Seizing the chatbot opportunity in HR practices and employee engagement – in conversation with Mr. Tanmaya Jain, Founder, inFeedo
1. Was it a conscious decision to choose the HR practices and employee engagement space? What were the challenges you faced in transforming this idea into reality?
It was a conscious decision. inFeedo’s journey began in 2013 just after I had completed a year in college. I came from a liberal school and the general concept of a university was a big culture shock, where new ideas were often ignored, shot down, or lost. Words like ‘hierarchy’, ‘bureaucracy’, and ‘bias’ were thrown around as justification for this. What disturbed me most was that this was a battle across organizations where people had learnt to accept and condition themselves to such an environment.
I observed that these employees felt neglected, never received critical feedback, and faced obstacles when trying to present new ideas to decision-makers at the right time. At an average 300:1 HRBP:Employee ratio, 40% of HR’s time was spent collecting honest feedback from employees using traditional tools like annual surveys.
My mission was to make their employees feel heard and valued.
3 years into the company, we realized we were nowhere close to our vision of creating an effective employee engagement solution for HR. June 2016 is the month I’ll remember vividly — I had given up on my dreams and almost shut operations. But I decided to give this one last shot after reading Jake Knapp’s Sprint. This book was like a guide to building a validated prototype from an idea in just 5 days.
My partner and Chief Product Officer Varun Puri along with our entire team worked non-stop, night-after-night, running several such sprints in August 2016. The result? A smart artificial intelligence (AI) enabled chatbot called Amber that talks to employees regularly and based on the interactions, helps HR identify who is unhappy and who is most likely to leave with the exact reasons why.
Initially, once we finalized the prototype, we presented Amber to HR leaders (our target audience) and they were bowled over. Without even having the final product, we had buy-ins from 5 HR Heads. In September 2016, Varun and I landed on The Vault, India’s version of Shark Tank. After the final presentation, the investors on the panel were fighting to invest in Amber. As the product matured and we had more clients on board, a major question that HR leaders asked us was: Will employees open up to Amber? And the answer is: absolutely yes! We have achieved response rates as high as 99%. Amber has been built to reach out to employees via the CEO’s desk and employees understand the importance. Her reach-outs are well-timed based on employee milestones and designed to not feel intrusive. Amber is not positioned as a survey but the CEO’s assistant that people can speak to instead of filling a form. More importantly, Amber’s in-built Trust Statement ensures that feedback shared can only be accessed by the CEO/CHRO and the concerned HRBP, and never the manager.
Most chatbots in the world are designed to answer questions. Amber, on the other hand, is designed to ask the right questions at the right time, and by doing a sentiment analysis of the answers, provide the right response. Amber can gently nudge employees to open up and speak without fear or bias. She captures the voices of employees, distills into a culture report, and sends it to leadership daily and at every fortnight. This allows HR to focus on controlling attrition and addressing the red flags instead of spending time finding them.
The classic HR challenges of retaining top talent, employee engagement, measuring the culture of an organization have all been abstract, and require a lot of 1:1 interaction with the employees. A task next to impossible for a handful of HRBPs in a mammoth of an organization. This is where Artificial Intelligence comes in.
For an AI powered conversational chatbot, which is capable of understanding emotion and having insightful conversations, all this can be done in a jiffy. Working tirelessly for 24×7, it can be a perfect assistant, helping HR take the right decisions and give attention where it is actually required. AI can help improve:
Talent acquisition by removing biases by screening applications at scale objectively learning from the selected candidates and emulating similar traits in shortlisting the applicants
Onboarding by building customized onboarding experiences for the new joiners on the basis of their personality, job role and preferences
Learning and development by understanding the motivations and skill levels of each employee to curate and recommend training modules that are highly personalized
Performance analysis by monitoring employee performance and behavior and correlating the same with objective assessments and generating highly accurate analysis.
HR analytics solutions, AI cannot be a replacement for humans, it is merely an extension — a helping hand providing a better insight into their own decisions and understanding.
inFeedo is more than just a chatbot company, we’re using our engagement bot to make a dent in the employee engagement market which is overrun with products that don’t work or employees don’t care about. We’re trying to change this narrative by building an engagement bot who employees absolutely love chatting with and HR leaders can work with to derive actionable insights from. Our key focus area for FY 19-20 is the US market where top talent retention, diversity and inclusion continues to remain priorities for People Leaders. The growth opportunity is huge considering people are moving away from traditional forms of engagement and annual engagement surveys to more robust, realtime and scalable solutions.