AI is seen by many workers as a threat to job security, creating a culture of fear and unease. That’s where L&D comes in. Kerry Pascall reveals how you can be the voice of reassurance for your people.
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Technology is changing our lives beyond all recognition. Payment apps, wearable health trackers, smart home devices – wherever we look, technology seems to be encroaching into our lives.
And the workplace is no exception. All kinds of technologies are edging their way into organisations in every industry, affecting jobs at all levels.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, secure group messaging systems and cloud computing are just a few of the transformative technologies disrupting the modern workplace.
But whether this technology is a force for good or an imminent threat is up for debate.
Where you stand probably depends on your role within your organisation.
For senior stakeholders, technology offers huge promise, with the potential to improve productivity and efficiency – in other words, to significantly impact the bottom line.
But for much of the workforce, it can be a very different story. For them, words like AI and automation are more likely to conjure up images of robots replacing their jobs, so technology in this scenario is a danger to be wary of, rather than a tantalising proposition to be welcomed.
Perceived as a real threat to job security, this digital transformation can create an internal culture of fear and unease.
What does this mean for L&D?
As strange as it may sound, this uncertainty is actually a huge opportunity.
As a supportive business unit, the L&D team is there to serve people across the organisation by increasing their confidence to cope with change and equip them with the skills to do so effectively.
So, in this complex climate of optimism mixed with disruption, you can help your leaders address the negative effects of this uncertainty; to be the voice of reassurance for your people. Here are some initial steps:
1. Give reassurance
People are at the heart of any transformation. If you only focus on the technology, the transformation won’t be successful as people won’t know how to make best use of it, or even understand how it affects them day-to-day.
As the World Economic Forum puts it, “empowering people is the key to achieving profound and lasting digital transformation that provides sustainable growth and inclusion”.
To get your people onside from the start, partner with leaders to show workers that there’s still a place for people alongside technology.
You can reassure people that sufficient time will be dedicated to equipping them with the tools they need to manage the technology and become digitally literate.
The good news for L&D is that upskilling is firmly on the agenda of business leaders
2. Explain the benefits
You can also translate your leaders’ plans into practical terms by sharing messages about how technology will benefit day-to-day roles – and the organisation as a whole.
Improved efficiency, new opportunities to innovate, and greater agility are all achievable outcomes of transformation, built on a more cohesive workforce that will ultimately produce better results for the business in the long run.
Use these messages to explain the benefits to your workforce, illustrating that the organisation can be trusted to navigate them through the uncertainty of transformation.
Give them space to ask questions and share their own experiences, so you can address concerns as soon as they arise.
3. Support upskilling opportunities
Once your people understand what technology can do for them, you’ll need to support your words with action: offering them opportunities to upskill.
Usually presented as an alternative to employing new people with the right skills, upskilling means investing in your current workforce to give them the skills they need to perform their jobs effectively.
The good news for L&D is that upskilling is firmly on the agenda of business leaders.
In PwC’s 22nd Annual Global CEO Survey, 79% of respondents said a shortage of skilled talent was one of their top three worries, with 46% saying upskilling was their preferred solution.
So, you need to work closely with your stakeholders to work out which skills are most needed among your workforce.
Then it’s time to identify which groups of people are most urgently in need of upskilling, before planning how you’re going to close these skills gaps.
Soft skills are critical in this digital era, so don’t neglect highly valued skills like communication, empathy and resilience.
As the world becomes more digital, it’s these uniquely human skills that will help your people manage change more confidently.
4. Offer engaging solutions
It’s vital to empower your people to take control of their own learning paths; learning new skills shouldn’t feel like another compulsory course.
Think about incorporating agile, personalised digital learning solutions that can be accessed in the flow of work.
Microlearning is a great flexible option, perfect for ‘always on’ employees with busy schedules. Social platforms can give employees the chance to discuss progress and ask questions, as well as offering you insights into what’s working well.
This will allow you to refine your strategy and make the tweaks needed to successfully prepare your people for transformation.
This is your chance to show your value as a business partner by getting your creative thinking cap on and coming up with something truly novel to win over senior stakeholders and learners alike.
Don’t be afraid to borrow ideas from other industries either; there are some seriously innovative ideas going on in fields like marketing that could give your learning offering the creative spark it needs.
I’m a big fan of Google’s ‘hero, hub, hygiene’ approach to content marketing, which segments content based on its value to the end user.
In this model, hero content would be your leading content, with a big hook to engage new prospects (those new-starters waiting to become your future learners).
Hub content would appeal to existing users, and hygiene content is the supportive informational material that keeps people coming back for more.
If you’re looking to add some spark to your change initiatives, taking this creative approach to marketing your content could be just the answer.
During these transformative times, L&D has a critical role to play. As a positive change agent, you can turn uncertainty into enthusiasm by supporting words of reassurance with proactive actions that leave people feeling optimistic about their future.
That, to me, is more important than ever.
About the author
Kerry Pascall is director of e-learning solutions at Bray Leino Learning