Artificial intelligence is arguably the hottest topic of the year — generative AI (or GenAI), to be specific. And FWD 2023, Udemy’s annual learning and development event, was no exception. Throughout the day, panels explored how AI will improve the learning experience, help instructors create engaging content, boost an organization’s innovation capability, and strengthen the growing shift to skills-based talent management. 

Udemy CEO Greg Brown kicked off the event by recognizing the challenges facing organizations and leaders due to the accelerated pace of innovation brought on by digital transformation, the rise of generative AI, and the shift to hybrid work. These pressures highlight how critical continuing professional education and skills-based learning is for companies to empower employees and deliver on business goals.

The pace of change isn’t slowing down, and leaders must help their companies evolve by investing in talent mobility, embracing a hybrid workplace, and welcoming the opportunities offered by disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence. The uses of AI are manifold: it can help build a better product, thereby improving the customer experience and growing revenue, assist in repetitive tasks so that employees can focus on deep work, and it can even drive the success of learning programs and individual skills development. 

Here’s a look at the FWD panels and speakers on how AI will revolutionize learning and talent development.  

Generative AI powers learning

After best-selling author and host of the On Purpose podcast Jay Shetty kicked off the event with an affirming keynote about navigating change, the AI conversation began. During a session titled “The Generative AI Revolution Is Here,” Udemy instructor Steve Ballinger and Udemy Chief Product Officer Prasad Raje discussed how generative AI will transform the learning experience. 

An early adopter of ChatGPT when it was introduced in late 2022, Ballinger saw the possibilities for generative AI and quickly became an expert in the tool, passing on his knowledge to learners in courses like ChatGPT Productivity and Time Management. His courses make up the 1,200+ generative AI courses available on Udemy today. According to Ballinger and Raje, GenAI will improve professional learning for everyone involved — from learning leaders to employees to instructors:

  1. GenAI helps L&D leaders reskill their workforce: As the working world moves to a skills-based approach to talent management, generative AI will help Chief Learning Officers and other learning leaders understand which skills their employees currently have, which topics they need to upskill in, and how to map these needs to course-specific learning recommendations. 
  2. GenAI connects learners to the right content fast: Udemy Business now offers AI-powered microlearning that directs learners to the upskilling content they need right when they need it. When learners type a question into the Udemy search bar, AI-powered semantic search returns results of specific lectures within a course that teach how to perform the skills described in the query. The learner can then watch that short section of the course and use their new knowledge immediately. This is true learning in the flow of work. 
  3. GenAI assists instructors in creating engaging content: Instruction is best when it’s interactive, especially for technical skills. Udemy instructors are encouraged to provide opportunities for learners to practice skills and test knowledge with quizzes. But, adding this level of interaction into course content can be time-consuming. Soon, GenAI tools will help instructors create interactive content for their courses faster, resulting in more impactful learning experiences. Additionally — to the joy of instructors like Ballinger — an automated Q&A function will soon help instructors craft responses to learner questions. More students will get their questions answered, while instructors will be able to spend more time crafting responses requiring more detail. 
Udemy Chief Product Officer Prasad Raje detailed the rise of generative AI learning on Udemy.

Generative AI powers skills-based organizations

According to research from IBM, the half-life of business skills is about five years, while technical skills have around 2.5 years of relevancy. With this fast pace of change, managing talent is becoming less about job descriptions and degrees and more about ensuring that employees have the right skills to get the job done. The panel titled “Do You Have the Skills? Prove It.”, hosted by Udemy Business President Stephanie Stapleton Sudbury, examined how companies are investing in AI on the talent side. These applications include using AI to power their internal skills programs and adding GenAI into their skills ecosystem, creating an agile workforce that can easily adapt to change.  

Panelists and Udemy Business customers Alejandra Salazar, Head of Learning Portfolio at Capgemini; Ian Stevens, Director of Learning & Development at Publicis Sapient; and Jim Hemgen, Director at Booz Allen Hamilton, are adding GenAI skills into their learning and talent management programs. At Booz Allen Hamilton, it’s critical to match employees’ skills with client needs. A strong internal job-matching system — which could one day be powered with AI — ensures client satisfaction and helps employees grow their careers by developing in-demand skills. Capgemini recently introduced a GenAI “campus” for employees. A learning campus is a central learning hub for all the content, programs, and events related to a topic. At Publicis Sapient, generative AI skills are being integrated into the company’s skills ecosystem after recognizing how it can create a more productive and efficient workforce. 

By staying on the cutting edge of skills demand, Booz Allen Hamilton, Capgemini, and Publicis Sapient are investing in the skills their clients need while encouraging internal career mobility and increasing employee retention. 

Generative AI powers stronger leaders

Imperative to the success of an organization are its leaders. Modern leaders need a new set of skills to meet the needs of dispersed teams and guide them through unprecedented change. In “Develop Leaders for Today’s Workplace,” Nathan Blain, General Manager of Leadership Development at Udemy, spoke with Stephen Powell, Director of Leader Enablement Solutions at Cisco, and Alan Todd, VP of Leadership Development at Udemy, about the tools leaders need to connect, coach, and create an inclusive culture. Naturally, generative AI was a part of the discussion. 

Todd believes that GenAI will have a profound impact on business leadership, explaining that leaders should look at the talent management and coaching possibilities GenAI enables: “How do we apply it [GenAI] to attracting talent? How do we apply it to developing our people? … How do I get better at emotional intelligence today? Generative AI can give me a coaching tip right now, today.”

Similarly, Powell and his team at Cisco are excited to use generative AI technology to create collaborative learning opportunities for leaders. This could include using GenAI to create a personalized learning plan for leaders based on feedback from their own managers or members of their teams. Or, leaders could participate in AI-produced virtual simulations based on experiences they’re anticipating so that they can practice for those situations in advance. 

Leaders also play an important role in guiding their teams through the uncertainties and anxieties that come up when people discuss AI. As leaders learn more about the realities of GenAI and what it can (or can’t do), they can help employees understand that the technology won’t replace their jobs but rather enhance their work and boost their productivity. 

The biggest takeaway from FWD 2023? GenAI skills training needs to be a priority for companies. Not only will it help employees’ productivity grow, it can drive organizational innovation and strengthen the development of a company’s most important resource, its people.  

Available now, you can watch all the sessions from FWD 2023 on-demand for more insights on AI and the future of work.