the window should be in line with styling for similar components used in other internally used digital products.

Define and clearly communicate a persona for the bot. The bot’s persona has to reflect the tone and style that the brand projects in other channels and communications. For instance, a very mature large financial institution would likely have a bot persona that is a tad more on the formal side. A California surf bum persona using very informal language wouldn't be a good fit, even for an employee-facing bot. Creating a bot persona is a deliberate and necessary activity. Without it, users will automatically assign a persona to the bot which can lead to confusion if the bot’s tone, word choice, use of emojis and style doesn't match their idea of the persona. This confusion in turn can lower confidence in the chatbot.

The bot is, in a sense, a representative of the company, and candidates and employees alike may judge a company based on the chatbot. To make sure that the bot resonates with users, have the bot explicitly stress core company values. For instance, helpfulness is a core value for many companies. The chatbot should make sure to exhibit this company value (in addition to its purpose being to be helpful). This may be reflected in the word choice, e.g. using the specific term, or in the interaction, where the chatbot makes sure to ask if there is anything else it can help with.

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Make the Chatbot's Purpose Clear

A chatbot must have and clearly communicate its purpose. If the purpose isn’t clear to the user, this once again opens the door to confusion. And as we've already established, confusion leads to a lack of confidence.

One way to make the purpose clear is building the chatbot to do one or a (very) few things well, rather than it trying to be everything to everyone. In addition, carefully select the task or tasks the chatbot can act on with an eye towards their suitability for automation. A simple, straightforward step-by-step process is what you're looking for here. 

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Keep the Entire Experience in Mind

A chatbot automates a specific part of the workflow. Its insertion into the larger workflow must feel natural and, from a user perspective, provide a seamless transition from one component in the process to the next. There should be no confusion about why a person is interacting with a chatbot. One key practice is to make sure the chatbot doesn’t ask the user to repeat information they have already provided. This is sure to annoy users and reduce confidence. Similarly, the hand off to the next part of the process, whether it is a digital or human intervention, must be seamless, clear and reassuring. 

The goal of inserting chatbots in any aspect of the HR experience is to make the process less cumbersome for all parties involved. When used in the right way, chatbots can make a real difference by gaining efficiency and increasing candidate and employee confidence in the company.

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