Could Robots Drive the Future of Human Resources?
Back in the 1970s, the very thought of introducing robots into the manufacturing world was frightening to a lot of people. Well, it turns out that robotics not only came to be in manufacturing, it completely changed the way major manufacturers did business. That may be good or bad depending on your perspective. Either way, human resources and payroll are now facing a similar question of their own.
Could it be that robots will drive the future of human resources and payroll? It’s possible, according to a fascinating article published on the Washington Post website in early December (2016). That article discussed a few technologies that look very promising. Many of them eliminate what contributor Steven Overly referred to as the “mundane tasks that HR departments carry out on a daily basis.”
The HR ChatBot
Leading the charge is a technology known as the chatbot. Believe it or not, we already interact with chatbots without even knowing it. A chatbot is essentially a computer that carries on conversations via online chat platforms so that companies don’t have to devote actual man-hours to the task. Chatbots can be used to answer basic helpdesk questions based on the text inputted by human users.
In human resources and payroll, a number of companies are working on chatbots that would mimic what the helpdesk does. For example, Overly mentioned one particular chatbot that is already being deployed to:
- explain company policies
- survey employees
- conduct electronic training of new hires
- collect employee payroll information.
The key to making all this work is artificial intelligence. That should not be surprising. For a chatbot to truly function as a human being, it needs to be able to understand the questions being posed in light of the fact that people do not always communicate effectively. That is no easy task, as the makers of speech recognition software have known for a long time.
Language and Understanding Are Fluid
The biggest challenge in developing comprehensive chatbots is human language. In other words, a computerized robot can only respond to the information given to it by the user. In an HR and payroll scenario, an employee asking questions about overtime policy would be framing the questions in language he or she understands. That language may not be something the chatbot understands.
Artificial intelligence should ideally be able to detect certain language patterns along with the words users tend to use when framing questions. It should be able to analyze that information to correctly figure out what question is actually being asked. But the fluid nature of human language and its understanding makes this task rather difficult.
Overly explains that artificial intelligence is coming along nicely at this point. He cites the fact that some 1,200 companies have already installed one particular chatbot. It seems the only question remaining is how long it will take for chatbots to become the norm.
The Future of HR and Payroll
It is true that technology is being introduced to HR and payroll in ways we’ve never seen before. But just like robotics did not wipe out manufacturing, it will also not eliminate the need for third-party payroll service providers such as Dallas-based BenefitMall. Robotics will merely change the way those providers do business.
We can envision a day where chatbots will be used to collect payroll information and answer questions posed by employees. We can also envision a day where today’s automated processes become even more streamlined, reducing the need for direct client input to facilitate payroll processing and HR administration. In the end, it will be better for everyone involved.