With all the excitement around generative artificial intelligence (AI), many people are feeling the pressure to adopt. But unlike the “race to the moon” mentality around it in 2023, companies are now thinking more strategically about its practical use and return on investment (ROI) before implementing it into their workflows. In fact, a report from Deloitte found that the majority of chief financial officers plan to spend more modestly on generative AI in 2024 for this reason, with 62% allocating less than 1% of their 2024 budget to it.

AI-powered tools can be incredibly valuable to businesses when implemented correctly. However, less than half of companies that have adopted AI have well-established data responsibility and AI ethics policies and practices to govern use in the workplace.

The Role of L&D in AI Implementation

Learning and development (L&D) is an important facet of this conversation. Sufficient training is necessary for the effective and ethical use of AI technology, especially as business leaders look to prove its ROI, and AI compliance begins when training employees on new technology.

Today, employee demand for AI training opportunities is often not met. A recent report found that many employees report needing more training on how to harness AI, with a large number of those employees having not received the training they expected.

As business leaders strategically adopt AI and increase their training opportunities, it’s important that they do so in a way that is relevant to and effective for their workforce. To produce the desired results, leaders should focus on the following strategies:

1. Focus on Relevance to Employee Performance and Growth

When an employee participates in any type of training, they need to understand the “why” behind the training material — meaning the relevance to their role and professional development — for it to truly resonate. Effective training programs should always communicate the relevance of each training session to learners. Additionally, their managers and other leaders should help them understand how they are expected to implement what they’ve learned into their everyday tasks.

In the realm of AI training, a one-size-fits-all approach may not address the unique needs of different departments and job functions. Companies should instead provide relevant training opportunities that are tailored to individual roles and responsibilities to help ensure employees can both grasp the fundamentals of AI and its direct applicability to their work.

2. Encourage Collaboration

When designing an AI training program, business leaders should find ways to encourage collaboration among learners. Collaboration enhances active learning, whether through discussion-based assignments, interactive workshops or cross-departmental brainstorming sessions. By fostering a collaborative learning environment, businesses can better mitigate disengagement while also harnessing the collective expertise of its workforce to enhance overall skills development. This is of particular importance as we’re still in the infancy stages of knowing the true potential that AI can bring to L&D in the workplace.

3. Prioritize Ethical AI Training

All employees being trained on AI implementation should be trained on AI ethics, bias and data security to ensure they are using the technology safely and responsibly. While this may seem like an obvious consideration, a recent study by Deloitte found that only 44% of technology professionals know whether or not their company follows AI ethical guidelines.

It is crucial that companies establish clear guidelines and policies surrounding the ethical use of any AI technologies — and that these guidelines are communicated clearly in training materials, especially if generative AI is in use. AI ethics training equips employees with the tools needed to recognize and address any potential ethical dilemmas or biases, increasing their ability to maintain data privacy, compliance and the sustainability of the organization’s AI initiatives.

4. Give Employees Time

Learning and adapting to new technologies takes time. To adequately support employees in their AI training, business leaders should allocate an ample amount of time for training sessions, hands-on practice and ongoing learning or mentorship opportunities. By giving employees time to learn information, process it, implement it and identify any needs for additional training, business leaders can ensure that employees are using the technology more effectively and are ultimately driving a higher ROI.

5. Evaluate Employee Feedback

Employee feedback plays an important role in the ongoing development of a business’s L&D strategy. Once employees complete AI training and begin implementing what they learned, companies should collect and analyze any feedback about their experiences with the training program and with the technology itself. Whether through surveys, focus groups or regular check-ins, a well-rounded feedback strategy allows business leaders to identify any training gaps, technical issues or areas for improvement.

By actively soliciting and evaluating employee feedback, organizations demonstrate their commitment to employee engagement and satisfaction while also gaining insights on how to optimize AI training programs to ensure their effective use. This may also help business leaders identify any areas that are not producing the desired ROI, allowing them to reevaluate specific AI use cases as needed.

Ultimately, a strategic L&D strategy is necessary for the successful implementation of AI as it equips employees with the knowledge and skills needed to leverage the technology effectively. This not only drives a higher ROI but also fosters a culture of continuous learning and innovation, positioning companies for success in an AI landscape that calls for more strategy and practicality than ever before.