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Stefan Tornquist


SVP, Learning

Read more from Stefan Tornquist

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Upgrade your digital skills training for the age of AI

Why adoption of AI will fail if human L&D doesn’t keep pace.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently urged the UK to “seize the extraordinary potential of AI to improve people’s lives.” The integration of AI into the ways we live, work and play presents a challenge and opportunity for businesses on a scale that may eclipse the rise of the internet itself. 

While businesses are exploring and experimenting with the efficiencies AI can bring to operational processes, the efficacy of these initiatives will hinge on how effectively organisations approach the human side of this growth equation – bridging the skills gap amongst their employees.

Under pressure

A recent Goldman Sachs report posited that AI could replace the equivalent of 300 million full-time jobs, while campaigners, unions and MPs alike are urging for stricter oversight of workplace AI.

Over two-thirds of UK businesses admit to lacking the necessary digital skillset to achieve their objectives. 

New AI applications are emerging with lightning speed, which can feel intimidating for working professionals who need to direct and implement these tools, and it can put pressure on HR and L&D teams to keep up. 

Without a fresh approach to digital skills training, businesses will dull their competitive edge and employees can be exposed to skills gaps in their own professional development. 

Are employees ready to maximise impact?

The benefits of using AI to streamline operational processes are already evident across a range of industries. Take healthcare for example, where machine learning has been widely adopted to radically improve image-based diagnoses in radiology and genome interpretation. 

In FMCG, generative AI is helping retailers and ecommerce businesses with speed to shelves through its ability to quickly generate product descriptions, organise data, and support branding imagery.

Despite this, limited scope or outdated content in existing training programmes could be hindering businesses’ ability to encourage further business growth or, worse, falling short of commercial objectives in an ever-evolving operating environment. Technological change looms large, so it’s important for skilled workers to be armed with ongoing opportunities to update their skills. 

A recent Econsultancy report found that over two-thirds of UK businesses admit to lacking the necessary digital skillset to achieve their objectives. The correlation between digital skills and growth is undeniable, with 83% of executives acknowledging its impact on their company's success, leading to 92% reporting the urgent need for skills that are new to the business. 

AI today is best understood as a way to augment skills and increase efficiency. Employees must have the right base of knowledge to maximise these contributions, as well as to ensure accuracy and quality. 

Reinvigorating your business’ approach to skills training

The persistent barriers to skills training, chief among them being cost and the perceived lack of time, must be overcome if businesses are to understand, harness and deploy AI effectively.

Analysing the effectiveness of current training programmes and existing skills gaps across different teams, and addressing key pain points accordingly, is a worthwhile investment of L&D teams’ time and resource into business and employee growth. 

The alternatives are notably less appealing, with senior staff recognising that training and education offer the fastest (70%) and most cost-effective (61%) route to bolstering general digital skills within an organisation, compared to hiring or outsourcing.

Businesses need to upskill their employees, establish a growth mindset and seize opportunities to stay ahead of the competition.

Unsurprisingly, a multi-modal approach is more effective than any single training method, as executives at companies using a multi-modal L&D strategy say they are significantly more confident in their organisations' ability to meet business goals (57% vs. 27%). 

Encourage employees to train with a growth mindset across a balanced combination of hard and soft, internal and external training modules to relieve any concerns that may come with introducing AI tools or significant changes to established processes. 

Our expert trainers have found that this growth mindset can be particularly effective at unlocking the potential of new technologies while reducing stress.

L&D teams shouldn’t have to shoulder the responsibility of upskilling an organisation alone. Many senior leaders and board members already realise that AI is a constant in future business processes. Engaging them on the importance of priming their teams to implement AI solutions in the most commercially beneficial ways through ongoing skills training is essential to drive commitment and engagement.

Bringing employees along the journey 

Another integral aspect to bridging the digital skills gap while increasing job satisfaction is how businesses and L&D teams can align employees’ current and future career aspirations with organisational objectives.

Concerns about job loss and dwindling career opportunities understandably follow the emergence of new AI-driven tech. Tackling these fears head on with tailored learning and incentivised training initiatives can urge individuals to enhance their professional skill set and turn fear of the unknown to curiosity about what’s possible. 

Traditional, static models of professional learning are no longer enough to feed the demand for always-on learning and ensure safe and effective AI adoption.

Our research found that while the majority (84%) of professionals are open to corporate learning, variables such as training’s connection to their career and how learning is delivered significantly affects their enthusiasm and perceived value. 

Gaining employee feedback is imperative for analysing and optimising learning programmes, particularly when upskilling in rapidly developing evolving areas such as AI. 

Generative AI is the current word on everyone’s lips, so training that explores how it can be applied to current processes and how it’s likely to augment team productivity is a valuable starting point. 

It’s then a worthwhile exercise to gauge the perception of specific courses to enable businesses to tailor training more precisely.

The future, now

There will continue to be active debate on the vast challenges and benefits that AI presents for businesses for some time to come, however we are now past the point where inaction is a viable option. 

Businesses need to upskill their employees, establish a growth mindset and seize opportunities to stay ahead of the competition.

Traditional, static models of professional learning are no longer enough to feed the demand for always-on learning and ensure safe and effective AI adoption. Rather, multi-modal digital skills training that address current and future skills gaps are critical to future-proof businesses. 

I urge all HR and L&D teams to cast a critical eye on their teams’ readiness to adopt AI into their roles and take the necessary steps to augment existing training and development programmes.

If you enjoyed this, read: The Rise of the Chatbots: Five ways AI will enhance L&D.

Author Profile Picture
Stefan Tornquist

SVP, Learning

Read more from Stefan Tornquist

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