In his book, Bots: The origin of new species, author and journalist Andrew Leonard describes bots as autonomous and supposedly smart software programs that provide a service. There’s a lot of talk of chatbots lately, as these type of services are often provided in the form of instant messaging. Chatbots were created to make users believe that they’re talking to a real human being. This is why several linguists and poets work with tech companies in Silicon Valley to humanise the chatbot’s responses.

French poet, Charles Bot-laire

Chatbots haven’t achieved their maximum potential yet and cannot be classified as artificial intelligence as Marvin Minsky, father of AI, claims them to be. They follow a simple decision tree designed by its developers. This is why chatbots are especially used to replace call centres, where employees recite a predefined script.

So how can these services be applied to the field of human resources?

Unfortunately, HR today spend a considerable amount of time performing repetitive tasks, for example answering questions such as “How many vacation days do I have left?” , “Where will my training session take place?” , “What is the latest internal mobility vacancy published?” , etc. HR’s only role here is to provide information that employees can’t find (which shouldn’t be the case in the first place).

These chatbots can come to the rescue and take mindless tasks off HR’s hands. But it’s not as simple as it seems!

Pierre Bourdieu and AI

Let’s consider the example of vacation days. The HR could simply reply: “You have 10 vacation days you can take before the end of the year”. But the employee who raises the question probably has some specific queries or is in a situation where they need to take more than 10 vacation days. If a chatbot were to reply to this, it would send a cold reply using its decision tree. Artificial intelligence isn’t fully developed to consider psychosocial, family, and human dimensions. This is because these dimensions haven’t been entered as different criteria in the software program that the bot uses.

But anyone in the HR department will be able to empathise with the employee and understand why they require these extra days and how they can help them.

When it comes to recruiting, bots have the advantage of linking different information to find the best candidate, who may go unnoticed by a human recruiter. In some ways, bots exceed Pierre Bourdieu’s habitus, the renowned structured and structuring structures. In other words, both the cause and the consequence. For example, if an HR rep has never come across a graphic designer who became a sales rep, then won’t even be able to imagine such a scenario! Bots will therefore be a big help when it comes to recruiting rare profiles. That’s what Shigehisa Tsuchiya calls the “knowledge creation model”. Human limits force us to think as we have always thought, while machines are able to create new knowledge through induction, meaning correlating pieces of information without using a predefined thought process.

Once this rare profile is hired, the ball is back in the HR’s court: they can handle managing the fears and anxieties of new hires. They can even help new hires and their teams adapt to change.

Bots would be great if HR only took care of repetitive tasks! But we all know HR is more than that. HR is here to develop work experience, which includes considering and understanding human psychosocial and behavioural factors. What we do know for sure is that the HR of tomorrow will have humans and robots working side by side.

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