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Digitalization of HR. Three Experts Share Their Thoughts on Digital Transformation of HR & Recruitment

AI technology for Digitalization of HR and Recruitment
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Smart Technology Enables Digitalization

Digitalization of HR aims at using data to automate processes and reduce time spent on repetitive tasks. The desired result of digital transformation is the shift from manual to digital processes and introducing technology to the core of HR and the business as a whole.

The importance of digitalization lies in creating an automated and data-driven department that will contribute to business agility. Moreover, self-service HR and Recruitment can lead to improvement of the employee as well as the candidate experience.

We asked 3 experts to share their insights into digitalization of HR and Recruitment, which we present in this post: 

Christian Payne, the Founder of Payne Search Recruitment agency specializing in recruiting IT professionals; Randi Mørk Lildballe, Global Talent Onboarding Manager at Odense Robotics and specialist in HR analytics and digitalization; and Ahmed Salama Regional Human Resources Director at Otis Middle East and expert in organizational design and cultural transformation. 

Christian Payne Founder of Payne Search
Christian Payne
Randi Mørk Lildballe Global Talent Onboarding Manager at Odense Robotics
Randi Mørk Lildballe
Ahmed Salama Regional Human Resources Director, Otis Middle East
Ahmed Salama

Read on to learn more about the digitalization of HR and the ways an AI chatbot can be used to reduce the amount of manual work.

Digitalization of HR and Recruitment

According to Ahmed Salama, digitalization can enable a more sustainable, fast, and objective way of operating. The early benefits that can result from HR transformation and digitalization, can include:

  • Decreasing / eliminating manual HR work.
  • A more systematic and objective approach, when it comes to talent assessment and decisions.
  • Reducing time spent on tasks that can be performed by machines in a more effective and objective way.
  • Enhancing customer experience.

The most straightforward processes to automate are employee and manager self-service, payroll and time management. These are extremely easy and can be automated with minimum effort, investment and time, adds Ahmed Salama. However, some areas are currently not yet ready to be automated; those related to ethics & compliance, grievances, disciplinary actions and employee improvements.

Randi Mørk Lildballe says the following are some of the areas that can be innovated with the right technology:

  • Recruitment
  • Pre- & onboarding
  • Employee data
  • Salary, benefits and holiday requests

One AI tool that can transform HR and Recruitment is a chatbot. Christian Payne, the founder of Payne Search Recruitment agency specializing in recruiting IT professionals, explains that the technology can benefit the sector in many different ways, such as speeding up the recruitment process, making the process easier for candidates, and also adds more efficiency for the recruiter.

Moreover, hiring and onboarding processes can be facilitated by using a bot that will provide answers to common questions.

Factors of HR Digitalization. Where to Start?

According to Randi Mørk Lildballe, there are many opportunities for improving HR and Recruitment operations. Many tasks and procedures could be automated and, thereby, change HR as we know it today. However, many companies are still not joining the digital transformation.

The main factor for the transformation is about making a strategic decision for the whole company as HR is not a lonely island. It has to be prioritized and financed. Digitalization projects require a specific skillset. If employees lack a desired skill, training should be provided.

Randi Mørk Lildballe explains that to get started those responsible for the digitalization process should ask the following questions:

  • WHY do they need digitalization of HR?
  • What is the purpose of digitalization?
  • What processes should be supported?

Jumping into digitalization for the sake of it is not a good idea. A better approach is to find out where you can get the biggest output. Moreover, finding the right talents might be the biggest challenge. Transformation takes time; it does not happen overnight. Those responsible should take one step at a time, adds Randi Mørk Lildballe.

However, digitalization, as any other transformation or change might face obstacles. Ahmed Salama highlights several key challenges.

Firstly, the mindset and resistance of some managers who rely on traditional school of thoughts. Secondly, the legislation in some countries can place limitations on technologies and data privacy. Last but not least, the initial investment, which is required for the HR transformation. 

This type of change has to come from the top as part of the company strategic plan, adds Ahmed Salama. The leadership team need to believe in the importance of the HR transformation, as part of the complete business transformation. The human factor is equally important; people need guidance to build strategies to sustain the change. HR tech resources should plan and lead the change.

Finally, it comes to allocating the initial investment, which generally pays back the investment in full in 2-3 years, then the saving is realized from the 3rd year.

“HR digital transformation is essential to position HR in the center of the organization and operate as a business accelerator .”​

Ahmed Salama

Randi Mørk Lildballe emphasizes that transformation always comes down to people. We should keep in mind how it can affect people and their emotions. Moreover, wrong timing, lack of prioritization of the digitalization project, unsuitable tools, lack of engagement of employees, to name a few, can harm the process.

AI Technology as a Competitive Advantage

Finally, does technology give a competitive advantage? Christian Payne explains that automation is key. It allows businesses to scale faster. A chatbot using NLU and NLP is without a doubt a competitive advantage. It can communicate like a human and be faster and more efficient in conducting different tasks. Besides, using a chatbot can make the user experience more pleasant, adds Christian Payne.

“The big advantage of using the technology is that it can free up some of the recruiters time, allowing them to spend more time on other ‘human tasks’ such as finding the best candidates for their clients, and detailed interaction with shortlisted candidates.”​

Christian Payne

Will Digitalization Change the Role of HR?

Some people worry that technology can replace HR and Recruitment specialists. Randi Mørk Lildballe explains that some of the functions in the HR department will be automated to increase efficiency. This means, some skillsets will become out of date and should be replaced with more relevant skillsets.

Digitalization of HR is no different from transformation of other parts of the business. People’s roles can shift and different opportunities can be created. It is up to people how they adjust. 

Instead, different skills will be required as a consequence of this change. More technical, as well as digital communication skills, will be in demand. HR will need more data analysis. And let’s not forget social skills. Human Resources and Recruitment are all about people, and social skills are essential. Equally important, leadership, coaching, engagement… the list is very long.

The HR digital journey, can transform nearly all HR processes that impact the employee life cycle, says Ahmed Salama. The role of the HR team will be essentially in planning, implementing, communicating and sustaining the change.

Christian Payne shares a similar opinion by stating that AI tools, such as chatbots, can take care of repetitive tasks in recruitment, which saves a lot of time. However, decision making still belongs to humans.

How Can a Chatbot Help HR and Recruitment?

An AI chatbot is one of the digital tools that can innovate HR and Recruitment operations. It can reduce manual work by conducting activities such as candidate screening, answering common questions, scheduling interviews and meetings, and taking care of employee onboarding. These are just a few of countless possibilities of chatbot applications.

“The investment in chatbots is very reasonable now and can be beneficial in the areas such as employee self-services, manager self-service or even during the recruitment when candidates want more details about the company, and the status of the application.”​

Ahmed Salama

AI Chatbot - Your Virtual Assistant

A chatbot can be a virtual assistant responsible for handling routine processes and repetitive administrative tasks, allowing HR professionals to work easier, faster and more productive.

Christian Payne, who recently introduced an AI chatbot on his website to innovate the recruitment services, gives the chatbot access to the calendar. In this way, the bot has all the information needed to book a meeting. In other words, it became his personal assistant, a virtual twin of the recruitment assistant.

Candidates and clients are now able to book a meeting without the need to speak to a human, and the bot can also ask a number of questions to ensure both parties have all the information they need for the meeting. The bot can also ensure meetings are only scheduled with candidates that have successfully passed the screening process, therefore meetings are validated.

Chatbot as a Recruitment Assistant

Recruiters spend a lot of time on screening candidates. These tasks can take a lot of time when done manually. With a chatbot, as a first contact that candidates can talk to, a lot of time can be saved and devoted instead for the final selection of the best candidates.

Christian Payne explains that a bot can easily handle some parts of the recruitment process. For example, his ‘Payne Bot’ (affectionately named) already helps candidates to:

  • Search for jobs on his website
  • Search for blog posts
  • Upload CVs
  • Assist with signing up for a newsletter
  • Schedule a meeting with a recruiter, either video or a phone call.
Payne Rearch Recruitment Chatbot
Payne Search introduced an AI chatbot throughout the recruitment process. This digital tool aims at improving the digital experience of both candidates and clients.

The best part of it is that a chatbot can do all of this 24/7. It is extremely convenient for recruitments that are receiving applications from different parts of the world. Communicating with candidates in different time zones might be difficult and requires a lot of planning. Meanwhile, a chatbot for recruitment is always available for the users.

Besides, the candidates might have a lot of questions about the company. Instead of contacting an HR employee, a candidate can ask questions to a chatbot. The bot can provide answers regarding interview questions, company culture and structure, and many others.

“An AI chatbot can actually make the recruitment process more engaging and can increase retention. A conversational application process can add value to the candidate experience.”

Christian Payne

Christian Payne emphasizes the fact that the chatbot improves user experience. It also makes a good first impression of the hiring company.

Lack of Bias in Conducting Tests

Many employers want candidates to take competency or personality tests. Christian Payne says that using a chatbot for conducting competency tests is an interesting option, and he is currently trialing this. The test can be conducted online at any time, at the candidate’s convenience. Rather than set questions, the bot can actually make the test more conversational, it actually brings more of a ‘human element’, the feeling of conversing.

Moreover, the bot can of course run multiple interviews at the same time. The data the chatbot collects can be very useful, where you can observe how the conversation went. The answers can be converted to pdf and sent as a report to the clients, who might wish to further analyze the candidate.

“Full transcript of the conversation/answers can help the clients to make a more-informed choice. This has a very positive impact on decision making.”​

Christian Payne

This solution saves a lot of time and resources. It is much more efficient than tests done by humans. Moreover, a chatbot can be a cheaper option than hiring an agency that uses human ‘man-hours’ to conduct these kind of tests, adds Christian Payne.

“A chatbot conversation is fully transparent. Candidates can freely type their answers, which cannot be plagiarized. That’s an unbiased element of technology. So the conversation script is pure and not edited.”​

Christian Payne

AI chatbots can carry out the recruitment and hiring process in an unbiased way and lead to more equal and fairer candidate evaluation and selection. Well-known companies like Ikea, Pepsi or Amazon tested AI-driven tools to handle the recruitment process. However, we should keep in mind that those tools can be as biased as humans.

Humans train AI, and consequently, it can pick up preexisting human bias. To illustrate, the tool might be built on common characteristics of workforce that is not diverse. If the algorithm is based on data that is not necessarily neutral, candidate selection will reflect it. AI has a huge potential, but it needs to be used carefully to eliminate discrimination.

AI Chatbot for Onboarding Processes

Also, when onboarding new employees to the team, a chatbot can come in handy. Onboarding looks more or less the same for the majority of employees. New employees might have a lot of questions regarding the organization of the company, many of them are repetitive like, what is the company dress code? How can I get my ID card? Where can I pick up my laptop and phone?

There is no need to visit or call the HR department. This process can be easily automated. A chatbot can communicate with employees through text messages or on the website.

“When clear processes are put in place, one can extract solid FAQ’s that cover all scenarios and possible situations that need answers.”​

Ahmed Salama

Choose the Right Technology for HR and Recruitment

There are many benefits of implementing a chatbot in HR and Recruitment. This AI tool can handle administrative tasks such as scheduling meetings, conducting interviews, reporting and information extraction. It is also a flexible and efficient solution available 7/24.

Randi Mørk Lildballe summarizes her approach to implementation of AI chatbot in HR and Recruitment in the following way:

“It depends on the company or organization. I can see great opportunities with recruitment, pre-, on- & offboarding, company policies, training, benefits, reviews etc. The list is long – but again we need to keep the WHY in focus. What is the purpose of implementing an AI chatbot in this specific company/organization, what is the benefit and how does it support the strategy? When we have answered these questions, I would be more than happy to get started.”​

Randi Mørk Lildballe

This article is based on:

1. The interview between Beatrice Carraro, Head of Marketing at BotXO, and Christian Payne, the Founder of Payne Search.

2. The interview between Patrycja Hala Saçan, Marketing Specialist at BotXO and Randi Mørk Lildballe, Global Talent Onboarding Manager at Odense Robotics.

3. The interview between Patrycja Hala Saçan, Marketing Specialist at BotXO and Ahmed Salama, Regional Human Resources Director at Otis Middle East.

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