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Hybrid human/AI workforce – is your company ready?

Dan Ferrandino

Business leaders say learning and L&D digitisation is key to successful transition to hybrid ‘human-AI’ workforce; but research reveals current frustrations with digital performance in L&D and dangers of ‘digital overload’. Contributor Dan Ferrandino, Managing Director – Knowledgepool.

UK businesses are turning to new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence to improve training experiences among employees and overcome severe skills shortages in many industries.

Research published today by Knowledgepool reveals a huge appetite for emerging technologies to improve L&D. More than three quarters (78 percent) of businesses expect to use AI to facilitate the creation of customised learning programmes within the next two years and 75 percent plan to use AI to provide personal learning recommendations.

L&D leaders see technology as critical to improving employee engagement with learning, providing more seamless, personalised learning experiences. Almost eight in ten (79 percent) of L&D leaders believe that learner experience is becoming more important to driving employee performance and 83 percent think their organisation needs to accelerate the digitisation of learning in order to compete effectively.

However, the research – based on interviews with 350 L&D leaders, 500 business leaders and more than 2,000 employees – reveals that current technology deployments in L&D are failing to deliver on objectives, with only 20 percent of L&D leaders reporting that the expected return on investment in technology is clearly evident in learner performance.

The report highlights a lack of coherent digital strategies across businesses; and inadequate digital skills and technology expertise within L&D departments as reasons for this limited impact.  More than a third (34 percent) of L&D leaders report that the level of choice and complexity in learning technologies is now a major challenge, and a quarter (25 percent) of L&D leaders are not confident that their organisation is putting learner experience at the centre of digital learning design and content.

UK workers are generally positive about the potential impact of technology within learning, but they stress the need for balance between human and digital-led learning; in fact, 55 percent say they would prefer their learning and development provision to mostly consist of human contact.

However, businesses are currently struggling to achieve this balance between human and digital delivery of learning and acknowledge the risks of ‘over-digitisation’. Almost half (44 percent) of L&D leaders think there is a risk of employees suffering from learning fatigue due to excessive use of technology in learning, while 36 percent are concerned that digital learning can become too interruptive and distract employees from their work.

“When deployed in a considered, strategic way, digital has the potential to deliver huge benefits, driving engagement and appetite for learning amongst employees, and instilling more proactive, positive learning cultures across the workforce”, commented Dan Ferrandino, Managing Director at Knowledgepool. “However, digital itself should never be mistaken as the sole answer to upskilling people; it should only ever be regarded as an enabler, a channel to optimise learning by providing a seamless, personalised and interactive experience to employees.”

The focus on digitisation within L&D reflects a broader realisation within businesses that learning and upskilling will become increasingly important as skills shortages become more challenging and as organisations transition to a hybrid workforce model, where human workers operate in a technology-optimised environment alongside Artificial Intelligence and robots. More than nine in 10 (91 percent) of UK business leaders believe that improving ‘learnability’ at all levels of the organisation is essential to get the most out of a hybrid human-AI workforce over the next five years and 88 percent believe that digitisation can help drive high quality learning experiences.

However, the research uncovers a whole range of barriers and challenges that L&D leaders need to overcome in order to achieve a fully optimised digital framework for learning. These include a lack of skills among both learners (40 percent) and within the HR and L&D function (35 percent) to maximise the benefits of digital, and cultural resistance to digitisation amongst learners (28 percent) and L&D professionals (26 percent) themselves. More than a third (36 percent) of L&D leaders cite difficulties in finding a suitable technology partner as a barrier to digitising learning within their organisation, making this the second biggest challenge to L&D digitisation.

Ferrandino concluded: “Organisations that can deploy digital in a strategic and balanced way and engage their employees with this optimal learning experience, will succeed in establishing genuine learning cultures and develop the agile, multi-skilled workforces they need to thrive in the future. L&D leaders need to ensure they have the skills, senior support and the right technology partners to get digital deployments right first time.”

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