Chatbots in the Millennial Workplace:Customization & Real-Time Interaction

Unlike the Gen Xers and Boomers before them, millennials were raised alongside the internet — and the fast, responsive, on-demand services and information that it brings. Millennials are a decidedly broad age group, ranging from 18-year- olds fresh out of high school to working adults in their mid-30s. One thing that this set of people has in common, though, are their different expectations when it comes to their work.

On the whole, millennials favor experiences that are personalized, customized, and context-sensitive. This has created a set of expectations in a workplace setting, including:

● Real-time feedback on their performance. Millennials are flexible and adaptable at

work, but they want feedback on how they’re doing. Not content with silence until they do

something wrong or undesirable, they strongly prefer ongoing feedback from their overseers and employers.

● Real-time guidance. Millennials prefer personalized sets of instructions, backed by comprehensive data.

● Responsive staff coaching with a human element. This kind of coaching takes an individual’s career aspirations, skill set, and talents into consideration.

● Text-based interaction. While many older individuals find instant messaging rather impersonal, millennials find it useful, convenient, and versatile.

By keeping Millennials’ unique desires into consideration, employers can create a workplace environment where younger people can thrive.

The Assistant as App: Chatbots as Personalized Virtual Assistants

Millennials like instant, real-time responsiveness. In many cases, a sophisticated chatbot can meet these criteria even better than a real person.

Many consumer websites, including banks, have a built-in “chat with an agent” option. In many

cases, this may be a real employee — either in a call center somewhere, or working remotely from home. However, companies are increasingly looking to chatbots equipped with machine learning abilities to fill this role.

With services like Siri and Google Now becoming more and more widely used, millennials are no strangers to interacting with computer programs designed to act human. The latest development in this burgeoning field is the idea of “assistant-as- app.” These interfaces allow users to interact with a virtual assistant using natural, conversational language, in order to accomplish increasingly complex tasks.

Facebook Embraces Chatbot Technology

Recently, a big step forward happened for chatbot technology: Facebook’s announcement that they plan to open up to freelance bot developers. As this technology grows and develops, it’s reasonable to expect that the chatbots themselves will become more and more sophisticated and “intelligent.” Ultimately, these programs will begin to do an increasingly impressive job of simulating interaction with a living, breathing virtual assistant.

Chatbots in the Workplace

As the technology continues to improve, new possibilities are opening up, and new uses for chatbots may go far beyond the traditional uses by banks and consumer websites. Chatbots can act as a virtual assistant, but that’s not their only potential use in the workplace. Chatbots could also act as a virtual job coach, providing employees with real-time feedback at each stage in their work.

Such a virtual coach could have some distinct advantages over a living, breathing person. The bot would be available anywhere, at any time. It could be accessed on a desktop workstation, but also via tablet, smartphone, or home computer. Powered by sophisticated analytics, such a program could provide guidance and feedback that are not only helpful, but that feel as natural as talking to a longtime friend.

These chatbots can be designed specifically to facilitate better learning and information retention by employees. At Princeton University, a wealth of data and research led to the development of their Learning Philosophy. This follows at 70/20/10 formula:

● 70% of learning comes from hands-on experience and real-life problem solving;

● 20% comes from feedback and interaction from role models;

● 10% comes from traditional formal training.

As you can see, Princeton’s research underscores the vital importance of real world experience or effective learning. The real-time feedback and guidance that a chatbot could offer would enhance the experience of “learning by doing.” Each bot interaction would help the employee master new on-the- job skills, expand their knowledge, and even improve their productivity.

The future of chatbots holds a great deal of exciting potential. As Facebook opens up to developers and chatbots enter the public eye, new uses for sophisticated bots will continue to arise. As AI and machine learning develop and improve, bots may very well become so commonplace that it’s hard to remember working without them.