The New Normal for HR – Virtual Assistants & Virtual Reality

By Ramkumar Chandrasekaran
Ramkumar Chandrasekaran, HR Director TCS UK & Ireland, discusses the impact of COVID-19 on HR operations...

During the pandemic lockdown, companies and employees all had to take a fast crash course in digital competencies. A few short months later, videoconferencing and collaboration tools are now used as naturally as Microsoft Office to connect teams which are spread across different locations or even geographies. 

Video conferencing and collaboration tools have made a rapid transition to working from home possible when not already in place. 

The corona crisis could now also mean a breakthrough for other digital technologies - especially for a function that is generally not connected to digitalization and traditionally has been a face-to-face activity: human resources. HR can play a key role by leading the reinvention of organizations with a remote workforce and digitized HR operations.

TCS envisages the following technologies to support the remote workforce;

Virtual Assistant

Employees expect and demand 24x7 HR support—especially during times of crisis, where people have an avalanche of questions related to wellness, pay, policy, process, supply chain and more. While HR-related webinars and live chats help in broadcasting information, many questions and concerns will emerge as people work in a drastically different post-COVID-19 environment. Addressing each question individually is not efficient or sustainable. 

Virtual assistants predominantly rely on Natural Language Processing (NLP), a subset of AI, to understand the human language. By adding speech-to-text capability, employees can actually talk to the VAs and get answers to their queries. 

Virtual Assistants can improve the employee experience by giving consistent support, information and customized messages while also reducing HR personnel time and effort, freeing them to focus on priority issues like wellness, talent acquisition, training and employee engagement.

The HR team should, of course ensure that any unanswered questions by the virtual assistant are addressed in a timely manner so that employees come to view virtual assistants as a reliable first point of contact. 

Virtual Reality for onboarding

With many employees working from home, new joiners might have a rough start. With the right tools and technologies HR can onboard new recruits, even if there are no physical offices or teammates to welcome them in person.

Digital welcome packets, short videos for introducing the company, eLearning courses, virtual meeting rooms, real-time communication using chats or instant messages can make onboarding a smooth and engaging experience. To make the process even more engaging, HR can make use of collaboration and meeting technologies using virtual reality to place the team in virtual conference meeting rooms or even a cafeteria or some other virtual location.

Ensuring individual member introductions, facilitating video conferences so that people get to see and know each other, a virtual tour of the physical office(s), assigning a manager/mentor who will be the single point of contact for new hires, and setting up periodic one-to-one checkpoint conversations are ways to make it happen.

HR virtual assistants can also play a major role in onboarding. They can act as a “virtual buddy” answering any queries from new employees and guiding them through commons tasks like filling out timesheets, applying for leave or as a “virtual mentor” providing personalized learning track and recommending learning contents.

New virtualized scenarios are not a one-off

COVID-19 has suddenly made working remotely a top priority for businesses, with little or no time for preparation. As a result, HR should not view this new virtualized scenario as a one-off, temporary approach. Instead, it’s an opportunity to evolve and scale faster—using the right combination of technology, process and planning—to make assisting and onboarding & offboarding employees the new norm.

For more information on business topics in Asia Pacific, Australia and New Zealand, please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief APAC.

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