Chatbots Listening

Yesterday, chatbots chatted with our employees at our own behest. HR bought, paid for, and implemented the chatbots.  Today, we’re going to chat about chatbots that listen even when they are not our chatbot but it is our business.

We’ve learned the unfortunate statistics that seven out of ten harassment instances do not get reported.  Employees fear for their jobs, they don’t want to be “that” person who upsets the apple cart, or they simply don’t know that what happened to them violates an employee handbook or who to talk to about it.  There’s one more reason though.  According to this Recode article and the overall theme of most harassment news reporting, employees don’t trust us.  However, they’re willing to trust a chatbot.

SpotSpot allows employees to go through a bunch of questions about potential harassment, develop a report, make it anonymous, and then submit the conversation report to the company (if the chatter wants to).  The chatbot helps potential reporters organize their thoughts, think about other evidence that might exist to help show something inappropriate happened, and it can show them that they can have this conversation with their organization, bolstering their confidence. These are all good things.  And, things that will be ultimately good for the organization.

But the bot also can give the employee the impression that by conversing with the bot, their job is done, they won’t have to deal with this directly.  This impression is wrong, very wrong.

Humans have to be involved.  If (and when) a report gets sent to the company, we have to do something.  Most often, we launch an investigation.  We talk with the individuals involved, including the reporter.  We look for other evidence, review policies, and then take action if necessary.   Failure to do something could mean liability.

Moreover, anonymous reporting doesn’t mean that the reporter isn’t going to have to talk to someone.  Even if a Spot user scrubs the report to make it more anonymous, we have an obligation to figure out who is reporting and how can we stop any bad behavior.  We might not know who or even what department, but HR has to ferret out the information based on what little information we have.  Failure to do so could mean liability.

For HR, we must accept complaints from employees in any and every way they come to us.  We will get anonymous reports through chatbots like Spot.  We will hear from the water cooler gossip mill.  We may see a negative post on Glassdoor or Indeed.  We will have employees come to our office.  We will get hotline calls.  In any and every instance, we have an obligation to do something.  Our first priority to make safe, respectful workplaces for our employees.  So, we listen.  Please listen.


Photo by Pavan Trikutam on Unsplash

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