It’s official! AI is a game-changer for workplace learning.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a game-changer! At least that was the decision we landed on during our latest Axonify webinar. Donald Taylor, Chairman of The Learning and Performance Institute, joined me for a rousing discussion this week on the potential of AI in workplace learning.

Rather than deliver a typical presentation, we challenged attendees on their perspectives while providing some insights along the way. Our conversation was focused on 5 critical questions regarding the growing application of AI within workplace learning:

  1. How engaged are workplace learning professionals in the AI conversation today?
  2. What are we getting right so far with regards to AI in workplace learning? And what are we getting wrong?
  3. What are some potential use cases for AI in workplace learning?
  4. What kind of data does L&D need to apply AI?
  5. How can L&D pros start preparing for the introduction of AI in their workplace learning strategies?

Don and I shared our thoughts on each question, but we were most excited to learn from responses provided by attendees in the online chat, which were plentiful. The discussion echoed the results of Don’s 2019 Global L&D Sentiment Survey and showed how eager L&D pros are to learn more about AI. But many still don’t know where to start or fully understand how this technology may impact their roles and practices. Given that AI is the fastest growing technology in the history of the workplace, this means L&D is already falling behind.

The conversation generated a quick list of recommended steps for L&D professionals who want to catch up with the progress of the AI-enabled workplace.

Start with business priorities

As always, L&D should begin with the end in mind. How can learning and support tactics connect business priorities with employee needs? Historically, there has been a considerable gap between these two considerations. And this makes it difficult-to-impossible for most L&D teams to measure the impact of training on business results.

While the technology can be applied in many ways, AI is not a single use case concept for L&D. Instead, It should be viewed as a foundational capability that underpins everything they do to enable performance. This will help L&D pros use right-fit tactics, powered by data and AI, to address any and all identified business challenges.

Recognize the range of potential applications

Chatbots. That tends to be the first application I hear about when L&D pros discuss AI. It may be one of the most adopted concepts to date, but does it deliver sufficient value and address employee and business needs? It depends, but it’s important for L&D pros to recognize the wide range of potential AI applications that exist RIGHT NOW.

L&D teams must be aware of the growing range of use cases for AI. Some will focus on the employee-facing experience while others lean towards back-end administration. Rather than get distracted by the cool factor of the technology, the conversation should focus on value – how an AI-enabled approach can help the organization solve a problem that it previously could not overcome. L&D must also be ready to explore how these capabilities will fundamentally impact how they do their work. When a machine can build quality training content, how does the role of an instructional designer evolve?

Get better with data

Don shared the recently refreshed LPI Capability Map. He highlighted the skill areas in which L&D professionals feel confident as well as the topics on which they self-report as weak. The lowest-rated item on the list: data analytics. L&D is bad with data, and they know it. The problem: you can’t do AI without good data.

I’m not the first to suggest L&D take inspiration from Marketing and their data practices. For example, the 5 Vs of Big Data can help L&D pros expand their measurement mindset, beyond the traditional models, and recognize learning data as a part of business data, not a separate concept. And, as Don reinforced, L&D pros do not have to become data specialists to make this happen. Rather, they should look inside their organizations and leverage existing expertise. After all, the smartest data person in your company probably doesn’t work in L&D.

Define your AI purpose

At the end of our discussion, we asked attendees a final question: Is AI in workplace learning hype or game-changing? The response was unanimous: game-changing. But to realize this unprecedented value, L&D teams need to start AI conversations within their organizations. They need to do their homework and make informed decisions regarding their AI purpose. There should be a clear understanding at all levels as to why L&D is pursuing and applying this technology to achieve their goals. Only then can L&D evolve rapidly to support the new AI-enabled workplace.

Interested in hearing the conversation for yourself? You can access a recording of the webinar here.

JD Dillon became an expert on frontline training and enablement over two decades working in operations and talent development with dynamic organizations, including Disney, Kaplan and AMC. A respected author and speaker in the workplace learning community, JD also continues to apply his passion for helping frontline employees around the world do their best work every day in his role as Axonify's Chief Learning Architect.

Let’s work together to drive frontline performance in all the right ways.