In an interview with Manage HR, Trish Nixon, Senior Director, Learning & Development Strategy, Equitable Bank, shares her thoughts on leadership development over the years and how leaders today can leverage emerging technology to stay at par with the industry’s trends.

Could you brief us on your career journey and your current roles and responsibilities?

I have a comprehensive background in HR, equipped with a CHRP designation and a master’s degree in public administration. Along my academic journey, I further honed my expertise as a certified leadership coach and change management practitioner, drawing insights from various disciplines such as public policy, HR, and leadership development.

Throughout my 15-year career, I have held diverse roles within HR. I recently transitioned to Equitable Bank, a thriving FinTech organization, as the leader of the learning and development functions. In this capacity, I provide strategic oversight and execute enterprise-wide learning and development programs. My responsibilities encompass talent management, ensuring individuals’ growth aligns with their current roles and future aspirations.

According to you, how has the industry evolved over the years?

In the realm of leadership development, while tactics may not have shifted drastically, there have been notable advancements in our understanding of leadership traits and the use of tools like people analytics.

What has truly changed is the emergence of enabling technologies that enhance workforce management, skill assessment, and identification of individual and organizational gaps.

However, the fundamental skills that contribute to high-performance leadership, such as empathy, active listening, and a growth mindset, have remained steadfast over time. The core leadership habits that distinguish exceptional leaders from good ones, such as conducting one-on-one conversations, has remained paramount in driving team success.

What are the technology related trends you have noticed in the industry?

We have been exploring innovative solutions like TILR, which enables us to capture and leverage the existing skills within our workforce while identifying future development aspirations. These tools prove invaluable in creating targeted learning and development plans that address specific skill gaps.

" AI possesses remarkable capabilities that hold great potential for transforming the role of knowledge workers in the workplace "

As AI and robotics become more prevalent, upskilling our workforce becomes even more critical to leverage the full potential of these technologies. Moreover, the advancements in HRIS systems and process automation have allowed us to reduce low-value work, enabling HR to focus on strategic initiatives and leverage the insights captured within these systems.

How is AI going to transform the industry over time?

AI possesses remarkable capabilities that hold great potential for transforming the role of knowledge workers in the workplace. Consider the example of ChatGPT, it has the capacity to revolutionize human tasks within the workplace. Looking specifically at learning and development, AI generates knowledge and content to bridge development gaps and expedites the process, reducing the time required to fulfill skill and knowledge requirements.

Although skills and knowledge acquisition still necessitate practice and time, AI enables companies, including my own, to fill these gaps at an accelerated rate compared to previous methods.

However, the influence of AI extends beyond content generation. It prompts us to consider how we can strategically incorporate it into our daily work routines. When leveraged as a strategic enabler, companies that effectively integrate AI will ultimately emerge as winners. From a learning perspective, there are numerous use cases that we are only beginning to explore.

For instance, the emergence of advancements like ChatGPT and its 4.0 version has facilitated the creation of curriculum within seconds and the development of visuals for job aids. These recent developments underscore the continuous evolution of AI, and we can anticipate further advancements in the near future.

What is a piece of advice you would like to share with your peers in the industry?

When considering the focus areas for heads of Learning and Development (L&D), many key priorities come to mind. Firstly, it is essential to prioritize the upskilling of frontline managers. This is particularly crucial because many individuals are promoted from technical or non-managerial roles to positions where they are responsible for managing people.

Addressing this capability gap becomes a strategic imperative for ensuring a positive employee experience, as frontline managers directly impact the majority of employees within an organization.

Secondly, it is vital to understand the specific skills required for success within one’s own company and industry and how these skills may be influenced by AI. This entails defining the current skill requirements and anticipating how AI may impact the industry and company in the future. By identifying and emphasizing the development of skills that are less susceptible to AI disruption, organizations can harness AI as an enabling tool rather than viewing it as a threat.

Lastly, there is a need to examine existing work processes and cultivate an awareness of the positive impact that tools AI can have in a knowledge-based economy. By prioritizing the upskilling of frontline managers, aligning skill development with AI’s impact, and embracing transformative technologies, L&D leaders can foster a resilient and future[1]ready workforce capable of thriving in the evolving business landscape.