JYSK on Reinventing Employee Learning Experience with AI

Artificial Intelligence is gaining ground across all industries as they help businesses to offer more relevant and personalized customer experiences, particularly in the retail industry.  

Figures show that AI in the retail market is expected to reach $27,238.6 million by 2025. Moreover, Gartner states that 85% of customer interaction in retail will be managed by AI by 2020. But why does it keep growing in popularity?

Recently, a great opportunity in retail emerged to put tons of data to good use in the curation of shopping experiences with more targeted ads based on customers’ past purchases and preferences, without having to trade-off quality or pay higher prices. In addition, retail companies are able to accurately predict customers’ demands, thus, reducing inventory replenishment and increasing order efficiency.

Companies build their strategies tailored to their customers’ pains and needs. In order to build a strong, innovative and productive corporate culture, they must treat their employees the same way. Consequently, if AI brings a lot of positive changes to the customer experience, then how can it influence the employee experience? Can we develop and deliver the same personalized employee learning experience? Matt Burns, Human Resources Director at JYSK, helps to address these questions.

Three major L&D areas that will be impacted by AI and automation

Matt believes that the future of corporate training will bring an even greater reliance on technology. The proliferation of AI will help L&D leaders to get rid of cumbersome and inconsistent training. Instead, the focus will be placed on three learning enhancement areas:

  • Personalized training experience

The combination of AI, machine learning, and pertinent data will help to deliver a truly personalized learning experience to each employee. Burns emphasizes that the prospect of customizing talent development to the individual learner’s needs will become scalable once AI technologies become ubiquitous.

Thanks to automatic monitoring systems, L&D professionals will be able to see the correlation between stated goals and employee performance. Learner-centric training that troubleshoots individuals’ challenges and addresses current learning needs will result in better knowledge retention, faster skills acquisition, and less time spent on irrelevant training. Besides that, smart personalization will help to automatically customize the learning experience of each employee taking into account their learning styles, preferred content types, or mediums through which they consume this knowledge.

  • Experiential learning

In Burns’ opinion, the proliferation of AI will also provide needed training enhancements, with a particular emphasis on experiential learning.

Experiential learning will let employees train critical skills related to real-world challenges in a safe virtual environment, giving them the confidence to apply them directly to the job, bridging the gap between theory and practice. These practical activities will contribute to the development of 21st century skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, and time management, among others, since running simulations helps employees to develop quick response and action plans.

  • Competence and behavioral training

From Matt’s perspective, we will also see a continued migration from traditional skills training to competence and behavioral training. This will include not only AI technologies but also mentorship, work on team projects, on-the-job experience, communication, and the like.

The transition to this kind of training can be explained by its efficacy and learner-centric approach that Matt mentioned before. Instead of making employees go through all training material in a timely manner, all employees will focus on mastering competencies they don’t know or need improvement in to perform well. This is where AI will come into play. It will analyze tons of data and make training content suggestions for each employee based on their performance data.

The ongoing development and refreshment of knowledge and skills that mostly affect job performance will be crucial in the future. Burns explains that retailers who want to improve their customer experience will need to invest in competencies and behaviors to separate themselves from the competition.

Social skills will define the level of employability

When people say that AI will take away people’s jobs, they miss a key point. Firstly, everyone can be replaced; the question is not how to prevent robots from winning over the workplace, but how to stay employable in the future. As such, employees don’t have to become Luddites but should learn how to work alongside AI.

This suggests that employees should see learning as a lifelong process. The omnipresence of future AI technologies signifies the automation of routine tasks and the shift towards high-value work. In other words, AI will give employees an opportunity to develop important human skills to not lag behind. Matt Burns emphasizes that L&D professionals should identify competencies that will remain after automation because they will be the main weapons for employees to stay in demand.

The question is, what are those human competencies? Matt sees relationships and community as the new currencies in the future.

Transactional tasks will be automated placing a greater premium on competencies that cannot be replaced by machines. For example, competencies like empathy, curiosity, and agility—the ones with the biggest impact on human interactions.

Hence, for organizations, pivotal employees will be those who possess critical human skills. Whether you’re a full-time employee, a freelancer, or a contract worker, you won’t be able to avoid this change. This rule is true for leaders and managers as well, since people leave their managers, not the company. Thus, a positive employee experience will drive talent retention along with the enhanced competitive ability of a company.

JYSK on driving HR and L&D initiatives through AI and data

“An outstanding candidate to employee experience will be a differentiator in the future war for talent,” underlines Mattand he knows what he’s talking about. JYSK has been recognized for Canada’s Most Innovative Use of HR Technology on the strength of sourcing, implementing, and integrating five disparate HR SaaS solutions in fewer than 12 months. In doing so, it became a near-paperless HR function. Automation allowed JYSK to reduce repetitive administrative tasks and reinvest resources on initiatives related to talent, engagement, and communication that directly influenced employee experience.

Matt believes that by leveraging data that can correlate individual and team performance to business metrics, there’s a possibility to remarkably improve the employee experience. However, a challenge lies in the right use of data in terms of synthesizing, curating, and storytelling.

So, how to make sense of the data? Let’s see how JYSK dealt with this question.

Matt points out that most organizations don’t know how to solve the challenge of turnover. They just report it and don’t go any deeper. JYSK uses data to measure employees’ satisfaction to be ready to address any issues and enhance engagement.

We survey our employees three times. We want to correlate this data based on employee satisfaction in the first six months’ of employment. With those additional data points, we can see when disengagement begins and coupled with qualitative feedback from exit interviews, we can tell a great story to drive action. For example, we had a major drop-off in engagement once we transitioned from central (eLearning) training to in-store training without HR oversight. Adoption was inconsistent and after setting such a high bar initially, people grew dissatisfied.

According to Burns, the success of a company lies in engaging and enabling the success of its employees. For this purpose, his team is now implementing a robust HR Analytics suite to drive strategic talent and business decisions that take into account both the company’s objectives and employees’ professional goals.

Three predictions for the Future of Work from Matt Burns

  1. A majority of working individuals will earn at least a portion of their income through freelance.
  2. Organizational structures will be drawn by skills and competencies, not function.
  3. The proliferation of hubs, clusters, and networks will drive competition for top talent between cities and regions.

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