Will AI make my job in L&D redundant?

Ahead of our May webinar, speaker Trish Uhl says businesses need to work with AI and not against it. Because it’s coming… 

With only 1 in 5 executives believing their incumbent team capable of developing talent to meet organisational needs, jobs in L&D are vulnerable to outsourcing and automation.

How is your job impacted?

It depends on the duties, responsibilities and deliverables expected from you in your current role.

Bottom line: As is the case across all industries and sectors, if your role is currently focused more on producing output (i.e. training materials) over outcomes (i.e. positive people impact or business results), then your job is at risk.


Organisational competitive advantage mandates getting this critical equation right; leveraging automation where available and highly skilled, results-oriented people talent where required. To stay competitive (indeed, to stay in business), executives must replace underperforming people producing limited or lacklustre results with technology.

Automation delivers on competitive advantage by offering high productivity at low cost. 

To stay competitive, executives must replace underperforming people producing limited or lacklustre results with technology.

How does what we do in L&D deliver on competitive advantage?

In some cases, we don’t.

It’s the same trend we saw with computerisation in the 90s that made working as a typist or in a fax department redundant; paying expensive human labour to perform those tasks no longer made sense with the availability of technology to be had at a fraction of the cost.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the next wave of automation technology forcing people to surrender repetitive, routine tasks and shift to more strategic contributions in value creation.

How do we in L&D stay relevant and contribute more strategic value?

I know it may sound cliché, but having this awareness, we should seek to ‘disrupt ourselves’ before outside forces serve to disrupt us. To do so, means each of us should actively take stock of the aspects of our jobs that are uniquely human (difficult for a machine to replace) and proactively identify parts of our jobs that will benefit from automation.

Content creation is one such area. How so?

As an example, consider what’s perhaps the most common question asked in training & development: ‘How long does it take to develop one hour of training?’

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) conducted a study in late 2017 to determine updated estimates. Clarification is necessary here; the research study was specific to how long (on average) it takes humans to design one hour of instruction. (We’ll get to how long it takes AI to do the same, by comparison, later in this article.)

Delivery method (i.e. elearning versus instructor-led) and degree of complexity are factors in these estimates. Accordingly ATD’s findings for elearning (according to level of complexity) are summarised in the table below:

Levels of elearning complexity are:

  1. Level 1: Passive; where the learner acts as a receiver of information.
  2. Level 2: Limited interactivity; learner offers simple responses to instructional cues.
  3. Level 3: Complex interactions requiring learner to make multiple and varied responses to cues.
  4. Level 4: Real-time interactions simulating life-like sets of complex cues and responses.

In this example, assume we’re developing elearning to address a multifaceted compliance issue, such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). We’ll select a level based on risk; what’s the consequence of workers not learning and applying what’s presented in the instruction?

GDPR is a complex topic!

We’ll select Level 3, assuming development of 60 hours of elearning featuring ‘effortful’ interactions and assessments requiring the learner to be actively engaged in the learning experience.

It doesn’t take a data science degree to do this maths:

Estimated Hours




130 hours * 60 hours = 7800 hours

7800 / 40 hours = 195 weeks

195 / 4 weeks = 48.75 months

48.75 / 12 = 4 years


Who has the luxury of four years to deploy training that’s needed now? We could accelerate by assigning a team of instructional designers and distributing the work. However, speed isn’t the only concern here.  There’s risk if the training is ineffective in inspiring people to understand, apply and adhere to GDPR requirements.

Speed and production of ‘box-ticked’ training are not enough to make this project successful. We need it fast, but the training also needs to be effective.

Enter Artificial Intelligence

AI-driven content creation solutions available today reduce the time it takes to develop retention-rich elearning materials from months to minutes. AI also produces instructional content at a fraction of the cost (typically 10-15% of average investment).

How does it work?

In our scenario, you could ‘feed’ the AI platform PDF files (as an example) issued straight from the regulatory authority and the AI semantic engine would analyse the PDF content, turning it into high-retention training (complete with interactivity and assessment), ready for cross-platform deployment (via browser and mobile device) within minutes.

AI isn’t limited to one type of media; it can ‘ingest’ a variety and combination of media, including video, audio, PowerPoint presentations, PDFs, word-processing documents, etc. to create even more robust learning experiences.

How do human L&D practitioners compete with that?

The maths is clear – we don’t. And we shouldn’t try. Instead, just like the typists and the fax department staff in the 90s, we should surrender mundane, routine tasks to automation and seek new ways for us to deliver strategic value in the modern ‘human + machine’ workplace environment.

Now is the time to step up and show executives, and the people we serve, that we are capable of developing talent to meet now and next organisational needs! What that looks like – how to develop your ‘super skills’ today for tomorrow’s uncertain and volatile job market – is part of the upcoming #TJwow Webinar scheduled for 15 May 2018.

Bring your questions and concerns and join us for what promises to be an enlightening and enlivening panel discussion!

Sign up for the 15 May #TJwow webinar for free here.


About the author

Trish Uhl is founder and CEO of Owl’s Ledge. Trish develops high performing L&D teams and individuals by helping them to build analytical capability, leveraging data science, advanced analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive modeling to promote positive people impact and organisational success.


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