So many cautionary tales have been written about “the robots taking our jobs” that it’s become an AI-era cliché.

But a new generation of HR leaders is counting on conversational technology to help make their jobs easier — and transforming work culture in the process.

Fewer humans, more humanity 💌

As the global scourge of workplace harassment and discrimination has come into the light over the past year, a new breed of chatbots has emerged to help businesses and employees navigate these tricky waters.

Spot allows employees to anonymously report “inappropriate moments at work,” without talking to a human. Their chatbot is programmed to ask the sort of open-ended questions that police would use to interview a crime victim or eyewitness.

While some have questioned Spot’s security features, cofounder Julia Shaw — a criminal psychologist and memory scientist — told CBC she believes removing humans from the equation will encourage more victims to come forward:

It's really awkward to go to someone in HR and say 'I think this happened to me … is it even harassment or discrimination?'... They're worried about things like getting fired, they're worried about being ostracized at work.

Loris, launched by the founder of SMS helpline Crisis Line Text, is taking a more proactive approach.

The AI-powered messaging software will coach users on how to build empathy and listening skills in order to navigate difficult conversations at work — with angry customers, sensitive employees, and diverse colleagues.

Wired explains that Loris founder Nancy Lublin named the bot after the slow loris, an animal that looks cute and cuddly but carries a toxic bite:

Just like, if you get [hard conversations] wrong, it can kill careers or companies.

Automated for the people 🤘

One analyst predicts that by 2022, automation will replace 24% of human resources jobs. That doesn't mean a quarter of HR professionals will lose their jobs; they’ll just have more time to focus on the stuff that requires a human touch.

HR startup XOR is building a chatbot to help recruiters pre-screen candidates. In addition to saving recruiters time, XOR’s founder believes an automated gatekeeper will help root out unconscious bias in the hiring process and ultimately improve corporate diversity.

Structurely, which builds AI-powered chatbots for real estate agents, has seen its customers grow their human teams even as they welcome bots into the fold.

By outsourcing time-consuming tasks like lead management to Structurely’s “AI inside sales agent,” one RE/MAX agent was able to double his lead volume, increase conversions by 233% and hire three new Realtors to help with the volume.

Since buying or selling a home is a stressful time for many people, Structurely uses NLP to arm its bot with empathetic responses:


Check out my feature story about Structurely's messaging-based CRM and chatbot on the Smooch blog.

This is an excerpt from The Message, Smooch’s biweekly newsletter about the messaging industry, chatbots and conversational commerce. Subscribe to get the next edition delivered straight to your inbox.