Why technology is a double-edged sword for training

by Brett Henebery18 Jul 2017
We are currently living through the early stages of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – an age in which traditional models of training, learning and working are being upended.

Forward-thinking organisations identified the trends leading up to these major shifts and implemented training programs that focused on building 21st century skills such as digital literacy, creativity and problem-solving.

However many organisations are struggling to catch up and prepare their workforce for the changes ahead.

According to the Future of Work Community, the most ‘at-risk’ industries of automation are health care, manufacturing, transportation, customer service and finance.

The forecast that one-in-six Australian jobs will be automated by 2030, presents a major challenge for the Australian organisations – and the CEO’s driving them – as any other.

And a significant part of this is to do with managers’ priorities.

A major global study by Korn Ferry has made the startling discovery that the majority of CEOs place more value on their organisation's technology and tangible assets than on their workforce.

According to the research, 63% of CEOs believed that in five years, technology would be their business's greatest strength in terms of gaining a competitive advantage.

So where does this leave the employee?

Daniel Serfaty, founder of the human-centred engineering firm Aptima and a pioneer in simulation science, agrees that while employees are right to be concerned about automation and AI, they should also be mindful of the opportunities they can offer.

“Eventually, AI will enable everyone to have a personal learning partner to enhance on-the-job performance,” he said.

“The ability to tailor individual training to the individual is the next great step in the evolution of training technology”.

To enhance personalised learning, some organisations are using machine learning (otherwise known as ‘deep learning’) to get a more precise look at employee learning habits and outcomes. In turn, this helps to deliver targeted training.

However, other organisations are turning to augmented reality for a more collective training approach. This technology allows employees to undertake various kinds of training – from customer service to heavy machinery – in a safe environment and without them needing to go off-site and complete lengthy training modules.

A recent study revealed that that 91% of L&D professionals are planning to use VR for learning in their organisation, with more than a third planning to roll out VR over the following three years.

A whopping 95% of respondents said they see VR as being useful for enhancing L&D, while just 8% feel VR is ‘just hype’. Further, 81% think it has ‘real potential’ for learning, and another 11% are calling VR the ‘next big thing’.

So while technology is playing a role in automation, it is nonetheless continuing to open new doors in the context of training and employee development.

Lisa Morris, Senior Regional Director for Hays Human Resources, told L&D Professional that this illustrates the need for organisations to provide these skills, and in doing so, address the dual issues of under-skilling and potential loss of talent.

“Employees need to do this in order to continue to perform their job successfully today and tomorrow, and they want to work for an employer that offers them opportunity to do so,” she said.

“Employers should therefore embrace innovation, provide opportunities for their staff to learn on-the-job and keep up-to-date with the latest trends, particularly around new technology and tools.”

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