Opinion

4 ways digital assistants can help remote workers improve productivity

Raphael TJ/Sriram Rajan | Updated on July 08, 2020 Published on July 08, 2020

Apart from ease of use and answering the usual cadence of questions, digital assistants can give employees access to ever-changing information on company policies, insurance coverage, and public health guidance

Digital assistants, or chatbots as they’re more commonly referred to, are redefining the way brands communicate with consumers. In the enterprise space too, they are making an impact, by changing the way we interact with business applications. The key benefit is the ability to get immediate responses to queries via natural local language, by just asking a question out loud, without having to download apps, get trained or navigate through complex hierarchies to find what you want or type into search functions.

This simplicity and ease of use is something we are becoming increasingly used to at home. But while we have the freedom to engage in user-friendly experiences in our personal lives — such as Alexa and Siri — there have been few options for people in their professional lives. That’s now changing and it could soon be the case that every transaction we have might soon be through a digital assistant UI.

Potentially accelerating this move, the current work-from-home requirements have made it all the more important to give employees easy access to ever-changing information — on company policies, insurance coverage, and public health guidance, in addition to the usual cadence of questions on leave balance, status of expense reports, and IT workarounds.

Here are four key ways in which digital assistants can help remote workers remain connected and productive.

A digital concierge

Finding answers to simple questions can be a frustrating experience if there is no easy way to do so. Take, for example, basic questions like “how many leave days do I have left?” or “what do I do if my marital status has changed?” In some cases, employees need to log into their VPN to find the policy document or a web page, or the application — which they then need to further navigate to find answers to these straightforward questions.

With a digital assistant, employees can simply speak the question out loud in a natural way or simply input the text, instead of having to navigate multiple screens or interfaces, and they will receive an immediate response. Not only that, the digital assistant can further help them by recommending or taking action as a follow-up to their original interaction and be a true digital concierge for the employees.

For example, rather than just informing the employee on what to do to change their marital status, the digital assistant can actually trigger the change process by gathering the necessary information and then updating the relevant systems with that information.

Addressing policy updates

    Given the constant updates/directives from government healthcare officials, most organisations are quickly adapting their HR policies and guidelines. At the same time, employees need help and answers from their organisations more than ever. Questions may range widely from policies on employment, travel guidelines, and health and safety instructions, as well as guidelines on dealing with and working during the current situation. In some cases, the information is very dynamic and changes by the minute.

    Digital assistants give employees a consistent channel, which is available 24x7, to ask their questions so they can get an immediate response — while freeing up the HR and IT/support teams to manage the more complex challenges they are facing today. In fact, organisations can also use digital assistants to send proactive alerts and notifications like changes in policies, so that employees don’t need to keep checking or search for the latest information time and again.

    Empowering employees

      Practising social distancing has also had an impact on recruitment, onboarding, and training processes for organisations. In effect, these processes provide resources and support that most organisations may seriously need in these uncertain times. Using a digital assistant, businesses can drive candidates’ pre-screening and interview scheduling online, across any messaging channel.

      Organisations can drive virtual onboarding by enabling easy remote online access to relevant trainings, policies, and materials all via a digital assistant. Data can also be safely recorded to keep track of employee health status based on the organisation’s health policy and guidelines. A digital assistant can also save the employee from the time-consuming task of completing forms or reporting on any health-related issues at work.

      DIY for employees

        Whether working remotely or on-site as needed, employees may need access to both information and processes beyond just the HR systems. From submitting expense reports to filing IT support tickets to making changes to travel plans, we touch a number of systems or applications as employees.

        Some processes even cut across multiple systems, like role or location-based expense reimbursement policies, where the system requires role information from the HR system before interacting with the finance/ERP system for reimbursement. A digital assistant is one common interaction point for employees, vendors, or partners across multiple applications and can provide a quick, consistent, and concise response.

        Leading an organisation through this unprecedented time has put an increased demand on the HR function. As a result, more and more organisations are looking to leverage AI-powered technologies such as digital assistants to scale their functions, create online connection and engagement, and provide dynamic updates on policies and safety guidance without bogging down human communication channels — which need to be available for essential tasks.

        In summary, a digital assistant can support an organisation by providing benefits such as: lowering operational costs via online self-service and automation; expanding HR availability 24x7 across different channels; enabling easy access to information and processes delivered via text or natural language; delivering consistent information and maintaining employee engagement; and enabling proactive HR outreach

        Digital assistants can support the functions employees may need now while creating efficiencies for the long term.

        Raphael is CIO, South Indian Bank, and Rajan is VP-Cloud Platform, Oracle India

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        Published on July 08, 2020
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