In some areas of our lives, the use of voice recognition technology has become an almost daily occurrence in a fairly short space of time. We don’t think twice about calling on a virtual assistant built into our phones or smart speakers, but the use of it in a professional setting hasn’t caught on quite as quickly.
However, that’s starting to change. Software developers are starting to see the huge potential for the technology in business, and are building tools that save time, simplify HR processes, and even aid the recruitment process.
But how do companies start to introduce these new tools, and are employees even open to using them?
AI at work
It would certainly appear so. While workers were initially fearful of how new AI tools could affect — or even replace — their jobs, these tools are now beginning to win over workers, as their benefits for streamlining tasks have become clearer.
In the 2019 AI at Work study by Oracle and research firm Future Workplace, it was found that 65% of employees were optimistic, excited, and grateful to have “robot” co-workers. In fact, the study found that 64% of people would trust a robot more than their manager, and half had chosen to turn to a robot over their manager for advice.
With employee uptake being one of the big hurdles to the introduction of any new software or experience, these figures are very promising and show a real shift in the dynamic between humans and machines in the workplace.
But what exactly can voice recognition do to improve both employees’ and HR practitioners’ day-to-day working lives?
Small-time wins for big-time gains
One of the biggest time draws in HR is employee scheduling. From organizing training and setting up meetings to scheduling performance reviews and booking on holiday, HR professionals spend a lot of time inputting data and searching for it too.
Rather than staring at screens, trawling through systems and manually entering data, performing these common HR transactions by voice can take a matter of seconds and provide small-time wins that add up to big gains over the working week.
Gathering information and insights on the workforce is another time-heavy task, which is where tools like Ada, a digital assistant for HR, are really helping.
Released in December 2020, the AI application has been designed to improve how HR professionals, data analysts, and line managers obtain analytical insights of their workforce from HR data.
Using voice-activated devices, companies can deploy Ada to a wide range of applications and portals, and query their data using both simple and complex natural language commands.
The result is that Ada dramatically reduces the time taken to answer HR data queries. In fact, during a pilot project at a large international financial services organization, Ada reduced the average time taken by HR analysts to answer individual queries by 45 minutes each.
These time savings can be embraced by employees too. Offering voice-activated systems for them to access the answers to common HR queries is not only quicker but much more convenient than sitting on hold to HR, or using the older type-and-reply chatbot services. Not just that, it reduces screen time – something many workplaces are trying to achieve – while freeing up HR resources too.
Helping recruitment succeed
Another area the technology holds huge promise for is the recruitment process. With more and more interviews taking place over video calls these days, there is a pathway for making all first interviews entirely automated – using AI voice tech to not only host the interview but to rate a candidate’s suitability for the role too.
For example, software like AON’s vidAssess scans a recorded video interview for spoken words and phrases that align with the competencies you are looking for in an employee and scores them for an at-a-glance overview. Not only does this save hirers’ time, particularly at the first interview stage, but it could even remove human bias from the process, with results and recommendations based on data.
That’s not to say there aren’t some potential issues to overcome. A study by Randstad US found an over-automated recruitment process leaves candidates feeling frustrated, with some 87% of jobseekers agreeing that technology is making the search feel more impersonal.
Romanie Thomas, founder and director of flexible working recruitment platform Juggle Jobs UK also believes it’s important to embrace the strides voice tech is offering the hiring process while also being aware that it isn’t ready to be an automated solution just yet.
“Voice recognition technology is such an interesting area,” she told UNLEASH. “We’re seeing wide-ranging solutions such as straight-forward video transcription for interviews which are widely used and useful, to more complex technology where AI is evaluating emotional intelligence in bot-led video interviews.
“However, if we’re not to ingrain AI with bias, the latter area needs a lot of work as early signals suggest certain accents and tones are being prioritised.”
Making the move to voice
So if the benefits of voice recognition is something that you want to implement in your workplace, where should you start?
Firstly, identify a problem or time strain you are keen to solve or an area you would like to better engage with your employees. It’s best to start small so you can learn what works along the way, and see the potential for integrating voice technology within your business.
An easy place to start is with what’s already out there. Think about Alexa or Google Assistant – both well-established tools that are likely already used by a large majority of your workforce.
For a relatively low investment, they already offer features that will allow employees to do simple tasks like managing their diaries, scheduling calls, and set ting reminders by voice, while Alexa for Business (US only for now) takes that one step further by allowing your IT teams to build custom skills that add voice integration to popular applications like Salesforce and ServiceNow.
From there you can begin to identify other tasks you would like to streamline with the use of voice, with a real view as to how they’ll fit into your workplace. The range of specialized tools out there is getting bigger too, so if there’s an area of your business that can be simplified by voice, you can bet there’s a tool out there to help.
As we move forward into a post-pandemic working world, and into new working practices, there’s arguably been no better time to introduce voice recognition technology.
HR leaders will be charged with finding the right balance, ensuring the productivity gains help to aid a more efficient way of working without losing the importance of the human touch where it counts.
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