Employees disengage when they do not feel appreciated or invested in, and loss of engagement always means a loss of money. Gallup predicts that actively disengaged employees cost companies $300 million yearly.
Over the past three decades, I worked to reinvent learning every couple of years. I was starting to think that was all we as learning professionals were here for – the perpetuation of organizational mandated page turners designed (or not) to check an audit box in the corporate learning management system.
And, while the employees looked for ways to improve themselves and their career prospects, we were relegated to turning the handle on the grinder, creating 45-minute links of training sausage while achieving minimal impact on the future of anyone except the HR bean counters.
The Cost Of Poor Training
More than the cost of employee training software, the cost of all this wasted effort has an impact on the business.
When compounded over the decades and countless employees in thousands of companies worldwide, it is in the billions of dollars.
Let’s break this down conservatively: one employee x $500 annual cost + number of non-value added hours [say 40 hours per year on the low side at an average of a fully loaded $40/hr] = $1,300/employee.
U.S. training expenditures passed the $100 billion-mark for the first time in 2021-2022, according to Training magazine's 2022 Training Industry Report. (Figure 1)
Figure 1. https://trainingmag.com/2022-training-industry-report/
To make matters worse, most of these training courses are out of sync with the needs of organizational and regulatory/certification changes by weeks and, in many cases, months.
Even with all the expense, the time it takes to create new or updated courses puts companies at risk of unskilled and uninformed employees.
So, what does this all mean? We need new approaches to corporate education, job skills and content creation.
Fortunately, over the past couple of years, the stars have aligned and we now have the tools and the methods to effect these changes.
In this article, I am going to touch on each of these and give you a set of action items you can do today to help your company get training in the hands of your employees faster, reduce overall cost and accelerate learning.
Write As Fast As You Can
In 2018, I asked my learning and development innovation team at Wells Fargo to try a grand experiment. I was convinced we could automate much of the course development process including the writing of annual regulatory update page-turner courses.
To do this, however, I needed my team to learn Python (the de facto language for artificial intelligence). Since Python is also great for developing server-side utility applications, I had them start their upskilling by creating tools to automate organizing our training subject matter materials and course assets to support our fellow instructional design teams.
Typical of many organizations, the leadership team pushed back on why I was “wasting time” having my team go through this effort.
Fortunately, I targeted some quick wins, and in one case, my team created a tool to convert all of the legacy content created in a now retired tool to PDF format, migrate all of the files to a new server, and create a master table to track all of the content with links to the materials.
The original estimate for a human-only approach was 2 man-years. After less than 60 hours of Python scripting, the entire body of work was done in a few hours. This success stopped the resistance and we started building more tools to automate as much of the mundane and non-value add work as we could find.
The next stage in upskilling was to get the team developing with AI. We started with an early version of OpenAI’s GPT. We took baby steps using their “playground” and had it attempt to generate assessment tests complete with distractor answers.
Initial results were promising, but nowhere near acceptable for inclusion in our courses. What we had was potential and a vision for where we might take it if allowed. We even had the ear of our IP patent team.
Unfortunately, the leaders of the learning organization did not have the same vision and felt we were wasting everyone’s time and company resources. The work was canceled, and the project died in the midst of the COVID years.
Flash forward to November 2022. ChatGPT goes live. Technical writers and instructional designers can now produce course content in seconds that used to take hours, weeks or months. The world is now witnessing the realization of our vision, and while that doesn’t change the past, it can change your company’s future.
Why You Want An AI Revolution
AI is making waves in corporate learning and development, signaling a pivotal shift in training methodologies.
This isn't merely about technological gadgets, it's about fundamentally transforming how we impart and assimilate knowledge in professional environments.
As the World Economic Forum indicates, AI transcends being a trendy term in corporate training, but rather, it's a transformative force. They note:
- AI isn't about replacing trainers with machines but empowering them.
- Facilitators can now focus less on administrative duties and more on their passion – educating and engaging with employees.
- Trainers can now use AI to streamline or even automate the tasks associated with developing training modules, evaluating performance and tailoring content.
- AI can customize the training experience to suit everyone’s needs.
- With AI enhanced LxPs (learning experience platforms), training can now be tailored so no employee feels overlooked.
- This approach promotes comprehensive, personalized development.
What does this signify for the future of corporate training? We are on the brink of a new era. A training environment where AI manages the finer details, freeing trainers to spark a passion for learning in their employees.
It's an arena where employees are not mere recipients of information but active participants in a personalized learning journey.
Learning Is A Journey
While real-world examples and measurable data is just now starting to see the light for most organizations, there are ways to begin transforming your training and learning programs that build on existing instructional paradigms.
Some of these include rethinking how we learn, like switching to a more Socratic approach now that AI can provide answers to questions when required.
Other areas involve changing what skills are required to meet the needs of the now disrupted workforce.
To start a journey-based approach to learning that integrates AI assistance and capabilities, you can follow these 12 steps to maximize your performance outcomes:
- Define Your Learning Goals
Identify the subject matter you want to learn or improve upon and set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals for your learning journey.
AI can help you write these goals by asking you a series of questions or you can ask the AI for recommendations based on your subject matter. Be sure to include learning about AI and robotics as one of these goals.
- Familiarize Yourself with AI Tools and Resources
Explore AI features such as chatbots, recommendation engines, and interactive content. Consider restrictions on use based on your organization's risk tolerance and learn how to access support and additional resources when needed.
- Select the Right AI-Enhanced Learning Platform
Choose a platform that offers AI capabilities such as personalized learning paths, adaptive content, and performance tracking. Ensure the platform supports the subject matter you're interested in, keeping in mind that the platform may be as simple as a chat agent or as complex as a fully AI integrated learning management system.
- Create a Personal Profile
Input your current knowledge level, learning preferences, and goals into the AI system.
Learning management systems may already have this information and only need to be connected to your AI agent (this may require IT support for larger organizations). The AI can use this information to tailor the learning experience to your needs.
- Engage with an Initial Assessment
Complete any initial assessments or diagnostics provided by the AI to gauge your starting point. These assessments may be for general subject matter or specific role based knowledge, skills and behaviors.
The AI will analyze your performance and customize your learning path accordingly.
- Start Your Learning Journey
Begin with the content and exercises that the AI system recommends based on your assessment results. Take advantage of multimodal resources (videos, articles, quizzes) to find an approach that works best for you.
- Regularly Interact with AI Assistance
Use AI-powered tools like virtual tutors for explanations and feedback. Ask questions and seek clarification to ensure understanding and make use AI’s ability to simplify complex subjects.
- Monitor Your Progress
Regularly check the analytics and progress reports generated by the AI to see how you're advancing towards your goals. You can adjust your learning pace and focus areas based on the insights provided.
Have AI proactively serve additional training or support based on your progress.
- Reflect and Adjust
Look back on what you've learned and how the AI has adapted to your needs. Then provide feedback to the AI system to further refine the learning experience.
- Seek Collaborative Learning Opportunities
Engage with AI-facilitated communities or peer groups for discussion and collaborative learning. You can share insights and learn from others' experiences and perspectives.
- Iterate and Expand
As you achieve your initial goals, set new ones to continue your learning journey. Use the AI to explore related subject areas or to deepen your expertise in specific topics.
- Stay Updated and Adapt
Keep an eye on updates to the AI platform and new features that can enhance your learning. Be open to adapting your learning strategies as AI technologies evolve.
These steps are similar to the ones that training experts have used for a long time to teach people new skills. But now, you have more control over your learning, it can be more tailored to you, and you can get your own personalized learning plan much faster.
AI is getting better all the time and will keep improving the way we learn. But you need to be involved and ready to change how you learn to get ready for new challenges in your job and company. The most important thing for doing well with AI in learning is to be actively involved and open to changing how you learn based on what the AI recommends.
What Does This Mean For You And Your Employees?
As I point out in my book, “There is AI in Team,” AI is now a part of the learning and development organization. With platforms as a service, designers and developers can now easily add AI to their toolbox.
From the summarization of pages and pages of subject matter expert notes and audio transcriptions to the generation of complete microlessons and open-ended assessments, the sky's the limit to how AI can augment training development.
AI-powered tools can enable educators to create high-quality educational materials efficiently, enhancing the learning experience while reducing the workload on educators.
In some cases, these new AI instructional design tools enable instructors to create short learning programs from private subject matter in just seconds, not hours or days.
These include design tools that are not just smart, but also incredibly user-friendly. This isn't just about making things look pretty; it's about empowering instructional designers and employees alike to create professional-level designs with a few clicks.
While many pundits speak about these in general terms – this is all new, the data to back it up is still in the making – many of their predictions are in play and we are seeing productivity results, at least on the side of course and content creation (see Figure 2).
Figure 2. Example of AI in the course creation process.
We have not, however, removed the human from the loop. While AI is great for ideation, first drafts and proofreading, humans are still vital in the analysis and second to final drafts to ensure content validity (no hallucinations) and audience applicability.
What we're really driving at here is leveraging these tools to make learning experiences richer and more effective.
This is especially effective with new hires. By integrating behavioral science with machine learning, AI tools can evaluate an employee's cognitive and emotional attributes, it can help pinpoint areas where training might be required.
As they are coming up to speed with your businesses’ nomenclature and requirements, the content you create once, can be adapted to the needs of the employee through automated paraphrasing, simplification or job specific application.
You Are Better Training Together With AI
AI is here. The genie is out of the bottle. Are you going to partner with AI or be replaced by someone who is? Fortunately, there are steps you can take right now to proactively partner with AI to improve learning for your organization.
- Provide continuous reskilling and upskilling opportunities to employees to keep up with the rapidly changing job market, leveraging the versatility and adaptability of AI to enable a journey-based approach to learning.
- Implement adaptive learning systems that adjust the difficulty and pace of instructional content based on the learner’s progress and performance, maintaining an appropriate level of challenge and keeping learners motivated and engaged.
- Create AI-powered tutors that provide instant feedback, hints and explanations to learners, simulating the experience of one-on-one tutoring and enhancing the learning process.
- Use AI to automatically assess and grade learner submissions, such as essays, short answers and even code, saving educators time and providing learners with immediate feedback.
- Employ AI to facilitate the automatic translation of educational content, making it accessible to a broader audience of learners who may speak different languages, and to create tools that provide real-time language support, such as grammar and pronunciation assistance.
- Employ generative AI and machine learning to create engaging, interactive educational experiences, such as games and simulations that adapt to learners' abilities and progress, fostering better engagement and outcomes.
- Use AI to create educational tools and platforms that are more accessible to learners with disabilities, such as text-to-speech, speech-to-text and automatic image captioning.
- Invest in educational cobots to augment human educators and enable tailored assistance and real-time performance analysis to individual students, while handling routine tasks.
The Risk Is Not Using AI In Education
AI's integration into the education sector is not just an academic enhancement; it's a strategic business move.
By adopting AI, educational institutions can streamline operations, improve learning outcomes, and position themselves for future success.
As AI continues to evolve, its role in reshaping corporate learning and training will only become more significant. The only real risk for your organization is not understanding how to partner with AI to effectively prepare your workforce for the changes already in motion.