RB Health’s HR chatbot ‘RBuddy’: Inching closer to the future of work

A self-learning and evolving chatbot, RBuddy is adept at all kinds of HR work and processes, and will even crack jokes to lighten your mood.

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Workplaces of today are well interconnected and more efficient, as technology has blessed us with some wonderful solutions to bring people closer and make the day-to-day job much easier. That said, workplace chatbots are one such invention of our times, which has transformed the way we interact and handle transactional affairs. While ‘HR chatbot’ is the buzzword these days, not many organisations have adopted it yet, and many of those that have may still be struggling with getting their workforces used to it.

RB Health, Reckitt Benckiser’s healthcare products arm, has just launched an HR chatbot called ‘RBuddy’. Not only is RBuddy a big helping hand to the HR team, leaving them more time for better and meaningful interactions with the employees, but it is also the epitome of the company’s efforts to move into the future of work.

A self-learning and evolving chatbot, RBuddy is currently adept at all kinds of HR processes, policies and daily work-life related query resolution for employees. Ask RBuddy anything from leave policies and leave status, to harassment or grievance redressal policies, or even about the weather for the day, and you will get your desired responses. That is not all. RBuddy can also tell you a joke, if you’re looking to take a quick break from work.

Capable of being user personalised, it can handle all kinds of HR policy queries. While this may still sound basic for an HR chatbot, this is the first phase of RBuddy and there’s a lot more being planned for the next version, due to release over the next few months.

What started as a general self-reflection about the way HR functions, and the areas to focus on for being well armoured to step into the future of work, took the shape of RBuddy. Udayan Dutt, regional HR director, Africa, Middle East & South Asia, RB Health, shares that it is the culmination of about one and a half years of planning and execution.

“As we ruminated on the areas to work on to meet the future of HR, we thought of leveraging technology beyond the usual ERPs in place and utilising artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) for the benefit of HR,” he says. That’s how RBuddy was conceived.

It was launched at RB Health’s headquarters, its SQRC office and R&D offices, in Gurgaon on 17 July, and will also be introduced in its factories in Sitarganj, Baddi, Mysore and Chennai in its next phase.

Udayan Dutt

“As we ruminated on the areas to work on to meet the future of HR, we thought of leveraging technology beyond the usual ERPs in place and utilising artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) for the benefit of HR”

We all know that technology is exciting, but the reality is that when it comes to adoption of workplace technologies, organisations still struggle, especially at the grass-root level. Talking of the factories here, Dutt tells us that it is not just about launching the chatbot across these facilities through an announcement or a formal e-mail. There’s a lot more to it. “For each phase of the launch, we have a holistic change-management programme to ensure maximum employee acceptance to the new ways of working. When it comes to the factories, it is even more critical to let the employees understand and accept it and feel comfortable using it.”

With this, the company had already received an acceptance rate of 45 per cent in less than 10 days, while the chatbot continues to register five per cent new users every day.

Talking of the benefits of having an HR chatbot in place, Dutt explains that it promises a lot of transparency on the part of the employer. “It conveys our transparency of intent, as the entire information about the HR policies is openly available to people at all levels. Additionally, it allows them the ease of access,” he opines.

Goes without saying that it certainly takes away the transactional bit from both the HR and the employee. While one doesn’t need to call an HR manager to just enquire about their reimbursements or leaves, HR also can focus more on the complicated workplace aspects that cannot be tackled without any human intervention. This consequently enriches the HR employee interactions making them more meaningful than transactional. Overall, it ensures a great employee experience.

Further, Dutt shares the second benefit of introducing RBuddy, as he says, “It encourages people to adopt new ways of working, preparing them better for the workplace of the future.”

RBuddy also allows managers or team leaders to find out how many people have filled in their self-assessment. Furthermore, the HR and IT teams at RB Health are working towards enhancing the features of RBuddy, by introducing mood and sentiment analysis into it. It is also likely to be able to run engagement surveys in its next version.

Developed in-house with the collaborative efforts of the HR and IT teams at RB Health— using Kore.ai and Deloitte’s expertise—RBuddy it aligns well with the culture and expectations of its people. The versions to come surely sound promising, and as Dutt says, “We continue to raise the bar, evolve our function and go beyond with the freedom to succeed.”

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