Paymaster Magazine

Artificial Intelligence (AI) For Employee Training & Development

Headshot: Adrian Baillie-StewartAuthor: Adrian Baillie-Stewart — Director and Content Strategist at Content Strategics (Pty) Ltd

Editor’s note — This is the third in a four-part series of articles published exclusively for Paymaster People Solutions. The full series of articles looks at the growing prevalence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its impact on the Human Resources (HR) industry. This—the third article in the series—explores AI within the context of staff training and development. The first in the series is available for your reading pleasure, here. The second in the series is available for your reading pleasure, here. The final article in the series will focus on the topic entitled: AI and Payroll.


Leaders and human resources professionals in organisations are questioning whether Artificial Intelligence (AI) will make their organisation more productive? For example, they’re curious as to whether AI may end up replacing employees’ current jobs? Similarly, they’re keen to determine which HR functions will be most affected by AI changes in the near, and long term? Consequently, there are increasing expectations for the human resource function within an organisation to adapt to numerous technological advancements. Human capital management (HCM) software applications are increasingly beginning to have AI functionality programmed into its core processing engine.

AI in Training & DevelopmentEmployee training and development at employees own pace

Within the contemporary organisation, staff-coaching processes continue to evolve. This is achieved by migrating towards newer technologies and software systems that will adequately assist with a more dynamic mode of providing staff-training and development.

Ari Kopoulos, writing for, says that “AI programs offer HR departments ways to train their staff, earn certifications, cross-train and learn new skills.”[1] What is instinctive of AI-enriched software programmes, is that they allow staff to engage in self-directed progress with their training, at their own comfortable pace. A truly “great [AI-enhanced] program” says Kopoulos, encourages “faster development by introducing rewards and incentives based on each [employee’s] profile.”[2] Moreover, employees who continue to experience difficulty with certain concepts are then easily able to be “referred to outside resources or a human mentor” says Kopoulos.[3]

Prospects of machine learning in HR software systems

When recruiting and inducting new employees, the ongoing staff-training and development challenge is to rapidly—yet efficiently—get these employees to gain a thorough understanding and knowledge of the organisation’s internal policies and procedures. It is generally accepted that employees who have a comprehensive grasp of the company’s operational policies and procedures, are far more likely to perform optimally in the workplace.

Much excitement exists within this ‘sub-category’ of artificial intelligence. The prospect of adding machine learning capabilities to various HR software systems has arrived.  Kopoulos believes that this “offers tremendous potential for developing new people management strategies and proactively anticipating business goals”[4]. Kopoulos emphasises that:[5]

“Artificial intelligence can handle many of your employees’ routine requests about the organisation’s policies and benefits, but a [machine] learning AI could recommend training programs and external events that would interest an employee for better holistic management.”

Holistic human capital management within the human resources function of an organisation remains an important measure of sustainable employee relations. With increasing demands being placed on human resources professionals (at various levels within the organisation), machine learning capabilities promise to alleviate much of the competing vocational priorities still being experienced by many HR professionals in large, medium and small organisations. In particular, for the small to medium enterprise (SMME), machine learning promises to deliver the most impact because it is the HR professional in an SMME that often has to wear the widest assortment of hats in order to conscientiously deliver on his/her set of performance goals.

Mass personalisationAI in Training & Development[6] points out that the mass personalisation of information—especially around training and employee development—will have a prominent impact on the HR function of an organisation. With AI’s ability to enhance the functionality of software systems, mass personalisation of information will be a welcome arrival for staff-training and employee development professionals. AI-enriched learning systems are now beginning to offer “customizable employee-related training [programmes] [that are] based on individual performance”.[7] The impact of advancements like this will be numerous: can you imagine the gratification to be gained from knowing that each employee in your organisation has access to their ‘own personal mentor’? Once employees have spent sufficient time with their own personal mentor, can you imagine how the productivity-levels of individual employees stands to impact the productivity of your entire workforce? One can only begin to imagine what a pleasure these bring!

Risks associated with AI for employee training and development

As with most things in today’s world, there are always associated risks. Risks within employee training and development circles may arise when repetitive jobs stand to be made redundant. This risk however, is nullified when employees stand to learn more in the long-run. For example, by means of AI-enriched training and development programmes, employees’ “digital skills” [8] are improved upon. For some employees, their former repetitive jobs now become less attractive in any event. What must be kept in mind however, is that the phasing-in of AI systems results in numerous “narrow tasks” being performed “fast and flawlessly”[9]. The final result is that, once new levels of staff and operational productivity have been achieved, the likelihood of wanting to return to former levels of lower productivity is almost never desired or pursued. Kopoulos emphasises that: [10]

“Narrow AI and strong AI carry different risk levels. A fully functional, recursively learning AI, or AGI, could perform an incredible array of tasks that might leave human intelligence behind. Some people might fail to adapt to AI and technology, but that’s always been true.”

However, for the discerning HR executive who has been charged with making the strategic HCM decisions for an organisation, protection from associated risk affecting the organisation in a negative way can always be avoided by proactively adopting and adapting to newer technologies with AI and machine learning functionality embedded therein.

AI in Training & DevelopmentMinimising risks require human monitoring and control

In order to minimise risks associated with transitioning to AI systems, human monitoring and control interventions are always a good idea. Particularly, it is the direct accountability of all HR managers in the organisations to be certain that AI systems don’t violate security protocols.

Will AI take over my job and replace me?

Many employees today may be feeling threated by the growing phenomenon of AI and the place it is taking on centre-stage in human resources. However, there is no need for fear! In Personnel Today, Cath Everett explains that John MacIntyre, Professor of Adaptive Technology and Dean of the Faculty of Applied Sciences at the University of Sunderland, is adamant that there is “zero chance that humans will be replaced by machines”.[11] MacIntyre is of the view that “AI-based systems are great for specific tasks such as recognising patterns in data. But, unlike humans, they are unable to intelligently interpret that data, combine it with other information and make decisions on that basis.”[12] Lastly, in closing, the following quote serves well to assure valued employees (as well as HR professionals) of the (ongoing) importance of real humans participating in this whole AI equation:[13]

“AI systems might outperform their human counterparts in some areas, but mastering the right leadership, programming and monitoring skills should always stand you in a strong position regardless of technology changes. Creativity, empathy, teamwork and the ability to work with AI systems promise to future-proof your essential role in HR or any field.”

AI in Training & DevelopmentIan Hurst, CEO of Paymaster People Solutions, says: “the use of AI at the earlier recruitment stage, could well lead to a potential new employee already undergoing induction training (via the Internet), long before they even officially start their first day of work. For example, this might entail some form of personal development such as time management, or it could be specifically purposed to give specialist exposure to knowledge-type training. Both of these training requirements could easily be identified during the recruiting stage.”  “How awesome is that?” concludes Hurst, with a truly exciting open-ended question being presented to all the readers of this article.

At Paymaster People Solutions, its progressive and forward-thinking team of HR professionals have already embraced these changes. Consequently, they are now proudly helping their clients to gradually transition towards the adoption of these changes with much excitement too.


[1] Ari Kopoulos, ‘What Does Artificial Intelligence AI Mean for HR?’, EmployeeConnect, 16 November 2016,

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] ‘What Does the Future Hold for Artificial Intelligence in HR?’, Blog, Valeur HR, accessed 17 January 2017,

[7] Ibid.

[8] Kopoulos, ‘What Does Artificial Intelligence AI Mean for HR?’

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Cath Everett, ‘Does the Rise of AI Mean the Death of the Recruiter?’, Personnel Today, 19 July 2016,

[12] Ibid.

[13] Kopoulos, ‘What Does Artificial Intelligence AI Mean for HR?’



Everett, Cath. ‘Does the Rise of AI Mean the Death of the Recruiter?’ Personnel Today, 19 July 2016.

Kopoulos, Ari. ‘What Does Artificial Intelligence AI Mean for HR?’ EmployeeConnect, 16 November 2016.

‘What Does the Future Hold for Artificial Intelligence in HR?’ Blog. Valeur HR. Accessed 17 January 2017.


Paymaster People Solutions (Pty) Ltd is a subsidiary of Grant Thornton Advisory Services Cape (Pty) Ltd
Grant Thornton Advisory Services Cape (Pty) Ltd is a member firm of Grant Thornton International Ltd

Copyright 2016 Paymaster – Online Payroll Solutions | All Rights Reserved



Adrian Baillie-Stewart

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