By Natanya Rutstein
When thinking of chatbots, the most obvious examples that pop into my head are Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa. But I am only now beginning to appreciate the full extent of their presence in our everyday lives, as well as their infinite capability to facilitate both social and organisational learning.
A chatbot is “an artificial intelligence (AI) software that can simulate a conversation (or a chat) with a user in natural language through messaging applications, websites, mobile apps or through the telephone.” They are able to learn from each interaction or conversation and consequently become more intelligent the more frequently you interact with them.
Relying on a chatbot as your learning instructor or mentor in the workplace may seem like something more likely to happen in the future. Not so! The chances are that you already engaging with this technology far more often than you may think. Chatbots are most commonly used in the sales and marketing environments to provide immediate responses to your online shopping queries. I must be honest, my first interaction with a chatbot was when I was doing some online shopping. I was so impressed that there was a salesperson on the other end just waiting to assist me 24/7 and enhance my customer experience to this new level. The realisation that this was not humanly possible slowly sank in…then I realised …I was conversing with a chatbot.
AI chatbots are slowly making their way into the Learning and Development environment and organisations are increasingly utilising this technology as a means of embedding learning into the natural flow of work, dispensing with the need to remove employees from their jobs. Their potential to increase employee productivity as well as reinforce learning cannot be ignored. Afterall, learning whilst you are doing can prove far more effective than having to apply your newly acquired knowledge, days or even weeks later, in a real-life work environment.
A chatbot will respond to employee queries 24/7 with instant and relevant information and is capable of detecting individual preferences and making personalised recommendations. Their use is especially popular in onboarding training where they enable new employees to learn at their own pace, ask as many questions as they want, whenever they want, and from any location. The chatbot can also be programmed to provide learning support by sharing relevant information at scheduled intervals or in response to specified triggers.
The technology also dispenses with the middle man – the LMS- and gives employees direct access to the exact information they require in bite sized chunks, instead of having to register for an entire course. The ease of access to and availability of information is a great motivator for employees to take control of their own continuous self-development.
Moving chatbots into the workflow can go a long way towards increasing employee engagement and productivity levels by providing instant, relevant and personalised information and training material.