E-learning offers a solution to widely-held concerns about artificial intelligence. Fears about the impact of AI on jobs are gathering momentum. But by playing to our strengths, we – people – can offer an authentic alternative to the artificial nature of AI. Skills in emotional intelligence will help employees safeguard their future, enabling them to offer capabilities that AI can’t compete with. E-learning can give them a valuable head start.
Artificial intelligence: great at mundane stuff, rubbish at untangling human issues. AI might be good at impersonating people but at the end of the day it’s still artificial. It’s not much good at managing biases, developing trust, leading with impact, nuanced negotiations, building motivation, coaching, inspiring, or nurturing psychological safety. People can get ahead of AI by developing the meaningful, authentic skills in communication and leadership that can’t be easily replaced by an app.
What are the benefits of e-learning?
For individuals looking to develop professional skills, e-learning lets them learn when and where they want. In particular, skills in emotional intelligence (EI) help untangle the complexities of the post-Covid era.
After the pandemic, many people wanted to commit to their own personal values in the workplace more than they had before, and were less tolerant of outdated practices. New interest in a better way of working led to increased flexibility (such as hybrid), stronger commitments to personal development, and a deeper need for trust, respect, and belonging.
The new drive towards psychological safety has seen organisations rush to accommodate authenticity. Employees are encouraged to bring their ‘whole self’ to work. While there’s much that’s positive about this trend, it sits between slippery slopes. On the one hand, individuals expect to be heard. On the other, this can slip into entitlement to challenge authority.
Leaders and their people can manage workplace mindsets through an array of ‘soft’ EI skills, for example in empathy, critical thinking, managing relationships, body language, and effective teamwork – the skills that humans excel in and that AI struggles with. They are a priority for anyone looking to protect their role as AI’s influence spreads further through the workplace. For many people however, these abilities have been eroded by our digital lifestyles.
The average British adult checks their phone every 12 minutes. Staring at screens, hungering for whatever the ‘digiverse’ can feed us next, we’ve lost a little something of what it is to be human. Relationship-building lunches have become replaced by a half-hour Zoom in which some people feel free to switch their camera off.
Even in-person conversations can be difficult. People tune out of meetings while gazing at distractions on their phone. Immediate human interaction such as a phone call often has to be arranged in advance. Unannounced personal contact feels more intrusive than it used to.
How can e-learning help organisations?
In her book Reclaiming Conversation, clinical psychologist Sherry Turkle suggests that “these days we hide from conversation. We hide from each other even as we’re constantly connected to each other.” When interaction is not much more than data in and data out, we tend to fall back on transactional communication. This makes us easy pickings for AI.
Business is about relationships, it’s about team cohesion, and human understanding. If we let these skills slip through our grasp, in-person communication will become less effective. Shared perceptions of reality will become less important and individuals will be more susceptible to alternative realities – such as anti-vax theories, QAnon, delusions about 5G masts, and other hornswoggle.
Personal development can address these issues. In-person training sessions are always an advantage – but not always possible in an era of remote and hybrid working. ‘Blended’ solutions, encompassing e-learning courses in emotional intelligence allow everyone to reach a similar standard at the same time, regardless of where they are based.
How can e-learning help employees?
In the past, new tech tended to swallow up routine tasks. AI however has the potential to automate non-routine tasks that were once considered exclusive to humans. This exposes large swathes of the workforce to potential disruption.
For example, in health care, AI can be used to automate the tasks of sorting through medical images to diagnose conditions. In manufacturing, AI can be used to automate quality control and inspection. By automating these tasks, AI has the potential to free up workers’ time so that they can focus on higher-level tasks.
I should point out that the jobs that AI can do also include writing articles. The previous paragraph (…and only the previous) was written by GPT-3, the AI engine from OpenAI. While I was enjoying a coffee with my feet up, it was responding to the prompt: “write a paragraph describing how AI can benefit the workforce.”
None of this is good news for individuals. In 2017, McKinsey found that “between 400 million and 800 million individuals” around the world could be displaced by automation by 2030 and would need to find new jobs.
In 2023, Goldman Sachs reported that “roughly two-thirds” of all jobs in Europe and the US are exposed to some degree of AI automation. Globally, this would potentially mean that 300 million jobs could be scaled back or cut altogether. Roles in office admin, legal, architecture and engineering, business and financial operations, management, sales, healthcare, and art and design were highlighted as being at particular risk.
AI may bring a tsunami of change, though individuals who learn to ride the crest of the wave will potentially thrive. What exactly will they need to learn? E-learning offers a cost-effective solution that allows individuals to manage their response to their own situation. A good place to start would be skills that chatbots can’t compete with, for example emotional intelligence, in-person communication, and critical thinking.
E-learning solutions to AI worries
For individuals, the news is not all bleak. The World Economic Forum (WEF) believes that AI will create more jobs than it destroys. The WEF suggests that while an estimated 85 million jobs will be displaced across 26 countries by 2025, 97 million new jobs will be created.
New jobs will need new abilities, requiring significant investment in upskilling and reskilling. It’s expected that the US labour market alone – at particular risk of disruption given the speed of automation – will be required to retrain an estimated 11.5 million people.
In 2020, the (WEF) predicted that by 2025, for the first time, tasks will be equally split 50-50 between machines and humans. The WEF noted that “The top skills and skill groups which employers see as rising in prominence in the lead up to 2025 include groups such as critical thinking and problem-solving, and skills in self-management such as active learning, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility.”
Online courses from platforms such as Learnflix can be bought one at a time by individuals looking to the future, or delivered at scale to a workforce scattered between many locations. E-learning can help individuals become better at decision-making and objective analysis, and help them feel more present. Above all, human skills help people build a meaningful sense of connection with each other, their managers and their company. We can’t outrun AI, nor should we try. But it’s important to get on top of it, before it tries to do the same with us.