Pandemic Resilience to AI Agility: Start with 3 L&D Fundamentals

Pandemic Resilience to AI Agility: Start with 3 L&D Fundamentals
Midjourney generated image using the prompt "a painting in the style of LeRoy Neiman of Michael Jordan practicing basketball with a robot"

Sound Learning & Development fundamentals may not be exciting but (as we explored in our last post) they improved organizational resilience during COVID-19. Sound L&D fundamentals will be necessary (but not sufficient) for L&D to help organizations and society shape and ride the coming AI wave. Without them, organizations are unlikely to make the most of the opportunities AI presents and help mitigate AI's unique challenges at the speed and scale needed. Instead, L&D organizations will be likely to deploy AI superficially and ineffectively that don't contribute to their L&D or organizational strategy.

In the same way that three key L&D fundamentals proved useful during COVID-19, a focus on these same L&D fundamentals can help keep us anchored as both AI disruptions and the availability of AI powered Learning Technology increase. At its core, sound L&D fundamentals means that the organization has:

  1. Established and Coherent L&D Strategy: Clear goals for L&D aligned to business needs
  2. A Robust & Integrated Learning Technology Toolbox: Tools & techniques to achieve the goals
  3. Data, Analytics, and Reporting Available & Used: Data flowing in to help chart progress and make adjustments

Get the Fundamentals Down

The following quote from L&D luminary Michael Jordan is helpful.

You can practice shooting eight hours a day, but if your technique is wrong, then all you become is very good at shooting the wrong way. Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.

Unfortunately, L&D teams often become "very good at shooting the wrong" way due a combination of unclear goals, poor tools & techniques, and/or lack of timely quality data to chart progress and make adjustments. Shooting the wrong way may slide by without much notice when the stakes are low but the stakes are likely to get very high indeed. Mastery of the fundamentals becomes necessary when the game gets more difficult, faster, and higher stakes. AI disruption is raising the stakes and the performance of L&D teams will be in the spotlight.

Everybody in the World is Now a Programmer

Consider the implications of the following quote from Nvidia Founder and CEO Jensen Huang at the World Governments Summit in Dubai in February 2024 (full video below) on your organization.

Over the course of the last 10 years 15 years almost everybody who sits on a stage like this would tell you it is vital that your children learn computer science everybody should learn how to program. And in fact it's almost exactly the opposite. It is our job to create computing technology such that nobody has to program and that the programming language is human. Everybody in the world is now a programmer. This is the miracle. This is the miracle of Artificial Intelligence.

As AI allows more people to perform tasks traditionally done by programmers, it will disrupt not only the jobs of programmers themselves, who are often among the highest-paid knowledge workers, but also the roles of non-programmers and their leadership across many industries. How will L&D help ensure employees have the skills they need to make effective and ethical use of increasingly capable AI? How will learning professionals build the skills they need to leverage AI in changing workflows? If many people no longer have the skills needed for new or drastically different jobs, how will organizations reskill employees at scale?

L&D teams that are very good at creating static self-paced content that produce no evidence of skill improvement tied to the goals of the business are not well positioned to help organizations answer questions such as those above. However, when faced with problems due to AI disruption, organizations will need effective solutions wether they come from internal L&D teams or not. It makes sense to start with L&D fundamentals.

AI Agility from L&D Fundamentals

So, what can you do to "get the fundamentals down" and position you and your team well to navigate AI disruption?

  1. Established and Coherent L&D Strategy: Already at an organization with a well-defined and coherent L&D strategy that ensures employees are building the skills they'll need to achieve specific future business goals?
    1. Yes: Great! Please reach out to me directly because this is incredibly rare and I'd love to hear the story of how you got to this point. Time to stress test your L&D strategy to prepare for the future. For example, examine to what extent your current employee skills are likely to be disrupted by advances in AI, explore what it would take to enable your organization to upskill 2x, 5x, and 10x employees, look for ways to speed up employee skill development in preparations for skills having a shorter shelf life of relevancy.
    2. No: You're not alone, many organizations have work to do on this front. Establishing a coherent L&D strategy is a big lift but at its core is alignment between business goals, the skills employees will need to contribute to these goals, and a clear picture on L&D's role in building these specific skills. A barrier to a coherent L&D strategy can be the divide between L&D and organizational leadership. I'm excited for Will Thalheimer's upcoming book on addressing this barrier: The CEO’s Guide to Training, eLearning & Work: Empowering Learning for a Competitive Advantage. Don't interact with C-level folks regularly? Start where you are. Practice and model coherent and strategic L&D thinking for yourself or your team with a focus on deeply understanding a specific business problem with a related employee skill gap and determine if/how L&D can help address it in a way that generates evidence of true upskilling or reskilling.
  2. A Robust & Integrated Learning Technology Toolbox: Does your organization have the right learning technology stack and is it integrated with other key business systems such as your HRIS (Human Resources Information System), Knowledge Management tools, employee communication tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams, and Enterprise AI tools (e.g. OpenAI ChatGPT for Enterprise or Cohere's Coral)?
    1. Yes: Nice! Now, how can you prepare your learning technology ecosystem to adapt to future changes? This could involve improving the scalability and robustness of how data moves across your systems (e.g. moving from flat files to using APIs). Are there ways that you can simplify your ecosystem for both users and administrators? Can you surface learning experiences in non-learning systems that meet employees where they already are?
    2. No: Again, you're in good company with many organizations finding it difficult to not only procure robust learning technologies but also integrate them in a way that makes the most of their functionality. Examine your current learning tech stack and determine what steps will bring the most value for the least investment of time and money. Not all organizations need a complex learning tech stack and many who have them lack the capacity to make the most of them. Tools and technologies are only as useful as the strategies that guide their implementation. New learning tech solutions will fall flat without first defining the L&D objectives they are meant to support..
  3. Data, Analytics, and Reporting Available & Used: Is strategic and tactical L&D decision making data-driven?
    1. Yes: Wonderful, now get ready for more data, more options for how to use it, and more savvy stakeholders wanting to leverage L&D data. Data and AI are joined at the hip. AI capability growth is tied to the availability of massive quantities of data required for training AI models. While L&D and Learning Tech have traditionally operated in their own silos, the natural connections with other organizational functions (hiring, talent & performance management, knowledge management) will spur more data sharing to generate insights across the entire employee experience. What data in other business systems would be helpful to L&D? What data does L&D have that others in the business could leverage? What are the privacy and security issues that need to be addressed?
    2. No: Focus on where to get started. Take stock of what data your current learning systems are collecting and determine what data would be most insightful for L&D to obtain. Can you supplement current data through the use of regular employee surveys? Is there any way have data from your HRIS fed regularly into your learning systems? If not, are there other data sources worth exploring?


In conclusion, mastering L&D fundamentals is essential for organizations to navigate AI disruption successfully. Establishing a coherent L&D strategy aligned with business goals, leveraging an integrated learning technology toolbox, and making data-driven decisions are the cornerstones for building resilient and agile organizations. These fundamentals are not just about surviving the AI wave, but thriving in it.

By focusing on these key areas, organizations can proactively shape the future instead of merely reacting to changes. The path forward is challenging yet rife with opportunity. Embarking on this journey with a clear vision, empowered teams, enhanced strategies, and elevating L&D's impact is crucial in the era of AI. The stakes are high, and the time to solidify these fundamentals is now.

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