Organizations need to invest today in tomorrow’s workforce. As the pace of technological change continues to accelerate, companies of all sizes will need even more technical talent to remain competitive.

Right now, according to CGS research, only 38% of employees are confident in their workplace skill set. At the same time, a recent McKinsey survey found that nearly 9 in 10 executives and managers say their organizations either face skill gaps already or expect gaps to develop within the next five years. Especially as the capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI) grows, there will be more pressure on organizations to upskill their workforces and provide technical training that will equip internal teams with the know-how they need to navigate the future.

Organizations and their people must figure out how to adapt, both quickly and long term, using technical upskilling and reskilling as an overall learning and development (L&D) strategy that includes soft skills training and strong professional network building. In this article we’ll review four tips for technical training in today’s world of work.

Tip 1: Harness generative AI for personalized learning pathways.

It’s the topic on everyone’s minds — and for good reason. Even Bill Gates likens the rise of AI to the advent of the personal computer. When properly implemented, generative AI can have massive potential for technical training.

One way to do this is by deploying customized large language models for highly dynamic and tailored training. It starts by training your company’s model by feeding it manuals, documentation and any other company knowledge. Basically, the goal is to turn the AI into a company expert so that learners can consult it during training. These differ from chatbots, which only provide proprietary information.

In this way, the model can become a single source of truth for a specific domain. Learners can then ask it questions and practice scenarios, such as conflict resolution, in natural language and receive answers, coaching and feedback in a safe place, in real time. It’s faster, easier, more engaging and more effective than having to manually find the information they need.

Tip 2: Embrace the chaos.

L&D is no longer a structured, linear journey that takes learners step-by-step through a well-defined curriculum. Often the goal is to provide experiential training at the time of need, whether that is during the first week of onboarding or on demand when an employee requires a refresher on a particular task or skill.  Even before AI, the internet and social media platforms changed how we approach knowledge gathering and sharing.

Today’s learners want to follow their intuition and interact with learning ecosystems that adapt to their needs. For our part, that means making courses less rigid and giving learners more agency over what, when and how they learn.

Tip 3: Use immersive technology.

There’s no substitute for hands-on experience. Diving in, experimenting, practicing and building that muscle memory is much more effective than traditional methods like lectures, textbooks, manuals or multiple-choice exams.

Today’s L&D departments need to prioritize engagement for technical training. One way to do so is by leveraging immersive technologies like augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR). For instance, imagine a health care company or nonprofit that uses VR to train their employees in technical procedures. Not only can immersive technology shorten the overall training time and improve recall, but it also can significantly reduce the overall cost per learner.

There are so many technical skills that immersive learning can help with. It’s ideal for anything from operating heavy machinery to ergonomically designing a plant to using medical equipment in surgeries. For instance, immersive technology can help teach floor operators how to use a robot, how to service a control panel or how to interact with a human-machine interface in a safe, low-risk environment.

Tip 4: Cool doesn’t always mean good.

Two years ago, people were asking us about the metaverse and mixed reality. They wanted to do something cool. Today, companies need employees trained with the least disruption as possible, so they aren’t pulled away from work too long. Many organizations are much more focused on the desired results and employee performance.

Enterprise technology investments aren’t about stopping to marvel at a new shiny thing. It’s about taking the shortest path to get the best results.

Build out that proof of concept. Run that pilot program. Define what success means to your organization, then start collecting data that shows how well your initiatives can deliver those results. From there, it’s all about iteration and scaling.

Take the First Step

We have to start somewhere. With so many disruptive technologies hitting the market at the same time, it can be hard for enterprises to keep up. We all understand that adapting is necessary for remaining competitive, but knowing where, when and how much to invest can be tricky.

That’s why we recommend just taking that first step and moving forward from there. You don’t need to roll out immersive learning, AI or any other technology across your entire workforce on day one. Instead, you can look for a department or team that could get the most value from the technology. Then you can start taking measurements, build out the business case and look for other opportunities.

Specifically, when it comes to L&D, enterprises need to take a proactive approach. Today’s learners are tomorrow’s workforce. By staying ahead of the curve, you can position your company as an industry leader and give your employees a path to career growth and success.