To say that artificial intelligence (AI) has been disrupting industries left and right is a mere understatement. From automation, and generative AI, to Natural Language Processing (NLP), these tech breakthroughs are continuously revolutionizing a myriad of organizations and domains over the last several years. With its lightning speed of global adoption and utilization, AI shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
For legacy industries with traditional business models, embracing AI can still be a challenge. For one, there are some organizational facets that are simply irreplaceable by machines. While processes and operations are exponentially optimized, certain business aspects still call for critical thinking, out-of-the-box creativity, natural discernment, and human connection.
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The Learning & Development (L&D) space is no exception to this disruption. In fact, progressive business leaders and HR teams welcome these advancements and are looking forward to the vast opportunities brought about by AI. While 87% of employees still prefer learning from an expert, L&D professionals are optimistic about the benefits of strategically incorporating AI into their initiatives and training programs.
Now, the question is: Can all L&D activities be led by AI? This article will dive into the L&D categories that can seamlessly adopt and utilize AI technologies, the segments that are irreplaceable by machines, and how to find the right balance in between.
To decipher how AI can be implemented in the L&D domain, it’s paramount to understand the two main categories in the L&D space: on-demand/self-paced and expert-led programs.
On-Demand/Self-Paced L&D Programs
On-demand training empowers trainees to learn at their own pace via training platforms such as LinkedIn Learning. These programs grant them the flexibility to choose when and which courses to take, aligning with their needs and convenience.
On-demand courses consist of diverse content elements, such as videos, class recordings, PDFs, and presentations, which each learner can navigate through at their individual speed. What’s more, the training platform effortlessly saves their progress, allowing them to resume from where they left off in their own time.
This stands in contrast to traditional training methods, such as classroom settings with instructors who dictate the course’s tempo and content in each session. Self-paced training provides learners with significantly more independence, enabling them to access pertinent materials when required and fostering greater engagement as they dictate their learning speed and priorities.
Can it be led by AI? Definitely.
Given its structure and nature, AI will be revolutionary in this segment – from pinpointing your specific learning objectives, discovering tailored content, and saving valuable time by avoiding irrelevant material. This technology promises a more interactive and adaptive learning experience, catering to your individual learning style and providing precisely targeted exercises.
Moreover, AI is poised to enhance the on-demand, self-paced learning experience by introducing follow-up support and ensuring the practical implementation of acquired knowledge.
Expert-Led L&D Programs
Expert-Led L&D Programs are facilitated by industry experts, whether it’s in an online or classroom setting. This model can take various forms, such as lectures, interactive workshops for hands-on skill practice, group/team coaching or 1:1 coaching/mentoring.
Regardless of the delivery method, it serves as an excellent choice for organizations that require specialized training on intricate subjects, prioritize interactive and practical learning, value face-to-face engagement, and can allocate time for learners to fully immerse themselves in extended training sessions.
Can it be led by AI? Limitedly.
Yes, AI can streamline some of processes involved in expert led-learning, and automate some technical elements. Use cases include leveraging generative AI for better assessment of the learning targets, better matching of an expert to a cohort or individual, tailoring bite size learning to support the expert-led sessions, or automated follow-ups to support continuous learning. In doing so, it can uncover valuable insights and offer personalized recommendations – all with increased scalability and efficiency.
But will machines completely replace human experts? Not in the foreseeable future. Expert-led L&D programs bank on direct person-to-person interactions and nuanced human experiences that machines currently don’t provide. Think of the 2013 movie “Her” – it’s the utopia of AI where an OS and a human are almost indistinguishable. However, it’s still science fiction, and we still have a long way to go before that becomes a seamless reality.
At the end of the day, AI still lacks the genuine qualities of a human expert in your field of interest, and trusting a machine for learning and skill development can be dubious. In the short term, this trust may not yield significant benefits; over the long term, it could potentially show promise.
But There Are Things AI Can’t Replace
While AI can definitely optimize and automate low-quality L&D elements, there are things it can’t replace – primarily, the human connection.
The unique quality of a human connection is the ability to foster trust and build rapport. When we interact with another person, we engage not only in words and actions but also in the exchange of emotions, empathy, and shared experiences. This multifaceted interaction creates a profound sense of trust that forms the foundation of many collaborations, including learning.
On the other hand, AI operates within the confines of algorithms and data analysis. It can process vast amounts of information and make predictions or recommendations based on patterns and data trends. However, it lacks the emotional intelligence and intuition that humans naturally possess. AI (still) cannot read between the lines, pick up on subtle nuances, or understand the intricate web of human emotions that influence our decisions and actions. These factors are critical in learning and development – from motivating individuals to learn, and encouraging employees to advance their careers, to building a sound and healthy working relationship.
The Key is Finding the Balance
We are at a stage when no one can totally disregard AI because of its limitations, or completely replace all human-led L&D activities with machines. At the end of the day, it’s all about navigating the spot where AI can fill the void, bridge the gap, and streamline traditional training methods. Finding the right balance between human and machine is the key ingredient for you to thrive in today’s competitive world.
Consider the challenge of identifying what aspects of one’s work or skill set need enhancement. For some individuals, self-assessment may come naturally; they can readily discern their strengths and weaknesses. However, this self-awareness is not universal, and many people may struggle to pinpoint areas in which they need to develop to achieve desired outcomes. This is where AI steps in as a valuable ally.
AI effortlessly analyzes vast datasets and identifies patterns, trends, and correlations that might be fallible to humans. In L&D activities, AI can serve as a guide, helping individuals recognize areas of improvement based on data-driven insights.
Microsoft called their AI “co-pilot” for a reason. Think of AI as a co-pilot in an aircraft. The human pilot remains in control, making critical decisions and ensuring the overall success of the flight. However, the co-pilot provides support by managing side tasks, providing valuable information, and alerting the pilot to potential issues. This collaboration enhances the overall efficiency and safety of the journey.
The key takeaway is treating AI as a tool that can assist you; not necessarily replacing humans, but refreshing obsolete methods for efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Those organizations that will embrace, adapt, and utilize these inevitable advancements will find themselves earning an upper hand in today’s cutthroat digital age, in which those who still cling to old practices will be left behind.
At the same time, an overreliance on machines is an equally dangerous territory that one has to avoid. Human intuition, empathy, and adaptability remain indispensable assets that cannot be replicated by AI. While incorporating AI into L&D strategies, it is essential to preserve the uniquely human qualities that contribute to innovation and resilience.
By: Omer Glass (Co-Founder & CEO of Growthspace)
Originally published at Hackernoon
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