In a recent report by The Society for Human Resource Management, 72% of HR leaders said they believe artificial intelligence (AI) will significantly impact the future of corporate training. As companies seek to address the skills shortage in their workforce, more and more business leaders are turning to eLearning and learning management systems (LMS) to upskill their employees and improve retention. By investing in their workforce, businesses can improve employee’s skills, competencies and job performance, as well as ensure continued compliance with ever-changing regulations. But as the importance of employee learning grows, organizations are looking for ways to improve their corporate training programs, with many identifying artificial intelligence as a potential difference-maker.
AI has already had a transformational impact on industries as diverse as healthcare, finance, manufacturing, and entertainment, with global spending on AI expected to exceed $301 billion by 2026 according to Daikatu. The technology now looks set to revolutionize the corporate training sector with a raft of innovations that promise to increase efficiency and competitiveness. In this article, we’ll look at some of the ways that AI is already influencing how companies think about employee development and corporate training, from learning assessments to content, analytics, and more.
The evolution of corporate training
For decades, corporate training methods have always been evolving to meet both the changing needs of the workforce and the shifting dynamics of business and technology. The introduction of the internet into the workplace saw training move from printed materials in traditional classroom-based settings, to eLearning with computer-based Learning Management Systems (LMS) that could utilize quizzes, audio, graphics, and other multimedia mediums.
The proliferation of smartphones along with faster internet connections in the 2000s saw increased use of streaming video in training programs, as well as app-based learning programs that enabled users to take assessments or brush up on their skills on the go. This allowed for an increase in flexibility and scalability in training programs, giving learners the freedom to complete training at their own speed, on the devices of their choosing. But these new programs also offered more user data to program creators, the potential of which is only now being truly realized by AI-powered corporate learning.
Planning AI-powered, personalized corporate learning
It’s an oft-repeated maxim in employee development that no two learners are the same. Back in the days of classroom-based employee training programs, learners were expected to attend lengthy training sessions and absorb information as a group with little consideration given to their individual knowledge levels, specific learning styles, or aptitudes.
The advent of eLearning and Learning Management Systems (LMS) changed this, with personalized plans tailored to each participant's unique needs, delivered in flexible, accessible programs that could fit around employees' other commitments. Across different industries, personalization has been proven to work time and time again, eLearning Industry reports that personalized emails have 29% higher open rates, 41% higher click-through rates, and generate 6 times the revenue of non-personalized emails. Personalized learning is no different, employees are simply more receptive to content that’s targeted at them.
Until recently, however, personalizing learning programs was a long and laborious process, requiring course leaders to comb through the data and manually tailor their training to each individual. AI streamlines this process significantly, analyzing individual employee data, performance metrics, and skill gaps to create data-driven training programs with adjustable difficulty that respond to a learner’s strengths and weaknesses.
A good example of personalized learning in action is IBM’s Watson Education Classroom which uses Watson AI technology to assist teachers with tools that can help improve their performance and promote continuous learning. Watson analyzes students' academic, social, and behavioural interactions to help create customized content based on their skills, resulting in improved learning outcomes. It’s this ability to dynamically adapt to the strengths and weaknesses of the learner that makes AI-powered learning such an appealing prospect for learning managers across different sectors.
Adaptive assessments and dynamic feedback
AI-powered learning programs can leverage data-driven insights to create a better understanding of the unique needs and abilities of each learner. AI tools can track and monitor the progress and performance of employees, identifying strengths and weaknesses, and highlighting areas for improvement without the need for manual intervention. These programs can dynamically create new assessments with a level of challenge that’s tailored to the learner—if an employee is cruising through assessments with ease, it can ramp up the challenge, if they’re struggling, the difficulty can be dialled down.
A useful example of AI-powered learning in action is Duolingo which for many years has used an AI model called “Birdbrain” to make sure that users are always challenged at a level that matches their skill. The benefits of this, according to Duolingo, aren’t just limited to reducing user frustration; AI allows the team to spend less time building, maintaining and updating existing courses, and more time creating net-new content, exploring more advanced content and generally expanding their offering.
With this level of data at their fingertips, organizations can pinpoint learning gaps and adapt their approach to create learning plans based on personal or group performance. But perhaps more importantly, by enabling instant feedback and real-time progress, businesses can also dramatically improve employee engagement across their training programs.
Enhancing employee engagement in corporate training
As workplace distractions increase and attention spans shorten, it’s only natural that business leaders and HR managers find themselves in a battle for the attention of learners. The simplest solution is to deliver bite-sized training content that learners can consume at their own pace—a 2016 study by Software Advice backs this up, with 58% of employees surveyed reporting that they would be more likely to use their company’s online learning tools if content was broken up into multiple, shorter lessons.
But there is another tool in the L&D manager’s toolkit to increase engagement and combat the fragmented attention spans of the modern worker, and it’s one that taps into the enormous potential of AI— gamification.
First coined by game designer Nick Pelling when he was asked to create a video game-inspired interface for an ATM, gamification refers to the process of adding game-like elements into a task or process to encourage participation. These elements might be something as simple as a points system and a leaderboard, or could extend as far as creating game-like “feedback loops” or the kinds of progression systems usually found in role-playing games. One of gamification’s biggest strengths is taking tasks that might be considered tedious and repetitive, and making them compelling through feedback and rewards, turning something as mundane as compliance training into a game in its own right.
These days, you can find examples of gamification everywhere. Apps like Nike+, Strava, and Peloton all utilize gamification to help build positive habits around running, cycling, and working out with badges, leaderboards, and optional challenges to give users an added impetus to lace up their running shoes or hop on a bike. Brands such as Starbucks, Sephora, and Delta Airlines have all adopted gamified customer loyalty programs to nudge consumers towards repeat visits.
Gamification in the corporate training sector makes sense. People often talk of “levelling up their skills” in a particular area, but beyond the badges and high scores, gamification can be a powerful tool to make sure your learning plan gains purchase with your workforce. A 2017 study of nurses participating in an orientation exercise found that gamifying the learning experience improved knowledge retention by up to 40%.1 Another report from Academy to Innovate HR found that 83% of employees reported feeling more motivated to learn when their training was gamified.
As you might expect, gamification thrives on user data to fine-tune experiences, and this is another area where AI has the potential to supercharge the learning journey. AI algorithms can quickly parse large volumes of data to deliver more dynamic, engaging learning programs that adapt to the user’s performance and deliver feedback and rewards at just the right intervals to keep users motivated. Learn more about how Absorb can help teams like yours engage learners with gamification.
Challenges and considerations
For all the promise of AI-based training programs, there are still many challenges that need to be tackled in order to ensure a safe, rewarding experience for all participants, chief among them is the ethical use of data. Because AI systems require large amounts of employee data to deliver a dynamic, personalized experience, data security and privacy are of the utmost importance. Training providers need to ensure that data is encrypted, properly stored and regularly audited, and they also need to be careful only to collect necessary data for the purpose of the course—that means no personal data from employees, and where personal data is required, this must be anonymized or pseudonymized to reduce the risk of re-identification.
Aside from data concerns, there are other considerations when deploying AI training programs as employees’ resistance to AI and the risk of bias in AI algorithms. Another potential consideration is SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) compliance. SCORM is a technical eLearning standard by the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) initiative created to help learning management systems read, understand, and interact with online courses more effectively. The SCORM model allows learning and development professionals to scale course design investments while ensuring interoperability across different devices and programs. As such, it’s important that AI-powered training programs create content that is compatible with the SCORM model.
Though AI may often seem like a magic bullet for corporate training, there’s still a great deal of work that needs to be done to ensure that the AI-powered tools we employ perform to the required standards.
The future of AI in corporate training
As AI continues to develop at a rapid pace, we can expect the quality of our experiences to improve dramatically in the coming years. In much the same way that Spotify’s recommendation algorithm has been enhanced over time, personalized experiences and content recommendations will become more accurate, increasing engagement among users with tailor-made learning journeys that adapt to their needs.
We can also expect interactions with AI programs to become more natural. Natural language processing (NLP) and sentiment analysis will improve AI's ability to understand and respond to emotions and queries, creating more human-like training interactions with chatbots and virtual assistants. The rise of VR and AR will also enable more immersive, engaging learning experiences that, coupled with the advances in NLP, could give learners the opportunity to practice skills safely in virtual environments.
But by far one of the most important ways that AI can impact corporate training is by creating a future-proof workforce. A tight labor market has led to an increase in job hopping, with over 22% of workers ages 20 and older spending a year or less at their jobs in 2022 according to Forbes. With the average cost of replacing an entry-level employee estimated by Simply Benefits to be around 30-50% of their annual salary, employee retention has never been more important for businesses, and one of the most reliable ways to hold onto employees is to provide opportunities for learning and career development. In fact, online recruitment company Zippia found that businesses with strong learning cultures have an increased retention rate of 30-50%.
The challenge for training providers is to deliver relevant learning opportunities that allow employees to grow continuously throughout their careers. As AI and automation look poised to reshape the workplace, helping employees to reskill and stay relevant could be a potential way of creating a more stable job market, as well as an adaptable, agile workforce.
Across different sectors, businesses are facing a skills shortage as well as a struggle to retain employees. AI has emerged as a way to offer personalized learning and development programs at scale, something that up until recently, wasn’t possible. Through smart use of data analytics and gamification, training providers can identify strengths and weaknesses in their workforce and then design tailor-made plans that address skill and knowledge gaps while keeping employees engaged and motivated throughout. AI allows organizations to do this more quickly and efficiently than ever before.
While AI is frequently criticized as a tool for replacing human workers, many see it as a way of making our working lives happier and more fulfilling. With AI handling rote, monotonous tasks, employees could be free to concentrate on tasks that require the skills that no algorithm can truly replace, things like creativity, problem-solving, and emotional intelligence.
If you’re ready to unlock the potential of AI in corporate learning, Absorb LMS is here to help you build a future-ready workforce. With AI-powered insights, dynamic feedback, and data-driven personalization, we can provide your business with the tools you need to empower your team and build a thriving learning culture in your organization. Get in touch with our expert team to find out how Absorb LMS can transform your training programs, improve employee retention, and pave the way for a happier, more productive workforce.