Boosting L&D with AI and Machine Learning


Corporate L&D has pioneered usage of digital technologies for its operations, with Learning Management Systems and CBTs and WBTs, at the start of the century. As Industry 4.0 is moving towards new age digital technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, L&D cannot stay behind. Many organizations have started leveraging its power. And there is a lot more to be done.

Digital Technology and Learning

As the world is getting disrupted more and more, continuous learning becomes a necessity. According to Jacob Morgan, one of the principles of the future employee will be the shift from being a knowledge worker to being a learning worker. And that future is already here!!

In this context, we know too well that we have learners who are highly distracted, overwhelmed and impatient. While they have access to unlimited supply of content, they are not sure about the right content to address their needs.  “Give me just what I want, right now” is what our learners are saying.

On the other side, from the business perspective, according to a recent Deloitte study, virtually all CEOs (90%) believe their company is facing disruptive changes by digital technologies; however only 30% of them say their organizations have the skills to adapt to these changes. “Help us build skills needed to make the organization future ready at a fast pace” is the need here.

To address the needs of these two distinct and important set of customers, we need to focus on three Es – Learner Experience, Learning Efficiency and Effectiveness.

Digital technology will be a key enabler in bringing the three Es alive. Some methods of doing that are discussed below.

Learning Democratization and Personalization

If learners are to pull and keep learning on a continuous basis, then learning needs to be democratized. The job of L&D in this context is one of promoting learning rather than providing and controlling learning.

If democratization must fetch its true results and lead to capability building, then Personalization becomes key. It is about giving what the learner wants, at the right time. Rather than going on a wild goose chase, which happens not just on google but even with learning portals, an ability to access just that right micro-learning module, minutes before getting into a customer meeting for that all-important sales pitch, is the point of need learning which the modern learner wants. And that is exactly what an AI powered recommendation engine can do.

Learning is an important motivator for millennials to join an organization. And that would assume significance not because of a huge catalogue of courses that an organization has, but a personalized learning path that they can create based upon their current role requirements and career aspirations.

Meeting Learners where they are

Considering that our learners are distracted and impatient, the best strategy would be to meet learners where they are. And if an average smart phone user checks her/his device 150 times a day, there cannot be a better place to meet them. And we need to meet them with what they want, lest we become an irritant that would be blocked soon. Digital technology would enable in throwing nudges in line with what they are working on currently, upcoming projects, what their peers are doing etc.

Learning Experience Platforms

In Industry 4.0, building skills faster and smarter is the focus.When Performance Management is taking the agile route with quarterly cycles, learning cannot be very different.

XAPI enabled Learning Experience platforms play an important role in doing this effectively. This brings learner centricity alive, by not limiting learners to select content, but enabling access to the best content anywhere. They eliminate that line between learning at the work place and personal learning (say by watching a YouTube video or ted talk) and the synergy of this integration can be profound.

Learning Analytics and Beyond

The huge analytics that AI powered experience platforms provide help in multiple ways –

  • Understanding current and future learning interests of learners
  • Gaining an appreciation of what skill sets lie where, which can facilitate certain important job-related decisions

As the world of L&D is moving beyond traditional efficiency metrics to effectiveness ones, AI will be a key enabler there, by enabling the learner to log in experience at the point of usage andsee its impact on performance.

Virtual Mentors

From a learning delivery perspective, Machine Learning enabled Virtual Mentors is another feature that supports in point of need learning requirements of a wide array of learners including new joiners. This anywhere, anytime support is what the modern learner truly wants. Even traditional mentoring processes, when powered by AI, enabling mentor-mentee pairing and structuring the journey, can turn out to be much more effective.

ML Performance Coaches

The power of learning lies in transfer at the work place. And for that practice is crucial. ML coaches can ensure practice in a safe environment with real time feedback. For e.g. In simulating a conversation with a difficult customer, the ML coach provides valuable feedback based upon various body parameters like the tone and facial expression. The immediate feedback goes a long way in improving performance.

In Industry 4.0, Learning in the Flow of Work is an imperative and reality. And to succeed we need to embrace digital technologies and leverage its power.


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