AI Is already advancing employee training: The key is not to fall behind

According to Huw Newton-Hill, L&D professionals need to move beyond the fact AI is here, and make a start on working out how to integrate it into their organization:

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May 17, 2024

Right now, one of the best pieces of advice I can give is to tell people (particularly those in employee training), that they need to accept that the world has moved beyond the initial buzz of AI.

The question is not whether you are going to be choosing AI-powered technology solutions or not, but how these solutions solve operational problems and ensure you meet your business goals.

I look at it in terms of two different horizons.

The first focuses on how AI integrates into your current operations to optimize what you do – that is creating workflow efficiencies to make you faster and better.

The second horizon is more about aspiration than optimization. This is where you are moving toward (and attempt to answer), how AI can fundamentally disrupt learning modalities to enable behavioral change and develop talent, leading to a better customer and employee experience.

The horizon we’re on

Employers recognize the need for speed.

Time is precious.

As part of the Chief Learning Officers’ Council, one major challenge we are actively examining, as with other companies, is the lack of time for employees to learn and how to build more time for learning into L&D strategies.

This is where early AI efficiencies in both deployment and development are already demonstrating value.

Being able to harness the instant content generation capabilities of tools like text-to-voice and language translation empowers L&D to build training solutions across roles and regions in a fraction of the time it used to take.

We’ve seen this reduce the time to distribute global training materials from months to minutes.

I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed such a singular leap in efficiency ever before.

Data integration

Another important facet of this first horizon is data and integration.

What is the quality of the data that companies’ learning tech is pulling from, and how does it fit into the stack?

AI’s ability to analyze an immense data set, report, and suggest programs is only as powerful as the information it’s being fed and how it ‘works with’ the other programs in the lineup.

So tech should streamline operations, not be cumbersome.

Let’s say an organization is building a training program for its employees.

Can it simply rely on a generative AI function to create modules that apply to the pain points of each team?

Does it go a step further and provide dynamic content that flexes with the obstacles and developmental nuances of different departments and positions?

Companies need to be able to trust the data they’re building/accumulating and have tech that doesn’t purely generate but adapts.

Tech built with AI that populates, adapts, and suggests based on the user metrics it’s gathering will be immensely valuable.

That is how generative AI can help us reach new horizons.

AI can help us evolve – reaching new horizons

After L&D leaders establish the basic functionalities of how to approach AI for optimization (ie what processes can be completed faster, more consistently, and at scale), there is a larger picture to paint.

The second horizon moves us into the future.

How can learning modalities be inspired by AI?

The truth is AI can (and is already to a large degree), helping us evolve.

Because of the implementation of AI in learning and in development, companies can now leverage platforms designed to create immersive experiences that draw on intrinsic and extrinsic motivations and inspire true behavioral change.

Where traditional learning ruled in-person training, people can now train in a fully realized virtual environment where they can have dynamic interactions with customers and colleagues without the fear of failing.

It’s opportunities like this that truly create developmental differences.

As Markus Bernhardt points out in a recent article for Learning Guild: “AI-powered games and scenario-based simulations will venture beyond the limitations of chatbots to offer immersive experiences for skill development across a broad spectrum – from foundational knowledge and technical skills right through to so-called soft skills including leadership training, analytical thinking, critical thinking, problem-solving, conflict management, and more.” 

Imagine each employee has a coach in real-time, at the click of a button. Imagine that they have AI mentors, with free-form dialogue to review wins and losses or practice a difficult conversation. Well imagine not. This technology is already here.

With AI co-piloting, L&D content creators don’t have to imagine complete scenarios. They can simulate a life-like, reactive coaching experience for employees. The scenarios can help employees set goals, run conduct performance reviews, and provide road map suggestions – all live, in real-time!

The ability to realize the potential of AI in L&D merely lies in our ability to understand and anticipate business challenges and adapt, embrace, and master technological advances that solve these challenges.

A final note: Your own North Star

When aligning business needs with the right AI-powered training technology, leaders must not just adopt tech for tech’s sake.

They must identify (where they can) how they can enable real change and think about where new technologies can take the business in the near and long-term future while making sure there is a sound data infrastructure, that works with their environment.

Only then can L&D teams can start working with solutions like instant content generation and translations, live coaching, and immersive simulation training to unlock the transformative potential of AI for the organization.

Companies that are not already aligned with AI-powered tech to create day-to-day operational efficiencies are already behind.

What’s more, they’re losing out on time to organize and beta test how the second horizon can position them now and into the future.

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