Voice-activated devices aren’t just for the home anymore. They are playing a growing role in the workplace, saving time and improving employee engagement.
While we’ve all been using Siri, Alexa, and other voice-activated applications for years, they are now coming to the workplace. Vendors such as Ceridian and IBM have clients that use voice response as an alternative to typing on computers or swiping on mobile devices for popular transactions related to key workforce metrics.
While the use of this technology in the workplace is fairly new, it comes with a built-in comfort level. Research suggests that 20% of search queries made on Google are done via voice-activated apps.; and almost half of U.S. adults say they use this technology regularly in their personal lives.
What are the advantages of Siri in the workplace? For one thing, time. Using this technology can save employees time on tasks such as checking or swapping schedules, reviewing or requesting time off, and/or getting answers to some basic questions about benefits. Additionally, they can handle these activities at their convenience and get answers and information immediately, without waiting for HR or other managers to get back to them.
Of course, managers also benefit. For instance, this technology can allow HR leaders to ask simple questions such as “How many nurses do we have in the memory care unit?” or “How many employees are currently on maternity leave?” and get immediate answers. They don’t have to log into the system or comb through spreadsheets to extract information. They also can run a report based on a verbal query and ask that it be sent to key stakeholders.
Some industries see the value of voice response in recruiting. For example, intelligent systems could record interviews and provide feedback. This technology also could be used for onboarding, gaging employee morale (via voice recordings transcribed to text), and promoting wellness programs.
It’s important to acknowledge that this technology is not without its difficulties. For one, voice-enabled devices must be able to understand/identify a variety of voices and offer conversational interactions that everyone can understand. This can be challenging in a diverse workplace where people have different accents and speaking patterns; and it could create more effort and confusion instead of being a productive time-saver.
Privacy may be an issue, so employees will need to be trained to be discreet about using voice technology and not to request or vocalize private or personal information in public spaces. One solution to this is to limit the devices to certain offices or private spaces.
While some HR and other leaders might be concerned that voice technologies lack a paper trail, this isn’t actually true. The trail is digital; and voice commands can be transcribed to text and stored automatically in a database.
Despite the potential drawbacks, experts suggest that if companies want to attract workers in the future, they will need easy, quick access to a wide variety of information. At the same time, workers increasingly will expect to be able to get immediate answers to their questions about pay, benefits, policies, and protocols. About 25% of employees are expected to use voice-activated technology for workplace applications over the next four years.