ATD Blog

Technology Needs People

Monday, January 6, 2020

The workplace is changing. But that’s nothing new. Computers, fax machines, cell phones, internet, email—in every era of the modern workplace there’s been a disruptive technology to change how we communicate, learn, and get things done. The coming year is no different.

In 2020, we’re keeping an eye on another disruptive technology: artificial intelligence. Although experts agree AI will fundamentally change the way we work and live, there are differing views on what that change will look like and how fast it will come.

Case in point: Will the adoption of AI kill jobs, or will it create even more than it eliminates? Many analysts contend that while some jobs will not doubt go away, other jobs will be created to manage machines. But it’s even more complex than that.

Consider some data from the most recent AI at Work study conducted by Oracle and Future Workplace. In a survey of 8,370 employees, managers, and HR leaders, 36 percent thought robots were better at providing unbiased information, 29 percent thought robots were better at problem solving, and 64 percent would trust a robot more than their human manager. With stats like that, why wouldn’t organizations consider replacing their managers with machines?

For starters, substantial numbers of employees believe that human managers still perform some important parts of their roles better than machines. AI at Work reports that 45 percent say a manager can understand their feelings better than a robot, 33 percent say a manager can coach them better than a robot, and 29 percent say managers are better than robots at creating or promoting work cultures.


What does all this mean for talent development professionals?

The power and pitfalls of AI all comes back to what makes us human. Whether it’s a chat bot designed to coach sales professionals or a simulation program to give drivers experience before hitting the road, today’s new technology ultimately exists to make human life better. And that takes human minds and hearts at work, designing and implementing that technology in a way that works efficiently—and empathetically—with the humans on the other side.


ATD’s 2020 Trends in Learning Technology offers a snapshot of the emerging trends and hot topics that organizational leaders have discussed, dissected, and scrutinized over the past 12 months. They may span a broad variety of opportunities and applications, but one thing unites them—the human element of how to apply them to help people work better. Some of these trends will continue to mature and evolve and find a place in our technology toolbox for years to come. Others may never fully be embraced. And that’s OK.

The goal of this book is to provide you a quick glimpse into some emerging technologies and give you a sense of how you might begin to use them in your organization. Topics range from broad trends like Shannon Tipton’s examination of microlearning and Destery Hildenbrand’s chapter on how augmented reality can cross over from the world of popular app-based games and into learning, to practical application like Sarah Mercier and Sean Putman’s break down of Experience API (xAPI) or Mike Lenz’s advice on how you can get started producing an internal learning podcast in your organization.

Bottom line: No matter your role on the L&D team or the makeup of your organization, it’s important to consistently review and evaluate new technologies and trends to see if they make sense of your organization.

What’s more, while we often become focused on technology, it’s important to remember that technology is only a tool. Technology is fun and exciting, but without a purpose, it’s meaningless. But the best uses of technology can bring us even closer as humans—by putting us in someone else’s shoes through virtual reality, making content more accessible to all, or enabling workers to achieve their best potential through effective learning. Indeed, the element that ties all the technology together is people.

About the Author

Justin Brusino is director of content at ATD. In his role, he’s responsible for developing new content and products, including articles, webcasts, books, conferences, workshops, and more, on a variety of talent development topics. With a strong interest in technology, Justin is always looking at new trends and emerging topics that can impact the talent development industry. He is the editor of the book ATD’s 2020 Trends in Learning Technology.

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