Nivedit Majumdar Nivedit Majumdar

Bots: The next thing in Workplace Quantified Self

Innovation has paved the way for smarter workplaces, and smarter methodologies which are more than just evolutions of the tried and tested mechanisms of the past. Punch cards, biometric scanners and machine logs are being replaced by more robust trackers and sensors, which in intricate mannerisms play bigger roles in the modern workplace.

Evolutions of workplaces have also enabled them to come online – the major example of this trend being Slack. Who would have thought that a simple group chat activity for organisations could turn out to be so successful? Slack has proved that it can truly make workforces feel at home, with the Slackbot, of course.

In this regard, a relevant question comes to the fore: with bots gaining momentum in general, could bots help for more Quantified Selves in the workplace? This question shall be the crux of this article, as this author tries to explore the various uses of bots in the workplace.

WHAT IS IT WITH BOTS?

The earliest recollection I have of bots – besides the video game ones, of course (Counter Strike for the win!) – is of chatbots. I used to marvel at how a human-developed software could interact with a person in an almost workable manner. I must admit, the thought of bots becoming as big as they are now did not cross my mind then.

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It’s a different story today, with two major companies already having announced their involvement with bots in the future. While Facebook’s tryst with bots as of now seems to be restricted to integrating bots in the messenger platform, Microsoft aims at integrating bots in the powerful being called Cortana, as well as other applications such as Skype.

Think of bots as intelligent pieces of code, which are capable of communicating with humans and with each other. The natural language algorithms involved, and the scope of the improvement in that regard is a topic for another day, but as of now let it suffice to say that bots will definitely bring in more intelligence to whichever field they are applied to.

 

Of course, all this being said, they still have some major hurdles to overcome. Microsoft’s Tay.ai wasn’t all that intelligent, and Facebook’s Messenger Bots still need some help. But what’s technology without scope for improvement?

UPPING THE INTELLIGENCE IN WORKPLACES

Okay now this is where things get interesting. I believe that bots can actually improve workspaces and make organisations more quantified at the same time. For this piece, I will merely be narrowing my references to Slack, and the Slack based bots out there, since they are already doing so well.

Bots can keep track of a host of input parameters, to effectively gauge the efficiency of workplaces, specifically on Slack and other similar platforms (such as Asana). Slack already has their nifty little bot called Slackbot, but there are also some other bots out there in the wild which promise a host of features.

So, what can bots do in workplaces?

MOOD TRACKING

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Now mood tracking is something which we’ve discussed before, and sometimes for an employer gauging the mood of the workforce has immense value for the future. Bots could ask employees questions to enable the employees to review their work satisfaction and to effectively come up with solid numbers to substantiate the employees’ overall outlook towards their company.

WORKFORCE INTERACTION

Sometimes, all it takes is a decent ice-breaker. More often than not, workforces don’t really interact much within themselves – within departments the interactions do exist, but they seem to fade away when we’re talking about bigger departments, spanning out over multiple locations. The logistics and interest levels just aren’t there.

So, where can bots come into play? What if an employee could ask a bot a doubt about a specific problem, and the bot could relay it to a person working in a different department within the same organisation who might be able to answer it substantially.

Let’s make this system more quantifiable by throwing in a little bit of LinkedIn in the mix – endorsements for specific skill sets. Bots would thereby bridge gaps – both in logistics and human level hesitations – and thereby enable more quantifiable problem solving, knowledge transfer and better co-relations among employees.

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FEEDBACK, AND REAL TIME ANALYTICS

This is what I’m really looking forward to. For employers, bots could collect feedback from different channels on Slack and amalgamate them into curated feedback lists, which could help the employers and managers frame decisions better.

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This could in turn be linked with employee engagement levels, and help decision makers identify trends before they become problems.

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INSPIRATION

All things said and done, bots right now are in their infancy, and need a lot of work to become intelligent, helpful assistants. The primary inspiration for this post came from Leo, a Slack Bot style bot to enable teams to be happy. The images used in this article come from their official website.

TAKEAWAY POINT

So, can bots make it big in Workplace QS?

It all boils down to effective Quantified Self. If the bot developers can come up with suitable algorithms and use cases for bots, then the sky is the limit. The next big things in the workplace are definitely going to be more effective automation, better work cultures, better bridges between gaps and more Quantified Selves – and I believe bots can truly prove their prowess in this respect.

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