Emerging Technologies

What do workers need to learn to stay relevant in the age of AI? Chief learning officers explain

AI is having a significant effect on the learning function (and on learning leaders); Future of Jobs survey 2023

AI is having a significant effect on the learning function (and on learning leaders) and therefore we need to be paying attention and experimenting already. Image: WEF/iStockphoto

Aarushi Singhania
Specialist, Education, Skills and Learning, World Economic Forum
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This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • The Future of Jobs survey 2023 asked companies what skills workers will need in the next 5 years, and what will they spend on training for workers?
  • 2 rapidly rising skills on which companies plan to spend their training budget were AI and big data, and leadership and social influence.
  • We all need to understand what GenAI is, its potential and power, risks and challenges, and its impact on organization and learning function.

In the Future of Jobs survey 2023, we asked companies what skills workers will need in the next five years, and what will they be spending money on when training workers?

One skill has risen right to the top: teaching workers to exploit Artificial Intelligence and big data. Additionally, two skills jumped way up the rankings when businesses were asked about how they plan to spend their training budget in the future: AI and big data, and leadership and social influence.

These are the skills that businesses will prioritize when hiring over the next five years, suggesting that employees who are strategic in leveraging AI and big data and demonstrating exemplary leadership skills will be in demand.

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As skills are being disrupted at an unprecedented pace, businesses are designing and scaling up their training programmes, and formulating effective reskilling and upskilling strategies for technology skills to maximize business performance. Here, three Chief Learning Officers, Simon Brown at Novartis, Sophie Bonnaire Lafont at Nestlé, and Shannon Custard at Ingka Group, explain how they envision the impact of AI on learning and development (L&D) function, and its many use-cases across the pharmaceutical, retail and real economy sectors.

All three chief learning officers emphasize that Generative AI will have a significant impact on the way that business is conducted and the way work is done throughout organizations. Therefore, learning leaders must understand GenAI and the impact it will have on their organization and their functioning. In Simon Brown’s words: “If chief learning officers do not have a good understanding, then how can they effectively support the organization through the changes that will come? They need to have enough of an understanding of its power and potential, as well as the challenges and risks, so they can support the wider organization needs and to be able to apply it into their functions.”

What impact is AI having on learning and development (L&D) across industry?

Simon Brown: AI is having a significant effect on the learning function (and on learning leaders) and therefore we need to be paying attention and experimenting already. There are two main ways that GenAI will impact L&D: 1) putting a requirement on L&D to upskill the organization in AI; and 2) changing the way that people learn and the way that the L&D function produces and supports learning in the organization.

Shannon Custard: At IKEA Retail (Ingka Group) we believe in a human-centric approach empowered by technology in all we do, including L&D. We see that AI can enhance, personalize and better enable the learning experience for our co-workers. It can complement our learning efforts by supporting learning design, assessments, and skills. We also see that AI within L&D will impact two groups – internal L&D co-workers developing content and our co-workers (the end-users). For our internal L&D teams, AI will support improved design, development and a faster delivery of learning solutions. For our co-workers, it will enable an improved learning experience with the potential to deliver increased personalization, targeted recommendations and faster availability.

Sophie Bonnaire Lafont: AI’s role is to augment the work that the L&D functions do, to help with productivity, efficiency, and innovation by applying GenAI to the creation and curation of content, and ultimately leading by example for the entire organization. This is why we are embracing both Digital and AI from two angles: technical skillset, as well as mindset. At Nestle, the L&D function is partnering with the IT function to provide and disseminate several capability-building programs globally.

What are emerging use-cases of AI in L&D?

Simon Brown: There are already multiple opportunities for GenAI adoption and application in the field of L&D. We already see GenAI being adopted into existing or new learning tools, be it to support better and faster creation of learning content (Arist, EasyGenerator, Regis), the generation of video (through tools like Colossyan & Synthesia) and images, or through AI coach support for generic content catalogues (Coursera, Khan Academy).

Sophie Bonnaire Lafont: We are currently using AI in two different ways. First, for the L&D community, in learning content creation (e.g., videos), in content translation, within our skills-first initiatives, for automated tagging to learning content, and skills automated mapping to jobs. Second, for our end-users, for personalized L&D recommendations – learning solutions, temporary development missions (talent market place), matching with coaches or mentors, etc.

Shannon Custard: There are a growing number of use-cases around AI supporting skills development, learning design, curation and development of adaptive solutions from static content. While skills-tech is actively using GenAI to help map, assess and validate skills, this is something many organizations are looking to use in the future to support our co-workers’ skills development. Outside of the skills space, content curation remains a growing area. We often see within the L&D space that we create content repeatedly because we cannot find it, it is not categorized or tagged correctly, or because we feel new is better. The ability to use AI to support this process will ensure that L&D teams have visibility to the total landscape of their offer, before jumping into action. It will allow us to consult more with the business and focus on creating sustainable solutions for our organization, as well as our people.

How does L&D contribute to the development of GenAI skills for your workforce?

Sophie Bonnaire Lafont: First and foremost, we target employee support, in their efficiency, productivity and well-being – supporting them through upskilling programmes. Nestlé has for example developed specific learning modules around AI; one on “how to best prompt”, because today the importance is not to know everything but to be able to prompt. Together with Nestlé IT and Group Legal we aim to familiarize all employees with GenAI technology and to use it effectively and responsibly. We also identified other adjacent skills that are critical to develop along with AI to keep the human touch, such as critical and creative thinking, emotional and social skills, or skillset to stay curious and be a lifelong learner.


How is the World Economic Forum creating guardrails for Artificial Intelligence?

Together with training, Nestlé foresees its role in supporting employees in the change journey. Most employees are afraid or uncertain about the use of AI. Therefore, Nestlé sees an important role in helping the workforce with mindset change – we are building awareness and capabilities within the organization to help employees navigate uncertainty. Finally, we encourage the use of Nestlé’s values-led approach as we have defined specific governance, processes and guidelines around Nestlé’s AI ethics principles. Within these principles, employees feel safe and encouraged to “play” and “test and learn” with AI.

Shannon Custard: Within IKEA Retail, we have a large AI literacy movement underway. In fiscal year 2024, we also aim to provide AI literacy training to approximately 3,000 co-workers and 500 leaders across the business to demystify AI and plan to scale it up even more later after the pilot phase. This is focused on reskilling and upskilling people with AI and data knowledge, so they can better understand the benefits that AI can bring, as well as onboard them to IKEA Retail’s AI journey.

Simon Brown: L&D at Novartis is partnering with other key parties in the deployment of Generative AI across the organization (e.g., Strategy, IT, Risk, HR). Segmentation of the audience is important, as there are different needs for different audiences. Leaders may need an understanding of the strategic impact of Generative AI, and how it may change productivity or the future of products or markets. Others may need to understand Generative AI’s applicability for performing key tasks and driving efficiency, speed, and new value creation. Many may need to know how to get the most of new tools and rapidly evolving use in products such as Generative AI ‘co pilots’. Everyone will need to understand what Generative AI is, its potential to influence the future of work, and how to manage the risks associated with it.


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