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Germany: Lidl HR services per Chatbot

Discount Retail Chain Lidl (owned by the German Schwarz Gruppe) is already well advanced with the digitization of HR work. A globally standardized system landscape is the basis. This means that new HR tools can also be rolled out and used internationally quickly.

Personnel files, timekeeping, travel expense and salary accounting and all other administrative processes were still completely paper-based at Lidl ten years ago, files and lists kept by hand were the order of the day. "Nothing was digital," recalls Daniel Weller. As Head of HR Digitalization and Workforce Planning, he got rid of the mountains of paper. At the virtual conference "Scale up 360 ° Cognitive HR Roof", Weller recently reported on the introduction of new systems, progressive automation and the use of chatbots in personnel services.

The discounter has been working on data-based and digital management of HR work since 2010. The standardization should also improve security. Because one of the decisive factors for the fundamental change was a data scandal: By chance, stacks of lists with employee information had appeared in someone else's trash can some time before.

A first step was the introduction of a central, global HR system based on SAP and initial solutions for time management. Weller reports that they have also worked consistently on data harmonization. Digital tools for document management, travel management and other employee management topics such as Employee Self-Service (ESS) and Manager Self-Service (MSS) were introduced.

The dimensions of the digital transformation in the human resources area at Lidl are shown by a few figures: The electronic files and digital document generators were introduced in around 30 countries and 280,000 employees can now access the self-service tools. Another particular challenge is the fact that around 90 percent of employees work in shops or in logistics and therefore do not have a PC workstation. That is why mobile tools play a prominent role at the discounter. For example, 124,000 employees now receive their pay slips via "ePayslip" on their private smartphones.

The next step is a chatbot for the HR area. In customer service, Lidl has already gained experience with the Lidl assistant "LiA", which is integrated into Facebook Messenger. Weller assumes that the AI ​​application will also lead to greater efficiency in personnel services. A pilot project initially focuses on optimizing the communication processes between managers and HR. The digitization professional believes that this has advantages for both sides. On the one hand, the human resources department is relieved because they do not have to answer the same questions all the time. On the other hand, the manager gets the answer they are looking for immediately.

A bot can also be used in recruiting - for example on the career website - to answer frequently asked questions from applicants. Assistance in training new employees is also conceivable. The relief from this could be considerable. After all, Lidl hired a whopping 122,109 new employees in 2019 alone. The number of interested applicants is likely to be many times higher.

The digital assistants can deal with simple, frequently repetitive topics. The technology always uses the existing database and can only give answers that are clearly stored there. An example is information about vacation days, duty rosters or how you can call up your final receipt on your smartphone. For complex or critical topics, however, the people in the HR department will continue to be approachable. In addition, the chatbot itself refers to colleagues from the HR department if it is unable to provide qualified answers. Under no circumstances should automation replace personal contact. Rather, it is a matter of relieving the HR department of standard processes. "Digitization is not an end in itself," Weller affirmed the discounter's philosophy. "As a result, the use of technology must always pay off."

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