Harry the HR chatbot: DLUHC innovation team creates time-saving tech

New innovation squad is a cross-discipline team and delivered results in six weeks

A newly formed team in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has designed chatbots for human resources queries to save staff time in asking and answering routine questions.

DLUHC set up an innovation squad of six staff from different specialisms and divisions who had not previously worked together. It gave them six weeks to improve the process of their choice from anywhere in the department. The idea of innovation squads came from telecoms provider Virgin Media.

“The results have exceeded our expectations,” said the department’s Sona Hathi, Umar Sani and Sarah Ward in a blogpost. “Our first squad has built DLUHC’s first chatbots to help colleagues find accurate information faster, and we are excited to see what this means for the future of piloting chatbots and AI in the department.”

The innovation squad chose HR information as they felt it was difficult to access and improvements would benefit everyone in the department.

At the end of the six weeks, they presented two options. HR Harry, which uses manually written scripts, was built with Microsoft’s Power Virtual Agents by team members with no prior coding knowledge. It was completed and shared with the HR department, which plans to embed it within internal digital services.

The second option was an artificial intelligence chatbot trained on the department’s large HR handbook and integrated with OpenAI’s ChatGPT service, which remains in a test environment.

Hathi, Sani and Ward said that future innovation squads will get more support in managing themselves through a team charter that will set responsibilities and holiday information, so they know each other’s availability. They will formally include a ‘week 0’ of preparation to the programme, which was added during the process of running the first squad, and allow staff to self-nominate and ask line managers for candidates.

PublicTechnology staff

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