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How a utility company modernized HR with AI-powered virtual assistants

ACCIONA knows a lot about efficiency. Since 1997, ACCIONA has been developing renewable energy and civilian infrastructure and, more recently, became the world’s largest fossil fuel-free utility company. ACCIONA has been carbon neutral since 2016 and serves customers in 40 countries earning about $12 billion in annual revenue.

Lately, the company has been focused on automating its internal business processes for greater speed and efficiency. ACCIONA began its automation journey in the human resources (HR) department so it could offer employees more modern self-service options to help them address questions about their payroll, contract, vacation, healthcare, and other employment issues.

“We needed to offer our blue-collar workers a direct contact channel with Human Resources. We wanted these employees to feel supported and cared for whenever a query arose regarding vital issues (contracts, payroll, etc),” said Azahara Medina Anguiano, head of HR Administration Shared Services Projects at ACCIONA. “At the same time, we were looking for a tool that would help relieve the Human Resources department of routine tasks.”

After evaluating various available technologies to power this new solution, ACCIONA selected Google Cloud and partner Emergya to support this work.

NLP-powered HR interactions

ACCIONA wanted to build a virtual HR assistant that could help serve its employees and knew it needed to build it on natural language processing (NLP). The company felt Google Cloud had the best technologies suited to its objectives.

“Google Cloud delivers excellent reliability and agility in terms of NLP and data security. It also offers a more scalable, future-proof architecture,” said Raúl Morueco Gómez, IT manager at ACCIONA. “At the same time, we knew we needed an expert partner to help guide us through development and adoption, and Emergya stood out.”

Emergya stepped in first to understand ACCIONA’s business goals, and then used its expertise to design and develop the solution. The initial system was based on Dialogflow and met all business and technical requirements. The virtual assistant was primarily accessed by phone, and the project eventually expanded to include a WhatsApp integration to automate HR interactions as well.

“Emergya is a reliable partner with a lot of experience. They adapted readily to what we needed our automated HR systems to do in our complex environment,” Gómez said.

Now in its third phase, ACCIONA’s new HR solution provides a fully functional, secure, reliable, and scalable environment that uses virtual assistants built on Google Cloud AI across the business. It also incorporates data dashboards so HR managers can track, manage, and optimize interactions between employees and chatbots, with the HR team monitoring and resolving issues in near real-time.

Empowering HR and employees

Google Cloud and Emergya have helped ACCIONA automate more HR processes and free up staff for higher-value, less-routine activities. So far, employees have had 41,000 conversations with the tool via phone and WhatsApp.

From those conversations, more than 33,000 inquiries were initiated and 90.33% of those interactions have since been completed — with only 0.89% requiring someone from HR to intervene. As a result, the HR team has been relieved of many time-consuming, less strategic activities.

In the past, employees had to ask their managers to open a ticket to be fielded by HR. Once resolved, the request would funnel back through an employee’s manager. The whole process could take several days or even weeks. With the new environment based on Google Cloud and delivered by Emergya, employees can use a virtual assistant to get answers to HR questions in a matter of minutes.

“Our employees are really happy with the solution,” Anguiano said. “They feel more connected to the company and more supported by HR. Also, it’s important that our department now spends more time delivering on strategies that further strengthen employee engagement. The technology implemented brings agility and security to our processes.”

Looking to the future, ACCIONA has already completed its migration to the next generation of Dialogflow – Dialogflow CX — to facilitate content maintenance, flows, and training while reusing existing components. This change has given the ACCIONA team even more control over employee-HR interactions and provides a strong foundation for new innovations using AI.

“Technology, together with Google Cloud and Emergya services, are important for allowing us to evolve and provide the best service to our users and employees. Our goal is to continue implementing new solutions to achieve long-term success — not just in HR but eventually in other areas as well,” Gómez said.

Read more about how Google Cloud partners like Emergyacan help your business get the most out of modern technology solutions.

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