Artificial intelligence (AI) is already impacting corporate learning. L&D departments need to stay ahead of the trend.
How can L&D decision-makers use emerging technologies’ potential to supercharge learning? And how can they avoid the drawbacks that companies such as Amazon have already experienced in practice? What are the main barriers to using AI in corporate learning?
Dell Technologies’ Portfolio Messaging Director for Asia-Pacific and Japan, Dragana Beara, argues that HR and L&D leaders have a key role to play in applying AI for organisational development through learning. She discussed the topic at the global MERIT Summit 2020.
Why L&D needs to focus on AI-enabled learning
If AI-enabled learning sounds to you like science fiction, you may be behind on the latest tech developments.
“We are at a rare moment in history. In the next decade, great technological shifts will drive human progress,” predicts Dragana.
Emerging tech has the potential to improve business outcomes exponentially. The number of jobs created by it will outstrip the number of jobs lost, Dragana said. Further, those next-generation jobs will bring more creativity and innovation. As routine tasks are automated, people will have time for complex, impactful projects.
But there is a problem. These jobs will require high-level skills few employees currently have. “There’s a huge, huge resource gap for people that are going to be able to work in this world,” Dragana cautioned.
As the race to master AI intensifies on a global level, companies that are able to deploy it at scale will reap significant benefits in terms of automation, upskilling, and innovation. Those stuck in an older generation of technology will be left behind.
The key is to see AI not as a challenge, but as a business opportunity. Machine learning will make many traditional jobs obsolete. But, at the same time, it can and will help people adapt to new, more productive jobs. The responsibility to make this happen lies with HR and L&D. “I think the HR function is becoming more and more strategic, and should be recognised as such,” Dragana said.
With AI-enabled learning that is efficient, personalised, and effective, L&D departments can prepare their organisations for the next decade’s challenges.
Emerging tech in learning: what are the possibilities?
How, exactly, can AI enhance corporate learning? The possibilities created by it include responsive learning materials, global reach via translation, and extended reality.
All of these technologies already exist and just need to be implemented.
- Responsive learning interfaces can gauge learning progress and adapt accordingly. For instance, an AI-driven interface can slow down a training video and suggest further reading if it senses that a learner is confused.
- Advances in text and speech processing mean that learning materials can easily be adapted for any platform and learner. Lectures can turn into text and vice versa, depending on individual learning styles. Additionally, automated translation can render content in any language, regardless of medium. With AI, personalisation and global reach go hand in hand.
- Extended reality and immersive media mean that close collaboration and group learning are possible even at a distance. Engagement with others in virtual classrooms can increase learning motivation. It can also create more interaction within the company, reducing the silo effect.
Together, these tech innovations can create “an omnipresent environment for education”.
A culture of learning is necessary to drive innovation and make companies sustainable in a fast-changing world. AI can help you deeply embed learning in employees’ everyday work environment and create such a culture.
How to overcome the roadblocks to AI-enhanced learning
The barriers to implementing AI in learning programmes are significant, and so are the potential risks. To avoid them, HR and L&D decision-makers need to understand the technology on a conceptual and functional level.
Before machine learning-based algorithms are put in place, you should be aware of the data that these algorithms were based on. What kind of behavioural data sets went into designing your learning interface, for example? Were diverse learners represented?
As a cautionary tale, Dragana cited Amazon’s experience with AI resume screening. To avoid bias, Amazon Web Services (AWS) decided to review job applications automatically. However, “they didn’t realise that the data that they were using to train the algorithm to spot the best candidates was flawed, because the candidates who originally joined AWS were men. So this AI automatically eliminated women’s resumes.” Algorithms are not perfect: they learn what we teach them. Any new learning programme or other AI-powered process should be intentionally designed by humans.
Nobody is better positioned to drive thoughtful AI implementation than HR leaders, according to Dragana. HR can anticipate a new tool’s effects on people, thus avoiding embarrassing experiences like Amazon’s. “I keep telling IT people that I present to that they need to seek out HR and include them ahead of time,” Dragana said. HR should also take the initiative and offer their services, she added.
If HR and L&D professionals take the lead, they can help their organisations use AI to create massive, engaging, personalised learning programmes and boost innovation.
Do you want to get more up-to-date insights about digital innovation in learning? Join the MERIT European Summit, “Rethinking Learning in a Connected World”, co-hosted with LinkedIn, in Paris on 18 September.
By Ani Kodjabasheva