54% of employers are already automating business processes that were once performed by people, according to a recent report from Capita Resourcing, and this figure will only rise in the coming years. Artificial intelligence and voice technology have become a big business, with sales of the Amazon Alexa reaching over 10 million, according to data from CIRP 2017. Products such as Google Assistant, Samsung Bixby, Microsoft Cortana, and Apple's Siri have also made moves into the digital assistant realm.
Driven by customers who want a virtual assistant to ease with running their homes, picking up important tasks such as ordering pizza, setting important reminders, and allowing kitchen appliances to be controlled - could a robotic assistant hold a place within the modern workplace and HR?
BrightHR are utilising Amazon Alexa in their office environment – and this doesn’t mean that a human office assistant has been made redundant as a result. Instead, “a virtual assistant can bring relief and improve mundane HR tasks such as absence management by increasing speed and providing greater consistency in answering frequently asked HR questions,” Alastair Brown, Chief Technical Officer at BrightHR explains. “As a result, this frees up time to focus on what HR do best: nurturing and working with talent.”
Speaking to HR Grapevine, Doug Sawers, Managing Director at SD Worx UK & Ireland, echoes the view that automated core processes can achieve more accurate end results with a reduction in running costs and resources while diminishing the likely human error count, “but this enhanced efficiency does not necessarily mean that there will be less of a role for humans to play in the future, merely that their role is likely to change over time to adapt to rapidly evolving powers of technology,” he adds.
To enable HR to concentrate on tasks that add more value, BrightHR use Alexa to answer absence related queries such as, "Alexa, ask BrightHR who is out today?" and "Alexa, ask BrightHR is Dave out on October 23rd?" Another area where Alexa proves valuable, is determining who’s doing the tea round. Brown explains: “At BrightHR HQ on top of keeping up to date with who’s out of the office, Alexa is also being used as a brew roulette where it decides who’s turn it is to make teas and coffees for their team, this is decided by simply saying “Alexa, ask BrightHR brewlette.”
“There’s also no need to switch to browsers or open an app either,” Brown continues, lauding the fact that it helps to free up HR from bureaucratic, time-consuming processes. “People can keep working while they ask Alexa a question. At the heart of this is the drive to reduce people workloads. Voice is a much more natural way to interact and if voice technologies continue to develop further this is likely to transform the way businesses interact.”
He adds that cutting-edge technology like Alexa is great for start-ups and small businesses that don’t have an in-house HR function or professional in their workplace to deal with absence related issues. In fact, recent research from Adecco UK & Ireland, found that smaller businesses are more positive about new technologies such as artificial intelligence when compared to larger companies.
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