Across the business landscape, companies are gearing up for the artificial intelligence (AI) transformation of how work is done and by whom – or, increasingly, by what.
In recent years, the prospect of AI and increased automation has raised fears about massive job losses as machines replace humans, not only in manufacturing but also in surprising areas such as accounting and law. More recently, however, the focus is shifting to an AI-enabled workforce in which many humans aren’t replaced but, rather, will see dramatic changes in their jobs. To be prepared, these workers need advanced skills to keep up with the technology that’s meant to augment them.
It’s already happening as leading businesses deploy AI to improve productivity and realize efficiencies. To maximize the potential of these new technologies, humans and machines must collaborate. This reality raises the stakes for training and development to ensure employees have the right knowledge and skills to meet the demands of the digital age.
While specific skill development varies from job to job, overall, the AI-ready workforce will need 21st-century skills like communication, creativity, collaboration and critical thinking. These “four Cs” are essential for staying relevant, especially since humans are particularly gifted in these areas and retain an edge over computers, at least for the foreseeable future.
Knowledge and skills are two of the four dimensions of education and learning defined by Charles Fadel, founder of the Center for Curriculum Redesign. The third dimension is character; in the case of the AI-enabled workforce, characteristics such as perseverance and grit will be essential given the accelerating pace and broadening scope of change. The fourth component is meta-learning, which is composed of two parts: metacognition (or “thinking about thinking”) and having a growth mindset that promotes lifelong learning and career advancement.
Employee success comes down to becoming better communicators and critical thinkers, being highly engaged learners, and having more resilience. The question, then, is how to help them do so. In an Accenture survey, nearly half (46 percent) of U.S. business leaders identified skill shortages as a key challenge, but only 8 percent said their organization was planning significant increases in training investment in the next three years. On the surface, these percentages don’t bode well for quickly and efficiently upgrading skills across the workforce.
At the same time, more than half (57 percent) of employees surveyed reported having a positive attitude toward AI and saw themselves as having high skills and a strong willingness to learn. That’s good news: Employees’ willingness to learn, along with the sheer scope of the AI skills challenge, will strongly encourage employers to look at the reality of training and development, especially given the outlook for emerging technologies – such as computer vision, deep learning, natural language generation, blockchain and quantum computers – to increasingly drive new business models.
AI-Enabled Learning for an AI-Enabled Workforce
Acquiring the advanced skills and knowledge sufficient for the AI-enabled workplace requires an equally advanced approach to education and training. Traditional classrooms and e-learning were better suited to the Second and Third Industrial Revolutions. But the Fourth Industrial Revolution, characterized by advanced technology, needs mass education with a highly personalized approach.
One-on-one tutoring is effective for personalized learning but highly impractical and cost-prohibitive at scale. Using advanced adaptive learning technology to replicate that tutoring experience, though, is both possible and cost-effective at scale. Advanced adaptive learning technology, specifically using a biological approach that matches how the brain learns, uses AI to adapt to the needs and skill levels of each learner. Focusing only on what people need to learn, and skipping what they’ve already mastered, can cut training time in half while boosting knowledge and skill acquisition and building self-awareness.
Whether they’re fully replaced by machines and must be “retooled” for other functions, or their jobs are being AI-augmented, employees today must remain relevant. That means expanding their knowledge, upgrading their skills, and improving their competence and confidence. It’s a tall order, but we must vigorously pursue it with AI-enabled learning if we are to have any hope of developing a workforce that’s ready to make the most of this giant leap forward in innovation.