Learning & Development, Technology

Using AI Chatbots for Employee Training and Development

There’s no doubt artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots have gotten increasingly sophisticated in recent years, and there’s certainly no doubt that these mysterious and novel tools have garnered a lot of media attention for their growing capabilities, as well.

For example, a Google software engineer named Blake Lemoine claimed the company’s AI chatbot LaMDA had become sentient. And some chatbots were even shown to be sophisticated enough to pass graduate-level exams from prestigious law and business schools, albeit with fairly unimpressive grades.

But despite sensational news stories, AI chatbots—at least for now—can’t replace lawyers and business executives and aren’t sentient. That doesn’t mean, though, these tools can’t offer tremendous advantages, including use in corporate training efforts.

In this feature, we share some insights from training professionals and employers that have leveraged AI chatbots for employee training.

Useful for Small Businesses or Small HR Teams

Most companies struggle with or don’t put enough effort into training their workers. It’s not necessarily that they don’t believe training is important. Rather, it isn’t seen as a priority given the countless other needs of the business. That can be particularly true for small businesses without large training budgets, a training team, or even an HR team!

Erny Peibst, founder and CEO of Inside Bodybuilding, a health clinic offering anabolic recovery and harm prevention services for professional athletes, says AI chatbots like ChatGPT can be a cost-effective way for small businesses to get a training program up and running. It may not be a program up to the same standards as a Fortune 100 company training program, but it’ll be a start, and it would certainly be better than no training program at all.

“Many small businesses don’t have formal onboarding or training processes, because they’re usually really time-consuming to create,” Peibst says. “Without experience, it can also be confusing to try to put your processes into words. ChatGPT can help many businesses get started by using just a simple request, providing a platform perfect for iterating to get just what you need.”

A Great Starting Point for Learning and Development (L&D) Pros

Peibst says the best way to get started with using AI chatbots in crafting a training program is simply by asking questions. “That lets you know what information is available to the AI, so you can edit and adapt from there.”

For example, someone in the fitness industry looking to build an employee handbook might start with “What information should be included in an employee handbook?” Without having to read several blogs or books about handbook construction, the AI can give them a starting place they can build from. Then, the content of the handbook can be populated.

Once the chatbot has created the first draft, says Peibst, you can copy it into your own document and edit as needed. “However, with much of the bulk work done from you, building and iterating your basic training tools can be done in just a few days, instead of weeks. Your first training documents won’t be perfect—but it’s best to have them so you can start adapting them for exactly what you need. ChatGPT lowers the barrier to entry for these tools, so small business owners can formalize their processes and make hiring and onboarding their new employees easier.”

Greg Barnett, Chief People Scientist at Top Workplaces, agrees that AI chatbots can be a great starting point for getting a training program or training program material off the ground. “For learning and development leaders, generative AI tools make it possible to use prompts to create a baseline for training content and documents,” Barnett says. “Tools like ChatGPT can help get content to a point that includes all necessary information, and a human can put their creative touch to create personalized training tools. Learning leaders can use generative AI to develop the mundane parts of training programs and amplify their ability to individualize training programs or materials for employees.”

Adding a Personalized Touch

AI chatbots can also be a cost-effective way to help personalize and customize training efforts to individual employees—something that would typically be cost-prohibitive for most businesses if trying to achieve a similar level of personalization through one-on-one training with dedicated human staff.

“One of the ways ChatGPT or other models similar to GPT-3 may be used is to create personalized learning experiences for employees or focused groups of employees,” says Jenn Cooke, Senior Consultant with global technology research and advisory firm ISG. “These programs have the potential to significantly impact engagement and retention when they are adapted to learners’ unique needs,” she says.

“While each employee has learning needs that may vary significantly, tools like ChatGPT can be leveraged to create learning experiences catering to those different needs when it comes to learning styles while creating an individualized learning approach,” Cooke adds.

A Complement to Training Strategy

While AI tools have often been seen as best situated to tackle some of the more mundane or tactical elements of training, the predictive capabilities of these tools may provide some benefit in the strategic arena, as well.

“AI algorithms are also able to take relatively unstructured data to identify new trends and create predictions. These AI capabilities can help L&D teams identify skills gaps or identify skills or competencies employees are struggling with across the organization and create individualized programs targeting specific areas,” says Barnett.

“It’s important to note generative AI technology doesn’t replace humans, it only provides better signals on which learning and development leaders can dig in deeper, learn more, and communicate that information to others. Organizations looking to implement AI tools into their learning and development programs should be more proactive about their awareness of AI’s capabilities and how it can supplement and amplify career development and business goals. The potential uses of AI are broad, so organizations should analyze what areas AI can remove mundane and repetitive tasks for L&D teams. Removing these tasks will provide employee development teams more time and effort toward creating programs that support individual employee career goals while driving business results.”

Training and development is an inherently human process. However, there are a number of exciting and constantly improving AI technologies available commercially and at relatively low cost that can create significant efficiencies and advantages for training and development teams. Taking advantage of these emerging new technologies can help training leaders save time and effort while maintaining the quality of their offerings.

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.

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