AI Training, for What?

Despite widespread interest in artificial intelligence, less than a quarter of employees are taking company-provided training. Why?

Companies are offering new training programs in machine learning and artificial intelligence. There’s just one problem: employees aren’t lining up to take them.

According to a new study on AI usage in the workplace, less than a quarter of employees say they are using their company’s AI-skills training programs. It’s not for lack of interest; almost four in ten said they would leave their job for a place with better AI training.

Experts say the figures are an indication of how ineffective corporate training has been over the years, despite the more than $100 billion that firms spent on it in 2022 alone. "Most workers feel employer-sponsored training is for the benefit of the company, not for the employee,” says Alma Derricks, a senior client partner in the Culture, Change, and Communications practice at Korn Ferry. In the case of AI, many workers are also fretting about the technology taking away jobs. “If people feel like they are going to get pushed out anyway, then company-provided training is beside the point,” she says.

Realizing how important the technology has become, 57% of employees in the survey say they are pursuing outside coursework and other development opportunities in AI, often on their own dime. Dennis Deans, vice president of global human resources at Korn Ferry, says this figure only underscores the disconnect between what employees want out of corporate training—and what they are getting. “Employees struggle to make the connection between company-offered training and what is needed for them to be successful,” he says.

Put another way, employees want training programs personalized to their own development needs and career paths, instead of more generic offerings.

Leaders’ confusion about which AI-training tools to use is also holding employees back, says Michelle Seidel, senior client partner in the Global Technology practice at Korn Ferry. Selecting the right tools depends on strategy, she says, and few companies currently have a clear idea of how to adapt their operations and business models to AI. “Just learning about AI isn’t going to be that compelling for the average employee,” says Seidel. “The big question is, what are you upskilling them to do specifically, and what tools are you using to train them?”

As Derricks sees it, for many employees the introduction of AI “brings up burning questions about their future with the company.” The fear is warranted. Executives in the survey estimate that AI will replace 56% of entry-level roles within 5 years, and whole swaths of managerial and executive roles and skills are also at risk.

The irony is that employers are hungry to hire talent with AI skills, as well as more willing to reward them relative to their peers: three-quarters or more of executives say talent with AI proficiency should be paid and promoted more. To be sure, the fear of falling behind is why companies are rolling out major AI-training programs in the first place. To get employees to take them, however, is another matter. Deans says managers and human resource leaders need to make the connection between corporate-training programs and an employee’s personal career journey. “Employers that can illustrate the company’s commitment to their workers’ development and success will see better engagement,” says Deans.


For more information, contact Korn Ferry’s Talent Acquisition practice.