A case for digital peers

By the Feathercap team
10 minute read

Imagine starting a job with 10 very informed co-workers or peers who could answer all of your job questions.

It’s your first day of work; maybe for a tech company, a factory, a restaurant, a bank or maybe even from home or in the field. As you start your job you feel nervous but great since you know there are 10 friendly peers, all equally knowledgeable about your role and all open to helping you. You’re confident none of them will get impatient because you plan to cycle through each of them to answer all your important and nagging questions. As the day and week progresses they give answers based on you, your role, your time on the job and overall experience. Very quickly, you start to see a rise in your confidence, productivity and success. This is great! You’ve never felt better beginning a job. Your employer knows if that state can be maintained, you will have the least likelihood of leaving. Now imagine if this experience of the 10 peers could be in a digital form?


Reality: Do your employees have the answers they need? Do they have enough peers who can help? The answer is likely “No” and it’s getting worse.

We’ve long known that employees need the right answers to be confident and successful in their jobs. Typically, after completing their initial on-boarding training, everyone who has a job question simply asks their peers or manager. And in a recent study, this has been shown to be the dominant route employees take to get job answers. But rarely do employees have multiple knowledgable job peers to rely on. In fact, as every job becomes more complex and requires more skills. What we could call “skill creep” sets in requiring less people to do more with greater number of required skills. Employees asking questions to their peers becomes less practical and is discouraged more often because of increasing time constraints for everyone. Or worse, an employee’s peer or manager may not know the answer to specific job questions or provide the wrong answer.

Additionally, “the great resignation” of 2021 is real. In most every industry, monthly resignation rates have risen by at least 50% as those leave their current jobs in favor of better working conditions and higher wages elsewhere. The march to higher wages in an open and free market is probably inevitable when we have employee booms like we do now. But what’s also clear is a big reason for a lot of this turnover are the working conditions and stress employees have at work trying to do and learn their jobs without the previous luxury of having knowledgeable and experienced peers they can engage with to lighten their burden.

Existing and emerging technologies – LMSs, LXPs and the AI powered chatbots.

Traditional learning systems or learning management systems (LMSs) are great at delivering a crafted curriculum of on-demand content and vILT/ ILT (Instructor Led Training) at the beginning of an employee’s job tenure, for up-skilling and setting a cultural mindset for employees anytime. All content is crafted regardless of size to be consumed as a whole; varying from 5 minute micro learning to multi-hour on-demand courses or virtual instructor led sessions. Examples of these are offered by Docebo and Cornerstone-On-Demand. Learning experience platforms (LXPs) which focus on delivering the right learning and other content to employees are great at letting employees get credit and earn credentials for learning any number of skills. The most advanced also help companies develop a talent marketplace to know who based on newly acquired training credentials is ready to move to another role. Great examples are Degreed and LinkedIn Learning.  

The rise of NLU and chatbots

Since 2017, Google and many other natural language understanding (NLU) vendors have achieved a 95% rate of understanding for spoken and written language compared to a human. This gave rise to text and voice enabled chatbots to understand what you say or write. This is matched to their capabilities for understanding and indexing any text, document or video, comprehending every second of video and every sentence of text. Paired together, asking a chatbot a question gives employees not only the right answer pulled from existing documents, videos or courses the chatbot can start to hold a conversation to further refine the answer provided. Just look at what Google Lambda is doing for interrogative conversation. Though certainly not a replacement to LMSs or LXPs, companies like ServiceNow, Microsoft and many others will undoubtedly use these as a great interface for employees in realtime to get the answers and content they need to do their jobs better all through a chat or voice interface.
More resources: The failure of on-demand courses What’s missing from enterprise learning? The case for self-directed learning in the workplace Three reasons to align user generated content with an LMS The rise of conversational learning  

The state of AI driven cognitive search today: enter the digital peer

Knowledge management and enterprise search systems as offered by Microsoft, Google, Coveo and most recently Moveworks have come a long way in understanding the relationship of content to all other content. Known collectively as cognitive search combining NLU (natural language understanding) and auto tagging using AI takes much of the manual curation out of organizing a company’s content. Cognitive search solutions focus on curating all of an organization’s content and the collective experience of this content by all employees and empowering searches to be more accurate. Existing systems to date have been most successful for large Healthcare, technology company focused projects utilizing large teams to deploy and tune. What’s needed today is a way to combine the above cognitive search, chatbots while deeply understanding every employee. We call this a digital peer. It’s the idea of building a digital replica of every employee to base and measure the questions asked, answers and content reviewed as a feedback loop to understanding each employee’s goals, curiosity, interests, specific job role as well as current and predicted future job readiness. This is like having our above 10 great and knowledgable human peers. To us, a digital peer is the embodiment of every employee’s experiences and aspirations as they ask questions, receive answers and review the content addressing their job questions so they can be more happy and successful. For employers this means many advantages; having skilled and confident employees as well as through such a digital peer understanding what their employees need for their current and future roles. We look forward to the days ahead when a digital peer can work with every employee around the world.   More resources: Five reasons content curation is getting more difficult Five reasons AI will soon curate all your content Feathercap has AI driven search and curation Three reasons video search can now rock

About Feathercap 

At Feathercap, we use AI to deeply understand every employee, their job, content and what they need to succeed as we automatically answer their questions and make them happy. For more: https://feathercap.net

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