The current momentum of change, seen across all sectors and industries, is unparalleled in magnitude and speed; both are accelerating. The need for businesses to adapt has arguably never been more pressing, while challenges continue to grow at an increasing pace.

The digital revolution has arrived, and we already find ourselves in the thick of it. For learning and development (L&D), the time has come that deploying automation will be key. When we look at other departments within organizations, we can no longer imagine how marketing, sales, finance, or HR would fare without automation. Here, automation has celebrated some huge successes, gathering momentum as available technology is deployed more broadly. The results are increasing efficiencies, accuracy, and speed, and at scale.

This article introduces a short series on automation and AI and their impact on L&D.

Workplace culture is shifting

The digital revolution and new ways of working aren’t even the whole story, as we’re seeing a substantial shift in workplace culture and employee expectations, too.

The HR Exchange Network’s State of HR Report 2021 is one of many research pieces showing that HR leaders face two major, compounding issues: Battling a labor shortage is a huge challenge on its own, but doing so while struggling to retain talent has taken the challenge to the next level. Whole organizations, and in particular HR, are turning to L&D to rise to the occasion, and the pressure to deliver is fast piling up.

So what are employees looking for? High on the priority list for those looking for work or reconsidering their options are improved offerings of development opportunities for personal growth and career trajectory. The employee expects more from the workplace of the future, so much is clear.

L&D can rise to the challenge, with automation and AI

L&D has its work cut out across sectors and industries. Traditional methods and tools will not suffice in tackling these challenges, but thankfully recent advances in technology and AI promise to provide the tools necessary to help L&D tackle these challenges successfully.

And there’s more good news, as there is a clear overlap here between shifting employee expectations and the aforementioned organizational challenges. All of these challenges—reskilling and upskilling via talent and leadership development, professional and personal development, and growth opportunities—are related to learning and performance.

As L&D starts to meet these challenges head-on, L&D as a department within organizations is also shifting in importance and scope, moving from being regarded as a “necessary cost center” to being seen as a “valuable business performance investment,” an observation supported by the LinkedIn Learning 2022 Workplace Learning report.

With automation, L&D will be able to deliver successfully, for the organization as well as for the employee. At our fingertips is now the technology with which we will see increasing efficiencies and hyper-personalization, at speed and at scale, as digital transformation and automation enter learning, training, performance, and development.

The LinkedIn Learning report further describes a number of key areas where L&D leaders are able to, and should, embrace the future. Firstly, it finds that L&D now has a new hot seat at the center of adapting to change and a to-do list that has never been longer, with skilling, employee retention, well-being, leadership, and DEIB all now urgent priorities. Secondly, it asks L&D leaders to think about convergence of HR disciplines and to focus on the convergence of talent development, skill-based planning, and internal mobility to build a work culture based on continuous learning.

Where automation fits in

So where do automation and AI fit into this picture? What are the areas most impacted by automation and AI in supporting L&D as learning leaders tackle these challenges successfully? What will this look like?

Here, we share a glimpse of the top three areas where we see automation and AI revolutionizing the way in which successful L&D teams work. The remaining articles in the series will take a deeper look at each.

Asset libraries and knowledge hubs

First and foremost, the growing complexity of internal knowledge hubs and digital asset libraries urgently requires automation and AI. While knowledge, skills, and information are much more accessible today than ever before, they are also much more difficult to harness. This is simply due to the vastness of information and knowledge an organization holds—and to which it keeps adding at an increasing pace.

Catalog systems are collapsing as human “organizing and tagging by hand” is not only arduous, time consuming, and error prone, it is increasingly becoming an impossible task. This challenge further grows in magnitude as ever-increasing specialization around roles, products, and services requires detailed subject knowledge, as well as digital skills, in order to successfully tackle this challenge by hand.

Scaling fully personalized learning and training, as well as knowledge sharing

Secondly, the deployment of relevant information and training, at scale, is a challenge in itself. Even if an organization were to have perfectly managed and cataloged knowledge hubs and digital asset libraries already, the task of delivering the right information to the right person at the right time, and in the right fashion, would still leave a task impossible to overcome without deploying automation and AI tools.

Utilizing technology will allow the delivery of hyper-relevant information at the right time, in the right format, and at scale; truly adaptive and personalized learning will finally be within reach.

Suddenly, we can envision how reskilling, upskilling, talent and leadership development, professional and personal development, and individual employee growth opportunities, fully personalized, are no longer a dream but will become a reality. In addition, a new era of AI-supported search functionality and contextualization will further drastically improve how those looking for answers and information in the flow of work will find exactly what they are looking for.

Capability mapping

Thirdly, creating detailed capability mappings, generally or aligned with an organization’s unique set of skills frameworks and competency matrices, will be possible by deploying automation and AI. And the technology will allow for this, ultra-fast and at scale.

Think strengths, weaknesses, confidence, gaps, and risks, all measured and recorded, allowing organizations and teams to identify further learning and training requirements and needs, fully data-driven. But it doesn’t end there.

These mappings will also allow managers and leaders to monitor capabilities and strengths and weaknesses within their respective teams and allow each team to make data-driven strategic decisions in regard to their own performance development. As a result, teams will be empowered to drive and contribute to their own learning and performance, utilizing the whole suite of strategies, from social learning and sharing of good practice and expertise to strategic interventions and training.

Dig into automation and AI

In this short series on Automation and AI, we will dive deeper into each of these three key areas, offering you an in-depth look at the ways that automation and AI are poised to change and challenge learning leaders and their L&D teams. While bringing many benefits, automation and AI will also place new demands on L&D teams to ensure that they themselves, and the entire workforce, keep their skills current and upskill to meet the demands of new technologies and ways of learning and working.

Collaborate with learning leadership peers

Are you seeking the strategies and skills required to navigate the needs of today’s ever-changing workplace? Are you an experienced or aspiring leader looking for a community to connect with to explore today’s biggest learning leadership challenges?

The Learning Leaders Alliance is a vendor-neutral global community for learning leaders who want to stay ahead of the curve and for aspiring leaders wanting to build their skillsets. The Learning Guild’s Alliance Membership package includes access to exclusive digital events and content curated for today’s modern learning leader, as well as opportunities to attend in-person learning leadership events held around the globe. See the details on our website.