“As we contemplate the concept of winning from within (the organisation), the focus inevitably shifts to skills transformation. In this landscape of constant evolution, artificial intelligence emerges as a significant disruptor, hastening the pace of transformation.” said Orla Daly, Chief Information Officer, Skillsoft, kickstarting a keynote session on ‘AI-volution of Learning: Empower your Business with Skills Transformation’ at People Matters L&D India Conference 2023.
Shedding light on the factors, Orla said, “The imperative becomes ensuring that we possess the requisite skills to navigate the current landscape and deliver the desired business outcomes. Simultaneously, we must actively engage in the cultivation of talent, envisioning the skills essential for the future. This becomes particularly challenging given the uncertainty of what lies ahead. In my role as the CIO, I am tasked with addressing the immediate technical skills demands, all the while acknowledging the complexity of anticipating the technical skills landscape two or five years down the line.”
How rapidly is AI for learning being adopted worldwide?
In a recent study conducted by the World Economic Forum, it was revealed that 85% of companies have expressed their intention to invest in the adoption of new frontier technologies within the next five years. Additionally, 44% of these companies acknowledged that the core skills of 44% of workers will transform in the coming five years.
This implies that nearly half of the skills deemed essential today may be significantly impacted or potentially rendered irrelevant within the next five years. In light of this, it is unsurprising that skills transformation has emerged as a prominent theme. The reason is that many of the skills required in the next five years might not even exist at present.
Skills Transformation: A need of the hour
When contemplating AI and how to capitalize on its potential, we find ourselves faced with skills that are either not yet developed or rapidly evolving. Consequently, in the realm of talent and talent development, our approach must differ from the past. Orla added, “In a recent survey, 98% of executives underscored the necessity of transitioning towards a skill-based organization—a sentiment echoed in sessions earlier today. This theme resonates across enterprises, with a considerable portion experimenting, though the actual transition remains a milestone achieved by only a small number of companies.”
She explained the concept of a skills-based organization with two key factors -
- Firstly, there's the rapid pace at which skills evolve. The current half-life of a job skill is approximately five years, indicating that every five years, a skill is about half as valuable as before. In the context of technical skills, this half-life shortens to two and a half years. Looking ahead and considering the skills needed in this rapidly changing environment, while technical skills remain crucial, the fastest-growing skills are cognitive skills. This underscores the necessity for companies to tackle complex business problems and harness technological innovation.
- Interestingly, the second most rapidly growing skill projected to be crucial for 2025 is learning agility—embracing active learning and learning strategies—a reassuring prospect for everyone here. With this in mind, we consider how to transform our organizations ultimately to adopt a skills-based approach. Even our previous presenter likely made a successful transition to entrepreneurship by leveraging the skills he could bring forward.
Furthermore, she shared the strategies for skills transformation within her organisation saying, “At Skillsoft, we categorize skills, irrespective of the topic or transformation goal, into three main areas -
- Firstly, there's technology, ensuring team members understand technology enough to capitalize on ongoing innovation. Approximately 75% of companies, among the 85% mentioned earlier, plan investments in AI, cloud, and data over the next five years. Technology skills and the need for those skills are not diminishing anytime soon.
- Secondly, we think about leadership—how to lead in times of rapid change, motivate teams, and foster a culture of innovation.
- Lastly, there's risk management. Considering new technology and AI, we must address cybersecurity, data privacy, and other risk factors.
As we navigate skills transformation, the goal is to bring together these three areas, building a comprehensive portfolio that encompasses leadership and business topics, risk management, and technology.”
Aligning Learning and Business Strategies
“When considering technology, we reflect on the increasing convergence of business and technology lines. It goes beyond technology solely for technical goals; it extends to providing technology resources for our business team members, highlighted Orla. Adding, “In the realm of data analytics, as we push towards data-driven decision-making, ensuring that all team members possess the requisite skills for success becomes paramount.”
In the face of this rapid pace of change, we recognize the imperative to transition into a skills-based organization. With a portfolio boasting hundreds of skills, the challenge lies in integrating these skills cohesively to propel the organization towards success and achieve the necessary business outcomes. She emphasized, “This is where our approach involves creating role-based groupings and learning programs. Considering your talent and the skills essential for success in this transformative period, varying levels of competency are required across different roles and skills. Some areas may necessitate a certain level of literacy, while others demand mastery. The challenge lies in making this learning process compelling and engaging.”
AI evolution of Learning - How to make it more effective?
The recent developments have unveiled the potential of AI in generating an interactive learning experience that is more engaging and compelling for learners. Orla shared, “One notable area we've explored is the interactive coaching aspect. In line with our commitment to engaging learners and providing real-time feedback, Skillsoft has recently launched the KC simulator, where KC stands for Conversation AI-Simulator. This tool transforms the learning experience for our team members, offering a chance to practice real-life conversations in a safe environment. Through role-playing scenarios such as dealing with an IRA customer or addressing an employee performance concern, users can interact with KC and receive instant feedback on their conversation handling, along with suggestions for improvement. It's yet another avenue for delivering real-time learning in an interactive format.”
Having discussed the diverse skills needed and the various learning modalities available, the question arises: how do we integrate all of this effectively? She explained, “A potent approach we advocate, more robust than a typical learning journey, is what we term the Capability Academy. This framework allows individuals to assess different roles within an organization, consider the tools at their disposal, and effectively leverage them. For instance, a frontline manager can become adept at and deliver competency around AI. However, this methodology is adaptable to any transformation initiative. It offers opportunities for online learning, self-paced learning, instructor-led learning, and cohort-based learning, providing a platform for team members to learn collaboratively. All of these are bolstered by coaching to ensure that learning is not only absorbed but also applied and sustained. Given the continuous evolution of skills transformation, what is learned today may become 50% irrelevant in five years.”
Practical insights of this approach
Orla explained, “Delving further into the practical aspect, many might wonder how to implement these concepts and bring them back to an organization to ensure investment in the right skills for delivering desired business outcomes.
- Motivating team members to learn is most effective when it's tied back to their roles and relevance. This is evident in our digital IT organization's efforts to upskill and reskill team members. The starting point is benchmarking to understand the existing talent level, crucial on both organizational and individual levels.
- Online learning, self-paced learning, cohort participation, hands-on application, and interactive labs are recommended, particularly for digital IT team members.
- The inclusion of generative AI simulators for practising conversations adds another layer to the interactive and engaging learning experience.
- Finally, the importance of coaching is emphasized, ensuring that the learning journey is not just a short-term program but a sustainable and ongoing process. Developing learning agility becomes a key aspect, ensuring the ability to continue learning for the future.”
Conclusion: Skills transformation is fundamentally about aligning learners' needs with business objectives. The next step involves shaping programmes to ensure comprehensive visibility across the organization regarding the existing skills, and then strategically developing them under future business needs. Throughout this process, measurement plays a pivotal role, as does recognition. Team members, if inclined, can earn credentials to showcase their achievements. All of this needs to be underpinned by a flexible framework that enables continuous evolution. This is particularly important as we strive to keep pace with the daily influx of new developments in the dynamic landscape.