The Future of Learning in a Hybrid & AI Dominated World!
by Mark Jones
Over the past five years, major changes have been observed by professionals working within the Learning & Development (L&D) landscape, and these changes are set to continue for the foreseeable future. They range from perspectives on professional growth as a result of new technologies, hybrid workforces, the abundance of knowledge, digital transformation to post-pandemic preferences, to name but a few.
The expectations that people have of their employers and jobs has also changed, significantly.
In spite of the fact that many businesses are unwilling to tolerate disagreement, dissenting ideas, or even minor failures, the latest PwC Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey reveals sizable pockets of the global workforce eager to learn new skills, embrace artificial intelligence (AI), and take on new challenges, but many workers are restless and 26%; up 19% from last year, say they intend to leave their jobs in the next 12 months.
The survey; which received responses from nearly 54,000 employees in 46 countries and territories, emphasises the primary challenges facing CEOs and other C-suite leaders today. We must therefore reinvent our organisations, but these efforts will undoubtedly fail without the support and enthusiasm of all of our people.
Furthermore, you can’t take anything about your workforce or culture for granted given the current situation, where skills gaps appear to be expanding and more employees than ever struggle financially to make ends meet.
The moment is now upon us as L&D professionals to improve and alter our current training strategies, in order to meet people where they are; eager to learn and progress.
Often, as a result of such change, learning typically requires an outside training specialist. L&D programs were previously held in person at a set time and location; sometimes determined by Human Resources, sometimes by L&D. This often entailed spending a great deal of time with a team of co-workers, for many hours, spread out over multiple days, to deliver a program of learning that added organisational value.
Such courses were often taught via a PowerPoint presentation or written handouts. Only the conference room, where the training was set to take place, allowed for hands-on exercises.
Session delegates were frequently divided into multiple groups by title level or department because there happened to be a limit as to how many people could fit in a given area, as a result, delegates had less opportunity to interact with people outside of their level or normal flow of work.
Though there were exceptions, the topic itself tended to lean towards the theoretical rather than the practical in nature, and the content often applied to a wide range of people. Most issues that arose, were shared during the session by those delegates that encountered such challenges in a typical workplace, and not a virtual or hybrid one. Furthermore, the people that often took part in the pre-pandemic programs of learning were either told they had to do so or were committed to a certain job path that required the training on offer.
Owing to there being fewer possibilities to customise a learning route, people were forced to slog their way through subjects that they were not particularly interested in.
When the world was changing more slowly, most people worked in real offices. Workplace benefits weren’t a top focus for many, and the job market wasn’t as competitive. The style of training delivery; way back when, also appeared to be enough for the majority. However, as business, workforces and technology have evolved in the last 5 years, new ways of providing resources for growth have appeared.
Fully in-person L&D initiatives appear to be a thing of the past, as we adopt a more hybrid strategy in accordance with what staff members want and need, in order to perform their day-to-day business activities.
The future of L&D is at least partially digital, since portability and accessibility have become so crucial. Even while in-person learning experiences can be useful for consolidating concepts and creating chances for collaboration. It has become quite evident, that online and even asynchronous training programs could be just as effective as in-person ones during the Covid-19 pandemic, if delivered correctly.
A little over three and half years on and the world has a very different landscape. Covid has forced the world to change. It has pushed a global workforce to change and achieve what would have probably taken five to eight years in just two or three. It has forced us to start thinking more creatively about how to deliver digital content in ways that are both engaging and effective for a remote / hybrid workforce.
In today’s world we suffer hugely with attention deficit, being exposed to so many distractions, or we crave that hit of dopamine as a result of likes and messages. Today, it is not so simple and easy to close the tab and/or just switch off. Therefore, workforce education must be meaningful, relevant and above add value at every engagement.
Many L&D programs that exist today, are being modified to include interactive components and activities that can be used throughout the workday, such as: online worksheets, group chat rooms / forums, chatbots, AI, interactive videos, quizzes, AR, VR, assessments with immediate feedback, and real-time social media, are tools that are fast becoming more commonplace.
In years to come, I have no doubt that L&D programs will become even more individualised, than they are today, a sort of buffet of learning resources, that enable us to acquire what we need to know? At the moment of need, in the format we prefer.
Most people have a unique professional trajectory, and whilst including a variety of positions or employers between their first employment and retirement, I think we can all agree that one-track professions are no longer prevalent. For training to continue to be applicable and helpful, it must be customised, and it will be crucial for all organisations to deliver the proper content to the appropriate audience in the right way, if job related performance improvements and competitive advantage is to be seen.
Employees will always seek out learning opportunities for a variety of reasons. Some may have a desire to move up in their existing department, whilst others consider the possibilities and challenges associated with switching careers, which calls for full or partial retraining as a result of the skillset the new job demands. In practicality, however, new technology is forcing the development of new skills, knowledge, and talents to be acquired. Thus, L&D initiatives need to be flexible, in order to provide efficient learning plans and effective mechanisms of delivery.
Our world is changing, and quickly. Training programs may help businesses keep up by giving staff members the skills they need to be successful, but they need to be carefully planned. L&D programs of the now and future, must be extremely well thought out and applicable to all attendees. This entails relating ideas and/or other ways of thinking to the job; and teaching the people skills that a delegate can use right away, rather than merely when they advance to the position of executive, several years down the line.
It’s one thing to get workers fired up about a new concepts, systems, processes and or technology, but quite another to make sure they can actually put them to good use to enhance business performance.
If there is no immediate application, a learners’ enthusiasm will start to wane because taking action seems impossible, which can be both frustrating and depressing. Those who oversee or create L&D programs must consider the impact that training will have on each participant’s career. Is this training going to help me take a step forward on the career ladder to a different / better position? Or is this training session one that will provide the knowledge and skills I need and can apply, to my current position?
Whilst employers may make learning more appealing to employees by creating momentum through their ability to put the training and knowledge acquired into practice or by understanding what’s in it for them / me (WIIFM). YES! … This can demonstrate to workers that their employer cares about them and wants what they want, which could ultimately increase retention rates in a tight labour market. However, corporate leaders need to respect the time employees devote to training, as they evaluate the best ways for L&D to align their strategies with the wider corporate strategy.
Leaders and learners need to make the most of the time allotted to developing a skill set because burnout is still a problem, and employees sometimes take on more responsibilities than their job descriptions suggest, in order to remain of value. This in itself can have serious implications on an individual’s mental health, which brings with it a number of other workplace challenges, especially when it comes to workplace performance and motivations.
Therefore, leadership across the organisations needs to make sure that any training that a staff member receives will benefit them, both professionally and personally.
The environments we learn in, also needs to evolve but the significance of when, how, and why learning opportunities are provided will not alter. Therefore, organisations and their leaders must critically evaluate how to upgrade training sessions to accommodate the requirements of the existing and new workforce generation, and what better way to support them, than with the adoption of AI Technology.
ChatGPT has taken the world by storm. If we look back in history at Facebook, to reach 1mn users it took Facebook almost 10 months back in 2003. ChatGPT in 2022 achieved the same milestone, in just 5 days.
In the L&D industry there has been a lot of chatter around the jobs that the age of AI will take. However, where there is job loss, there is inevitably growth and opportunity (Silver linings).
The age of AI is firmly upon us, and whilst a number of educational institutions discuss the morality and ethics involved in utilising AI for educational purposes, the corporate world can use it to enhance day to day performance. The introduction of regulation and policy from the IAPP, has meant that many organisations have already barred their workforce from the use of ChatGPT services, in favour of a more ethical approach further down the line. As with all technology, the policies that are developed to serve and protect us, cannot be reviewed and implemented at the same rate as the technology evolves, thus we humans are always that one step behind the curve.
Nevertheless, a master stroke that Microsoft has made possible via it’s Azure services, offers a ray of light to organisation wishing to leverage AI capabilities, without compromising their business ethics and GDPR, as a result of technologies that ring fence corporate data in their own domains. Couple this data with a chatbot style integrated service; which analyses and accesses your corporate data, and train the workforce on prompt limitations, tokens and data access capabilities, and your L&D department can give the corporate workforce a huge competitive advantage, as it steps into the future.
At ALX Training it is our intention to provide such services and capabilities to support the ethical adoption of AI, in the corporate workspace.
In the next 6 to 12 months, we are likely to see that several paradigm shifts will occur in the
At ALX we believe that the future of learning is here, and that AI will play a part in the hybrid working world we now live in. However, it is critically important that all organisations who embark on this journey both present and future, strike a balance between AI, human interaction, and ethics in order to maintain a holistic learning experience that engages, and delivers organisational value.
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