AI is coming to the workplace and it’s about to change everything, including how you learn.
A new era of automation will profoundly change everyday tasks in the office and in the field. Workers must adapt en masse by re-skilling for these new workloads, and it’ll take new technology to help them do it at scale.
If you’re not already working alongside an AI-based software application or robot, then you probably will be soon. The World Economic Forum’s “Future of Jobs 2020” predicts that machines will spend as much time on work-based tasks as human employees by 2025.
already envisions AI-driven expense approvals. Machine learning could even power performance evaluations, as algorithms assess employee activities and offer training and career advice.
Constructing an AI-powered future
Does that mean humans should be worried about machines taking their jobs? Not at all, says Joe Speicher, senior director of impact innovation at software company Autodesk.
“Technology automates tasks, not jobs,” he says, citing examples in a sector ripe for disruption: construction workers who have been focused entirely on manual tasks for decades. Now they interact with applications like Autodesk’s , a construction-management tool that uses machine learning to deliver timely information about project risks, including emerging cost and safety issues.
In manufacturing, IoT sensors and factory-floor robotics are fueling a new level of automation that is transforming employee roles. Speicher also sees cross-sector convergence in areas such as modular industrial construction, where companies like are already combining manufacturing and construction to accelerate the creation of prefabricated structures, building five-story buildings in just a couple of weeks.
“Carpenters who were putting up frames on a jobsite now oversee a manufacturing line of machines that put up those frames and ensure quality control for those units,” he says.
The WEF predicts that AI-driven automation will actually increase the number of jobs. It’s the tasks that will change, becoming more creative, analytical, and technical.
“We should focus on how our algorithms and robots will change our jobs, not when or if they’ll take them,” Speicher says. “We’ve got to ensure that the labor market is adaptable and resilient enough to ride out these coming changes.”
The power of continuous learning
This transformation of jobs will place more pressure on the workforce to adapt. It will erode a traditional educational model that begins and ends with university or college, Speicher says.
“We’ve had this notion that young labor market entrants are ready to go into the workplace without much investment beyond high school or college,” he says. “That approach is proving unsuccessful, as we manage the skills shortages across the labor market — and it’s particularly acute in construction and manufacturing.”
Instead, employees must constantly refine and reinvent themselves throughout their careers, taking on new skills that will help them adapt to an increasingly automated world. The WEF report said that half of all employees will need re-skilling by 2025.
People are eager to adapt and are already seeking out continuous learning opportunities for themselves. This has accelerated during the COVID pandemic. The WEF saw four times as many people looking for online learning opportunities from April to June 2020, while employers offered five times as many online learning courses.
As the pace of development accelerates, this re-skilling will need to be fast and focused. With the WEF noting that 94% of business leaders are expecting employees to pick up new skills also on the job, there will be no time for inefficiency. AI will be a key tool in the continuous learning process, says Hamoon Ekhtiari, CEO of an AI-powered platform used by companies and governments to support their workforce through career transitions.
Ekhtiari says we need a continuum of learning that extends from immediate. Task-related micro-reskilling through to broader skills development that helps people plan as their roles evolve. “We have to do that affordably and at scale,” he says.
AI will combine with the software tools we use at work to automate the micro-reskilling process.
“These tools have so much data about how we work,” Ekhtiari says. “If a tool notices I’m not using. A feature that might be helpful to my work, it can identify that and then offer me a personalized nudge.”
This form of immediate feedback will guide employees directly as they carry out tasks, creating powerful learning opportunities with precision.
Companies like language-learning app developer Duolingo are already using AI to accelerate learning. The company models to assess error patterns across millions of language learners. Identifying how long words persist in memory over time. That enables it to hone its content, keeping users engaged and helping them to gain proficiency.
These tools will also help employees plan their long-term skills development. Autodesk has crystallized this approach with its product, which analyzes how users interact with its. CAD/CAM software and uses this data to recommend commands to learn next. It then complements these recommendations with videos and other training resources. Along with a timeline that tracks specific skills development over time.
Experts say we’re still at the early stage of this technology-powered revolution in continuous learning. But the results could transform workplace training. So, don’t be afraid of a robot taking your job. Look forward to it teaching you new, more creative tasks that make your work more meaningful.