February 15, 2024

Learning and Development meets AI and Machine Learning

This is the third part of our "Learning and Development 2024" series. Here we look at corporate learning in relation to AI and machine learning.


In the third part of our "Learning and Development 2024" series, we look at corporate learning in relation to AI and machine learning. Our series looks at learning and development (L&D), self-directed learning, blended learning and learning development - in other words, the entire spectrum of a learning culture. We examine the opportunities and possibilities that the topic brings to address the skills shortage and skills gaps and the importance of employee engagement, employee wellbeing, corporate culture and employer branding.

Key AI/ML Skills and Roles for Corporates

Artificial intelligence and machine learning (ML) are accelerating business transformation, which is both good and challenging. To adapt to this change and utilise the new technologies effectively, companies unsurprisingly need talent with the right AI/ML skills. While there is no set pattern, certain skills and roles are particularly in demand.

Data science continues to be one of the most sought-after skills. Data scientists analyse large amounts of data, create ML models and derive insights from them. They need to be well versed in statistics, algorithms and programming languages such as Python and R. Deep learning engineering is another important task that focuses on the development of neural networks and models using frameworks such as TensorFlow.

Once AI solutions are deployed, IT programme managers must oversee the various phases from model creation to deployment and monitoring. They bridge the gap between data scientist and business user. UX designers continue to play an important role in designing user interfaces for AI/ML products and services, which must be intuitive for customers and employees.

As more and more decision-making processes are controlled by algorithms, the need for AI ethics experts is also increasing. They help formulate policies to address risks related to privacy, bias, security and more. As AI systems interact more and more with humans, human-computer interaction (HCI) skills will also be key.

To ensure companies can truly benefit from AI, there is an increasing focus on 'AI-enabled' jobs in AI assistance or AI marketing analysis, where AI tools can be seamlessly integrated into their work. Soft skills such as communication, collaboration and creativity remain central to all AI jobs of the future.

In the coming years, this mix of technical and operational skills will be essential for professionals and companies looking to compete with advanced technologies. Continuous adaptation will become the norm.

Internal Reskilling and Upskilling for AI Adoption

New AI/ML roles are emerging – companies therefore need strategies to close emerging skills gaps from within in order to avoid further exacerbating the skills shortage. This can be achieved through L&D in the form of advanced training for current employees. To do this, companies must first identify the occupational groups that will be affected by AI and the new skills requirements.

The training programmes should be tailored to the wishes, preferences or skills of the employees. Traditional learning methods give way to immersive bootcamps and hackathons to gain hands-on experience.

Competency frameworks that map skills at each step of the AI career ladder help to design learning journeys. Micro-courses and small modules spread over months are more effective than one-off events. Formats such as flipped classroom or inverted classroom combined with projects and mentoring ensure ownership.

Reskilling must be recognized as a long-term commitment rather than a one-off exercise. Support for experimentation and skill application in live projects keeps motivation high. Leading companies also promote internal job rotations and secondments to stay future-ready.

In addition, professionals in related, non-technical fields need to acquire basic skills by learning to converse with data scientists and use AI tools in limited use cases. A combined approach that includes technical, business and soft skills will ensure a future-proof workforce.

Internal talent pools can also be effectively converted to AI roles with the right strategies, saving costs while preserving institutional memory. Loss of expertise is a problem in German companies. Future-proofing knowledge management is integrated into the business model through internal training.

Evolving Role of L&D in AI/ML Learning Journeys

To ensure retraining is successful, HR development itself must evolve into a strategic enabler of AI transformation. So traditional training needs to be refreshed to focus on the skills of the future. L&D professionals need to have in-depth knowledge of technical and business areas to effectively retrain employees.

They need to take on the role of coaches and counsellors, going beyond the role of 'traditional' training. Regular skills audits and consultation with senior management will help plan the appropriate journey. Strategic links with academic institutions and start-ups expand the skills ecosystem.

As technology outpaces curriculum, the ability to conceptualise, design and deliver continuous learning 'just in time' becomes almost invaluable. Self-study resources, PAL networks and mentoring support learning from formal programmes. The use of online platforms and especially gamification makes for an exciting experience. Certifications and digital badges as part of the gamification of L&D create additional motivation and strengthen engagement. This also includes analysing the improvement of skills to help refine approaches.

With a focus on culture change management, L&D can drive organisation-wide 'AI-readiness'. They promote a growth mindset to encourage risk-taking in new areas. Integration of 21st century capabilities like automation, analysis and collaboration in work and learning further strengthens talent.

In this dynamic environment, success lies in nurturing an intuitive understanding of technologies and business needs to architect holistic, future-centric journeys. This elevates L&D as the catalysts of digital transformation.

Learning Modalities and Methods for AI/ML

To effectively train professionals for AI, innovative learning methods are needed that are adapted to the dynamics of the technologies. A blended approach that combines multiple methods promotes memorisation. Let's take a look at some of these methods.

To teach basic knowledge, e-learning modules with short videos, infographics and micro-quizzes help to develop the fundamental concepts. Simulations and virtual labs allow hands-on experimentation in a safe environment. Peer learning circles led by professionals promote collaboration among colleagues.

Project-based learning, embedded in regular workflows, promotes the application of skills. Hackathons within a structured curriculum encourage innovative problem solving. Practice groups allow learners to draw on collective expertise.

Hands-on, immersive bootcamps promote deep skills through mentor-led tasks, hacks and problem solving. Interaction with AI practice opens up new perspectives and skills can be demonstrated through final projects.

Gamification in the form of scavenger hunts and leaderboards keeps motivation and energy levels up. Flipped classrooms, supported by discussion forums, optimise contact. Measuring impact, networking and additional support is supported by alumni communities. Credit points, which can be converted into formal qualifications, motivate continuous progress.  

The mix of self-learning and social components, application and especially feedback cater for different learning styles. This ensures that skills are developed holistically over time.

Measuring and Addressing Skill Gaps Over Time

Continuous evaluation and adaptation of retraining initiatives is essential to ensure they remain relevant in the face of tremendous technological advances. An accurate insight into skills gaps is crucial for the effective planning and implementation of learning programmes.

1. Assessment and Analysis

  • Regular Skills Assessments: Establishing a baseline to gauge the effectiveness of learning programs.
  • Employee Feedback: Utilising surveys and interviews to understand employee needs.
  • Learning Platform Analytics: Analysing usage and engagement to identify areas of improvement.
  • Benchmarking: Comparing skills with industry standards via external certifications.
  • Mapping Profiles to Job Descriptions: Identifying specific skill shortages related to job roles.
  • External Audits: Gaining fresh perspectives through specialist team evaluations.

2. Translating Data into Action

  • Curriculum Updates: Modifying existing modules or introducing new courses based on feedback.
  • Adjusting Reskilling Roadmaps: Incorporating additional support, such as refresher workshops.
  • Spot Reskilling: Implementing intensive, sprint-based programs for immediate skill needs.
  • Bridge Initiatives: Maintaining short-term talent supply through academia partnerships.
  • Global Skill Exchanges: Sharing best practices across different regions.

3. Continuous Monitoring and Adaptation

  • Monitoring Shifts: Regularly assessing changes in skill requirements to optimise investment.
  • Supporting Lifelong Learning: Fostering a culture of continuous learning for agility.
  • Future-proofing Skills: Ensuring readiness for technological changes through proactive reskilling.

By actively managing and adapting reskilling strategies, organisations can effectively close skill gaps, enhancing their competitive edge in a constantly changing technological environment.

Developing Soft Skills for AI Professionals  

While technical expertise is unquestionably important, the spotlight is increasingly on soft skills. As technology becomes more enmeshed in our everyday work processes, abilities such as communication, collaboration, and adaptability are stepping to the fore.

What's particularly notable is the heightened emphasis on developing these soft skills within reskilling programs. These programs are innovatively designed to bolster skills like clear communication, active listening, emotional intelligence, and cultural sensitivity. It's about enhancing human connections in a tech-driven environment.

Consider the impact of design thinking initiatives. They're revolutionising the way we approach problem-solving, marrying technical solutions with a deep understanding of human needs. Similarly, workshops focusing on storytelling and presentations are transforming the way technical concepts are communicated, making them more relatable and digestible.

Leadership and teamwork, especially within diverse and geographically dispersed teams, are receiving a renewed focus. Training in areas like facilitation, conflict resolution, and stakeholder management is becoming pivotal. Moreover, a keen awareness of biases and ethical considerations in AI application is now a cornerstone of responsible leadership.

There's also a growing trend towards fostering creative confidence. Encouraging experimentation and embracing failure as a learning opportunity are seen as vital for innovation. Coupled with this is the cultivation of strategic foresight, encouraging a mindset that's not just risk-aware but also ventures into new territories.

To stay ahead of the curve, a future-focused mindset is essential. This encompasses qualities like curiosity, adaptability, and systems thinking, especially crucial in navigating unforeseen disruptions. Continuous skill assessments and development plans are instrumental in pinpointing and addressing areas for growth.

As we progress into an era of more profound human-machine collaboration, it's clear that these soft skills will be instrumental in defining professional success. Cultivating these capabilities holistically prepares AI professionals not just for today’s challenges but for leading responsibly into the future.

Continuous Learning in Rapidly Changing Fields

For professionals in AI/ML fields characterised by exponential change, continuous development is essential. To remain relevant, skills must evolve in step with emerging trends. Certainly easier said than done.

Consider lifelong learning as the best strategy for this task. The key is to ensure that we are always prepared for what's next in the world of work. How do we do that? Remember to hold refresher training and mini boot camps every six to twelve months. These are not just any seminars, but customised seminars based on the latest tools and techniques. AI itself comes to our aid here.
And then there is the power of curated learning feeds. They are like a guiding beam that leads us to the most sought-after skills on learning platforms. Micro-credentials are also very useful and help us track our progress in different skills and frameworks.
The wonderful thing about cloud-enabled workspaces is that we can learn anytime, anywhere - whether we're commuting or grabbing a coffee. And let's not forget the value of mentoring circles. These are spaces where we can share ideas with internal and external experts.
Personalisation is another key. Personalised learning plans that take into account our role, our strengths, our weaknesses and even the way we learn best - that's the way forward. Keeping learning journals to reflect on our learning shows commitment. And when we get involved in special interest groups, we can dive deeper into our projects.
Incentives can also be a real motivator. Think paid holidays, scholarships or even promotion opportunities - all just to learn more. And when we have resources to try out new ideas, it's often amazing how we can apply what we've learnt.
By incorporating this culture of constant learning into our professional lives, we not only stay current, but we're ready for all the new challenges and opportunities that technology brings our way. It's a guarantee that we maintain our digital edge.

This is the third part of our "Learning and Development 2024" series. Here we look at corporate learning in relation to AI and machine learning.
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