Will L&D be replaced by a chatbot soon?
Most of us in Learning & Development field battle with technology every day and the role it should (ideally) play in our lives as HR professionals and even more so in the lives of our employees.
Many solutions exist in the market and we are often tempted by the idea that a ‘Big Bright Technology Enabled Future’ will bring answers to all issues. But the reality is – it probably will not.
Technology will solve our problem of energy-draining automated tasks that can easily be ‘taught’ to and outsourced to a machine (just the way we did decades ago on the manufacturing lines). But it will not be the silver bullet that solves all our L&D issues.
As the field of corporate knowledge becomes increasingly fragmented, technology is a welcome ingredient of simplifying tasks like identifying the right content, tracking the learner’s consumption or facilitating connections within peer groups or reaching out to experts. Many of us are using LMS platforms that are doing most of the above with the varying degrees of quality.
However, we cannot outsource the organizational engagement bits – cultivating learning skills and inspiring motivation to learn. Recent research reports say we are dealing with an overwhelmed learner. Battling daily demands of an ever-changing world, an average employee today has less than 1 percent of mind-space available to dedicate to higher consciousness activities such as learning. Our learner probably has just enough time to browse for that simple tip on how to deal with a specific problem in hand — just-in-time, now and fast. If the attempt of finding an answer looks more cumbersome or time-consuming, it will go on to-do list, but not always being attended to. Days of lengthy training sessions are gone. No one has the capacity or patience.
And while learning professionals will argue that the process of obtaining and memorizing new information has not changed regardless of the dynamic environment we live in today, there are two clear trends which are emerging:
- A need for micro-learning (short content available on demand to find an answer to a specific problem); and
- New learning skills — the ability to prioritize, detach from everything demanding for our attention and the focus to build skills more strategically.
The former could be supported with technology — a hyper-effective knowledge management system that archives and retrieves all the content you have within your organization; and serves as an advisor on how to navigate the database and where to find the experts. I can help even with everyday tasks like finding that 1-page document on influencing styles or getting a seat on the next leadership classroom training. Chatbots are becoming increasingly popular as messaging services are taking over social media apps in markets across the globe. To build and train a bot is no longer science fiction as the price is affordable and not just an exclusive right of big corporations. But will this meet all the needs of our learners?
This situation is like giving a new toy to a child — you might think it is cutting-edge in the toys industry, but the little one might not share your enthusiasm and will probably still ask for your attention once the initial infatuation fades away.
Digital learning tools should free up time of L&D professionals so that they can invest it in more strategic tasks and focus their energy on better understanding of the both learners’ and the business needs. With advancement in technology, L&D professionals have a make-over task ahead of them and will need to learn some new skills. As more parts of our work become replaceable by technology solutions, our businesses will expect us to be more involved in the changing dynamics — to be able to better diagnose the capability needs and direct learners to the right solution in a sea of options.
The conclusion is quite simple — no matter what investment you are planning for your next L&D technology solution, ensure that you have thought through the organizational engagement plan and one for honing your own skills.
How will you communicate the benefits of the solution to your employees and why should they engage with it? Is it indispensable enough to deserve space on their smartphone home screens? How will their day-to-today work become better, simpler and of higher quality because of this solution? Are you creating a meaningful experience for the learner?
If your answers to these questions predict just marginal improvement (or increasing complexity), you are better off not investing.