‘Chatting with the CEO’s Virtual Assistant: Impact on climate for trust, fairness, employee satisfaction, and engagement’

‘Chatting with the CEO’s Virtual Assistant: Impact on climate for trust, fairness, employee satisfaction, and engagement’

Debolina Dutta, Sushanta Mishra

Journal: AIS Transactions on Human-Computer Interaction

Employee perception of climate for trust and fairness of practices in the organization is a critical factor driving employee satisfaction and engagement, contributing to its sustained performance and growth. Communication between the employees and the top leadership is an essential mechanism that bridges the differences and helps align the employees towards organizational goals.

Technological innovations, such as artificial intelligence (AI) based virtual assistants, can help leaders provide personalized interactions. Though scholars have argued the importance of AI, relatively little empirical research has been conducted to explain its relevance in managing human resources. The present study is hinged on Social Exchange Theory and Social Response Theory to investigate virtual assistants’ impact on positive organizational outcomes.

Organizations measuring engagement through annual or bi-annual surveys may not accurately capture employee sentiments, despite considerable effort, time, and money. The anthropomorphic characteristics of powerful virtual assistants with conversational capabilities in various social settings encourage self-disclosure during open-ended questions, enable higher participant engagement, and can elicit better quality responses from employees.

Based on a time-lagged, rigorous field experiment, the authors have investigated the impact of AI-based virtual assistants on critical organizational factors such as the climate for trust, fairness, and individual factors such as employee satisfaction and engagement. They used a quasi-experimental design in a field setting with explicit virtual assistant interaction manipulations to understand employee perceptions and attitudes. They collected data from 953 employees, out of which a total of 335 engaged with the AI-based virtual assistant and 618 were members of the control group.

The study illustrates that the virtual assistant’s communication satisfies the employees’ instrumental needs of enabling voice and the relational needs (of maintaining and building social relationships). It demonstrates that AI-based virtual assistants can establish trust in their interaction with employees. It presents the possibility of disintermediating human intervention for facilitating engagement, thus, enabling the attainment of organization goals. Further, the study demonstrates that AI-based virtual assistants enhance employee satisfaction, engagement, fairness perception, and organizational climate for trust within the organization.

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