“Let me know if you have any questions,” is a phrase new employees commonly hear from mentors during the employee onboarding process, but new hire’s questions can be expensive. Managers’ time spent helping new employees learn procedures and basic company routines is time not spent on value-driven projects.
For many, the ideal way to learn is with a personal tutor, and mentoring is viewed as a long-term investment in the company. Now the amount of time corporate talent spends mentoring can be greatly reduced with artificial intelligence (AI), which has the potential to make personal tutoring and mentoring possible on a large scale.
Smarter Onboarding Process
Rob May, CEO of Talla, which builds chatbots, predicts that AI will impact mass personalization and improve employee training. He explains: “The type of machine-learning algorithms that make movie and restaurant recommendations will soon be available to do similar types of mass customization for employee-related training and coaching.” This will greatly increase workplace productivity. New employees will become proficient faster, freeing up time that managers would have spent on mentoring.
May suggests that “HR software will become software that learns from experience. Once you give these programs a goal, they will experiment on their own and find the best ways to achieve that goal.” This type of software will learn from user interaction, and it will become more valuable over time.
This type of learning is extremely helpful for companies who are continually updating their training resources. Kyle Hauptfleisch explains that once machines have the ability to predict how course material needs to improve and change, “adaptive learning technologies would give rise to completely personalized environments with content that not only changes but are actually created based on the individual needs of the learner.”
Time Release Onboarding
Conventional employee onboarding often overwhelms new employees, and retention is minimal. May describes how chatbots “can be used to drip information to the new employee over days or weeks or longer, meaning that person can get the right information at the right time, once other things have been learned that make the information more relevant, valuable, and memorable.”
One company using AI to improve employee training is Air Methods, a medical transport helicopter company in Englewood, Colorado that implemented Amplifire in January 2016. Kate Rockwood explains that Amplifire is “a cloud-based learning system that uses artificial intelligence to adapt to each user’s specific knowledge of a topic and test him or her via short, frequent multiple-choice quizzes and games.”
Air Methods uses AI to engage the learner by identifying areas the learner is struggling with, and before progressing them to the next module, reteaching the information in a different way, then retesting the learner.
Employees are responding positively. Marney Andes, senior director of talent management at Air Methods says employees regularly post positive comments about their individualized training, and “personalized learning is becoming a way to attract talent.”
While boosting employee engagement, AI is reducing the overall cost of training. Air Methods will recoup its investment in Amplifire by the end of 2017, as the company has reduced its in-person, instructor-led training sessions by half, and has also decreased the length of its new onboarding program from ten days to five.
Improved Employee Experience
As AI makes training more efficient, some worry their jobs may be eliminated. But as Matt Gould, chief strategy officer at Arria NLG, a U.K.-based company offering AI technology in data analytics explains, “Far from killing the jobs of knowledge workers, this tends to free them up to do what they are paid to do–innovate, model, refine, and improve on the expertise of their business.”
Josh Bersin, founder of Bersin by Deloitte, describes how AI is changing the corporate onboarding process: “IBM now has an artificial intelligence application that helps employees do their own onboarding, finds nearby employees as mentors, and addresses the top 200 questions employees ask in any new position.”
Prepare For Change
HR departments will be affected by the sweeping wave of AI technology. Sanjay Sathe, CEO of RiseSmart, an outplacement company, recommends that “instead of focusing on technology as a predictor of job loss, employers must prepare for the future by determining what training and skills employees will need to optimize the benefits of better technology.”
Ultimately, AI will strengthen corporations through personalized training. Engaged employees will have greater retention rates and overall productivity. AI will not replace the human side of mentoring but will become a tool to replace some of HR’s more mundane tasks. It will help employees do their job better and faster. AI will result in increased savings and management and will have more time for innovation.