Survey shows ‘disconnect’ of reskilling in the face of AI and automation

Nearly a third (32%) of learning and development leaders have admitted to having concerns about whether their current offering is adequate to address the potential skills gap caused by technology

By contrast, 59% of employees don’t believe or are unsure whether the training opportunities provided by their workplace, such as soft skills, can meet the challenges of AI and automation.

This is according to a survey of 500 L&D leaders and 500 UK employees from technology company D2L.

For Alan Hiddleston, director of corporate sales EMEA at D2L, the findings show a “disconnect” between how the two parties currently see the situation around reskilling to prepare for future workplace developments.

He said: “Although many L&D professionals are changing their programmes to address shifting requirements, this research suggests they are doing so without the requisite staff consultation.

“Half of the employees questioned had been negatively impacted because of a lack of training, and almost 90% agreed that the quality of an organisation’s L&D offering impacts their decision on whether or not to work there.

“As such, this disconnect could lead to turbulence in how employees engage with their training, poorer reskilling outcomes and employee discontent.”

Of the L&D professionals asked, 74% said they believe the rise of automation and AI is having a serious effect on their workforce. As a result, 59% said they have adapted their L&D programmes to suit.

A further 57% also said they had changed their offering to make training available to a larger number of employees.

In findings pertinent to the current situation 48% of L&D leaders said they had invested in technology to change the way training is delivered, this is including the adoption of more collaborative tools.

Such an update is critical to make sure that employee skills and potential for career progression don't fall by the wayside due to lockdown or a shift to more remote working.

“In the context of COVID-19, it has proven that life-long learning is essential and upskilling staff is key to future-proofing an organisation,” Hiddleston told HR magazine.

“I would like to think corporate learning and development will become more collaborative and interactive, and organisations will be using a whole host of synchronous and asynchronous collaboration tools to improve the learning experience.

“Online learning materials will mean employees can study and continue to work remotely – which may become the new norm.

“L&D will become more mobile, the workplace more ephemeral.”

To better align L&D leaders with employees' perspective on skills Hiddleston called for more multi-departmental collaboration.

He said: “As these findings suggest, employees, senior leadership and HR need to work in tandem when designing learning pathways in order to address the skills gap and future learning concerns – from all their perspectives.

“Most importantly, establishing a continuous learning culture is key – however, HR needs to take the lead. The future economy will not only be about developing skills, but ultimately, about changing attitudes, culture and behaviour.

“Employees will have to accept that they need to change and adapt to the current environment, one that inevitability keeps on changing. Reskilling will be a constant feature of their entire working lives.”

Data for this survey was collected by Censuswide on behalf of D2L and collectas the views of 500 L&D leaders and 500 employees in the UK. The survey was held between 24 January and 3 February 2020.

Further reading:

Employment and skills recovery package needed to boost job market, AELP says

Digital transformation is top skills issue

Addressing the global skills crisis