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posted: 12/10/2016 7:10 AM

New chatbot takes the 'human' out of human resources

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  • Some of the questions you ask your human resources department could soon be answered by, well, non-humans. That's the concept behind a start-up that has developed a chatbot to replace some of HR departments' more mundane daily tasks.

    Some of the questions you ask your human resources department could soon be answered by, well, non-humans. That's the concept behind a start-up that has developed a chatbot to replace some of HR departments' more mundane daily tasks.

 
 

Some of the questions you ask your human resources department could soon be answered by, well, non-humans.

That's the concept behind Talla, a Boston-area start-up that has developed a chatbot to replace some of HR departments' more mundane daily tasks. Those include explaining company policy, surveying employees, collecting information or training new hires.

The Talla bot operates inside enterprise group messaging software such as Slack, HipChat or Microsoft Teams that has increasingly become an alternative to email as a method of digital communication within companies. Employees message the chatbot just as they would a human, and it uses language processing software to understand the message and respond accordingly. Some 1,200 companies have installed Talla, about a quarter of whom use the service regularly, Talla Chief Executive Rob May said.

Robots promise to be a disruptive force in the global economy. Some technologists and economists expect they inevitably will replace low-wage workers such as drivers and factory labor. As artificial intelligence becomes more sophisticated, robots may eventually displace humans in less manual roles. Already, bots are employed in fields as varied as law, journalism, medicine and engineering.

Will human resources will be comprised entirely of bots? Maybe, but not for several decades, predicted May, who founded the company last year. In fact, he said, chatbots allow the human staff to focus on tasks that require a greater degree of intellect and touch.

"You're going to allow the human resource department to be more human by automating away a lot of their grunt work," he said.

A chatbot can help an employee find needed forms or poll the staff on preferred holiday party locations, for example.

"HR spends a lot of time doing these low-level, monotonous tasks and not really being as strategic and engaged as they would like to be," May said. "What you'll find is that more of the work that does not involve collaborating with or interacting with other humans is the kind of work that will be automated away."

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