Ingolstadt / Essen (GER), December 2018 - "Corporate Learning 2025 - Are we making ourselves superfluous as trainers?" With this provocative question, Christian Böhler from innogy Se and Tobias Pickl from Audi will take the stage at LEARNTEC on 29 January 2019 at 16:30. This year, 2018, several representatives of large companies got together to reflect on how their situation as trainers in large corporations might look in 2025. They came up with several hypotheses that would appear to have predictive authority for corporate learning in 2025.
Do you see "becoming superfluous" in regard to learning content and the effort of learning, or do you mean that trainers will be replaced by technology?
Christian Böhler: Trainers will not necessarily be replaced completely, but their role will definitely be different. Knowledge will have to be conveyed more quickly, made available in other formats, and change too quickly for conventional learning methods to function. Artificial intelligence has been a buzzword for years, but it is already a reality in many areas of life or at least not far down the road.
As in the Swiss writer Dürrenmatt's satiric drama The Physicists, what has once been thought can no longer be taken back: Somebody somewhere will think the same thought again. It doesn't help to be locked up in an insane asylum. If we deny development, we lose the opportunity to shape the transition so that it runs smoothly and carries people along with it.
Were AI to render advanced training self-sufficient and self-directed, who or what would motivate the learners?
Christian Böhler: Hopefully, the learners themselves because they always feel the necessity to keep up to date. By the time we in HR know what specialists need and have written concepts and organized training programs for them, the next big thing will have already passed us by.
In order to make our employees fit for the future (the keyword here is employability), we have to focus on cultural change and bring meta-competencies such as learning capacity, reflective capacity, and analytical thinking closer together. However, the idea that motivation might no longer be necessary is not so absurd because learning and working will merge to such an extent that they can no longer be separated.
Where do you see the "beginning of the end"? What the technical prerequisites that could bring this about?
Christian Böhler: There is no beginning and no end. It is rather a gradual transition. From a technical point of view, the basis for AI has already been laid. Furthermore, since computing power is increasing exponentially and internet availability will continue to improve (the buzzword here is 5G), technology is less of an obstacle than our mindset and other hurdles such as privacy.
Are Trainers on the Path of "Self-Cannibalization"?
Christian Böhler: Reposition yourself before someone else does. Large companies are successful when they are in a position to completely question their business model and possibly even to set it up complementarily. History has shown us a few examples of this. Advanced training is also seen as a business case. The ROI are well trained employees who contribute to the company's success.
Is advanced training an end in itself or is ROI the goal? If the case is made that employability has been achieved permanently and sustainably, we will certainly have another role to play. Not to bridge the time until there’s a biological solution and we all die out, but to address other needs. Systems must be fed and corporate strategies translated into algorithms. As long as companies are controlled by people, there will always be something for us to do that supports people in their ability to perform. After all, that is what we do as trainers.
There are only seven years between the present and 2025. Do you think such a rapid development is realistic, given that digitally based advanced training took more than 40 years - at least in Europe - to experience its "breakthrough”?
Christian Böhler: What prevented digital continuing education from making a breakthrough in Europe? Obviously, supply and demand - for whatever reason - didn’t match. If the newly invented automobile hadn’t solved urgent problems of its time, its breakthrough would have certainly have taken longer. On other continents, digitally based advanced training has closed gaps that could be closed with conventional methods.
A receptive culture, another mindset, and the availability of the appropriate technology are also necessary. In Romania, 4G is available nationwide, and in the Australian outback you don't need television reception because there is access to media sources like Netflix.
So yes, it is realistic that a great deal will change by 2025. Given the way development - at least technical development - has progressed exponentially, we have a hunch about what might be available by then. Of course, though, we can’t know for sure. We do know, however, that with the advent of 5G, the IoT will evolve rapidly. Today, your refrigerator can shop for you, your electricity meter decides when to do laundry, and you can talk to Alexa, so in 2025, why shouldn't your learning bot have the capacity to know what you’ll need in five years and prepare for it.
Perhaps this intelligence and providing necessities at the moment of need are precisely what Europe has been waiting for - and will lead to digital learning going through the roof.