HRobots: HR management’s new best friend?

by Cameron Edmond17 Jun 2013

While Blade Runner might still be a little way off, research and development at La Trobe University has resulted in the creation of a series of emotionally-aware robots, and they might be of use to HR.

The robots – one of whom is named ‘Sophie’ – have been used before in aged care, but are now being trialled as assets to HR.

Professor Rajiv Khosla of La Trobe University told HC that Sophie and her counterparts can be used in areas such as job interviews to help not only screen potential candidates, but also provide psychological dossiers to HR managers.

The questions Sophie can ask are easily customised, and it can interpret six responses:

  • Yes
  • Kind of
  • Not really
  • No
  • Don’t know

Through recognising speech patterns and facial expressions, Sophie is able to ascertain how, emotionally, the candidate feels when answering these questions. This is valuable information that Khosla believes is often overlooked during interviews. “A large majority of our communication is non-verbal. That data has been missing and rarely used by organisations,” he said.

The information Sophie gathers isn’t intended to replace the role of person-to-person interviews, but instead provide an additional, preliminary interview that can screen candidates before they speak with a human interviewer. In doing so, the robots equip the interviewer with a profile on the candidate ahead of time. “They suddenly have this high quality information about this candidate they have never seen before and they are in a much better position to engage with them in a more informed manner,” Khosla said.

Although the robots are potentially useful in recruitment, Khosla stated that they are relevant for other areas of HR responsibility. The psychological profiles Sophie builds on employees can assist in training and can help employers form a more objective understanding of their employee’s emotions.

The robots can then become an aspect of the workplace to help de-stress and relax employees by playing games, displaying football scores, singing and dancing to music, as well as a number of other interactions based on the psychological needs of the employees involved.

Khosla stressed that the project is not about the robot itself, but about relationships in the workplace. “What we are trying to do here is improve the quality of engagement for employers and employees,” he said.

Would you be interested in bringing a robot like Sophie into your workplace? Could a robot ever replace these traditional human interactions? Let us know what you think.


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