AI for people


Publisher: FlyMango Magazine

South Africa’s ongoing efforts to train its way out of the deepening skills crisis by using formal, traditional training methods won’t achieve much, says Ryan Falkenberg.

Ryan Falkenberg is a director at CLEVVA, an innovative technology company that specialises in enabling under-trained and inexperienced staff to perform like experts. ‘We’ve been talking about the shortage of skills for years, but we’re no closer to solving the problem than we were five, 10 or even 20 years ago,’ says Ryan. ‘In fact, we are in a far more challenging situation. Ironically, we continue to address the challenge by doing more of what we’ve been doing in the past – expecting different results while still simply offering staff more courses that concentrate skills development within a formal classroom setting. It didn’t work 10 years ago and it isn’t working now.’What will work, Ryan maintains, is investing in intelligent workplace-support mechanisms that offer support to daily on-the-job challenges. This is particularly necessary for staff who have already attained a basic level of competency, for example, in an introductory training programme. ‘Formal one-size-fits-all classroom training offers insufficient support for this,’ explains Ryan. ‘Far more effective is to invest in support that guides staff through integrated work processes and assists in complex decision-making. In effect, it involves capturing the logic experts use to solve standard work challenges, and offering this to others in a way that lets them perform and learn. This helps staff members to focus their efforts on tackling new challenges in a dynamic world. By offering intelligent, adaptable performance support along with coaching, learning becomes more about doing than memorising. And it is in doing that expertise is developed.’Ryan also dismisses the typical criticisms of workplace learning: that it takes longer than formal training to achieve the desired outcome; that it is difficult to scale; and that business experts are few and far between, and typically lack the capacity to coach others. ‘Time to competence can be halved through learning by doing – as opposed to learning by listening,’ says Ryan. ‘Furthermore, workplace learning is more collective than individual, and performance coaches don’t necessarily need to be experts – just line managers performing their business roles.‘Rather than offering more classroom courses, organisations should look to capture their expertise in intelligent systems that can guide new staff through workplace decisions and processes, allowing them to get it right without necessarily having the prerequisite knowledge themselves. By incorporating technology and systems, the possibilities become endless,’ Falkenberg says. ‘You can now enable inexperienced sales staff to sell hundreds of products to any client type, without much knowledge at all. Technology can intelligently guide them through the conversation, automatically recommend the right products and cross sales, and then generate the quote or order while they talk to the client. And that is just in sales. Imagine technicians being helped to diagnose technical problems, and being shown how to solve it without them knowing the answer in their head. Its all very achievable with new technology on offer, even for cash-stretched small businesses,’ Falkenberg concludes.