It seems the idiom ‘work-life balance’ is cyclical.
It comes and goes, from an ideal one generation strives for to a disdained concept the next refuses to even discuss.
For today’s working generation, ‘striving a work-life balance’ is, once more, something to strive for. Millennials in particular value their time and efforts, both at work and at home, compared to the generations that preceded them (Forbes).
There is no denying that ‘work’ itself has changed. Technology allows us all to be constantly connected to the matrix. Wherever we go, work comes with us — or, at least, it could.
So, how do we encourage a healthy work-life balance? How do we promote a focus on high-value activities and give our workforces the tools to make it happen?
The four horsemen of work-life balance
To reach the right work-life balance, it seems we particularly put stock in the four following values (Forbes).
- Ability to handle workload.
No work-life balance if you can’t finish today’s tasks or feel good about the backlog in front of you. An endless flurry of menial tasks do not help either, both clogging up your work day and preventing you from…
- Ability to finish work on time.
For today’s workforce, ‘on time’ doesn’t mean 5pm. It means when it’s time to focus on the second half of the work-life balance idiom. Being bogged down into tasks and not being able to step away from the computer are the guilty parties here.
- Ability to work anywhere.
Technology is everywhere with us. No one can deny this. To achieve the right balance, technology must be leveraged to facilitate tasks and encourage a lifestyle that suits you (without hindering the company’s policies or goals).
- Ability to work on high-value/impact tasks.
We all want to feel valued and impactful. Yet, this seems even truer for today’s generation. Low-impact, repetitive, menial tasks get in the way of work happiness.
How HR technology can help
It is the role of HR (and the business’ upper management) to facilitate a healthy work-life balance. Thankfully, these days, there is no shortage of new technologies to help with that.
The rise in chatbot adoption within the HR department of larger organisations is no surprise.
Artificial intelligence and chatbot technology combined have the power to deliver a new and improved work experience; one that focuses on impactful and quick interactions and swift problem-solving. One that also helps take away the mundane and allows staff to focus on high-value activities.
Early in 2020, Gartner reported that 25% of their businesses planned on deploying a chatbot within the next 12 months; with the majority of them in human resources (Gartner).
While 2020 took a decidedly unexpected turn, investment in AI technology unsurprisingly increased by 35% (source). Businesses are investing in chatbots, particularly HR chatbots, not only to solve the work-life balance new generations strive for, but also to better prepare themselves for further unexpected turns.
HR chatbots at the core of the work-life balance solution
Practically, what do HR chatbots bring to the table that other technological solutions haven’t managed to?
A customer experience of HR
Customer experience of HR, of CxHR, is becoming the new normal. As your employees navigate through their life outside of work, they get to experience what it is like to feel valued.
Deliveries arrive quickly. Customer support reps answer immediately.
The customer experience has drastically changed, for the better, in the last 10 years, particularly thanks to new technologies; not least of which artificial intelligence and chatbots.
Unfortunately, for many, their employee experience has yet to catch up. The businesses they devote their lives to, or at least eight hours a day, do not seem to care about their experiences as much as the businesses they purchase from.
Thus, HR chatbots. The companies that bring the technology in tend to focus on creating a customer-like experience of HR. For example by first automating the simple FAQ processes, then more complex queries around employee handbooks or life at the business.
Thanks to the technology, employees receive the help they need immediately; an empowering, if expected, experience.
But that isn’t the only positive outcome of this automation.
Automating the mundane
Most HR departments are drastically understaffed and overworked.
The average company will only have between 0.2% and 1% of HR-to-staff ratio. In a typical 200-employee company, there might be one or two HR staff.
Adding and training new shared service staff is an expensive endeavour. And one that might not actually be needed.
Several studies suggest that between 35% and 40% of HR workload can be automated. They consist of repetitive, mundane, and menial tasks better suited to a computer than a human brain (source).
As HR departments bring chatbot technology within the business, those are the first tasks that get automated. From simple questions and answers (as presented in our previous point) to more complex (but still systematic) processes; chatbots can take it all away.
What is left? High-value tasks. The same high-value tasks millennials crave while they strive for the right work-life balance.
Excellent, natural interactions (and a smooth adoption)
As anyone who’s led the implementation of a new HRMS into a business can attest, adopting a new piece of tech is never an easy feat.
The digital transformation process itself can take months. And then, and only then, can the work on adoption begin.
This is where, once more, chatbots differ.
Chatbots present several characteristics that make them a breeze to implement and seamless to adopt.
- They rely on natural language. While chatbots are, indeed, machines, humans can speak to them in perfectly normal, every-day language. No need to learn new buttons, new ways to activate a process, new pages to navigate to. Just talk.
- They live where you need them to. The right chatbot platform will allow you to create and place your chatbot on a channel that makes sense to your workforce; such as your HR portal or Microsoft Teams. No need to send them to a new URL or install a new app.
- They are flexible. Chatbot technology is there to enhance human capabilities, not protect them behind a bulletproof glass. As employees first start interacting with it, the chatbot knows when to step aside and let a human take over.
Adopting a new piece of technology is only a problem when it is obstructive and invasive. The right HR chatbot, built on the right platform, will be neither.
Taking the first steps
It is clear our expectations of work have changed.
Hardly anyone is ‘9-5’ anymore. While we don’t all ‘live to work’, we all value the work we do and consider it an intricate part of who we are.
It’s only fair that work returns the favour.
New technologies, and chatbots in particular, are making it possible for businesses to do so. Providing an excellent work experience while saving costs is possible.
It won’t be long until conversational technology within the workplace becomes the norm.
Alex is the CMO and co-founder of ubisend. As well as focusing on marketing acquisition for the UK’s leading chatbot platform, Alex is an accomplished author and marketing advisor. Throughout his career, Alex has worked with global HR departments and has become well accustomed to the needs of modern HR.