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M.R. Asks 3 Questions: Brett Shively, CEO of ACI Learning

By June 28, 2024Article

Since 2019, CEO Brett Shively has led ACI, which provides audit, cyber, and IT training to more than 250,000 subscribers worldwide with an 80% content completion rate.

With robust leadership roles at OnCourse Learning, Everspring, DeVry, and Kaplan, Brett brings a wealth of experience to his role as CEO of ACI Learning and, his understanding of the training/L&D landscape and its future direction is deeply respected in the field. 

We hope you enjoy this quick and thoughtful conversation.

M.R. Rangaswami: With so many competing business priorities, why should organizations invest in training and development?

Brett Shively: Today’s business landscape is rife with change. Budgets are tight, competition is fierce, the global talent shortage persists. Furthermore, new technologies like generative AI are shaking things up, creating both exciting opportunities and new skills gaps. 

By implementing an effective training strategy, leaders can meet this moment head on and empower their workforce to adapt. Many companies recognize the vital role employee learning plays in the success of their business, which is why the learning management system (LMS) market is expected to reach $51.9 billion USD by 2028.

The landscape is really changing so quickly, both on the technology side with AI, cybersecurity and other factors, and on the regulatory side with auditing. Companies that actively support continual learning rather than just leaving it to the employee get better outcomes.

M.R. What methods work best to upskill employees in our modern workforce?

Brett: There are a few simple steps leaders can take to start.

First, use assessment tools to uncover employees’ needs and motivations. It’s impossible to help someone if you don’t know what they need. And too often, companies apply a one-size-fits-all approach to employee learning, which can lead to redundancies, disengaged employees, and workers that are either overqualified or underqualified for their role. Assessment tools help businesses identify opportunities for upskilling or reskilling, measure learning progress, track the application of new skills in the workplace, and guide individuals along their career paths.

Then, using what was learned from the assessments, companies should tailor trainings to the specific groups of employees they’re educating — even down to the individual level if necessary. For example, learning might be tailored to generational differences: Gen Z employees might get the most value from self-led programs that feature “bingeable” snippets of content — think short-form, Tik Tok-esque videos. Conversely, millennials may prefer more structured, long-form, instructor-led content. In other instances, training might need to be tailored for accessibility, neurodiversity, or some other factor.

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of incentivization. Many people are already overloaded in their daily roles, and asking them to learn something new — while exciting — can also seem overwhelming. Incentivization is a simple yet effective way to motivate employees and reignite their spark for learning.


M.R. How does AI come into play with the future of learning and development?

Brett: AI is a great human intelligence booster. It’s like having a calculator to help you with complex math problems – 50 years ago using a calculator was considered “cheating,” but now they’re universally recognized as learning tools that enable students to focus on the key problem (unless they’re trying to learn how to do long division!). Generative AI can be viewed through the same lens – it helps people get a kickstart on problems, it helps them summarize and organize a large body of information quickly and it can generate creative solutions that can be refined.

In addition, AI-infused tools can help organizations take their training efforts to the next level through personalized learning, deeper engagement, boosted efficiency, and inclusive access. AI can also tailor learning experiences to employees’ individual needs by automatically adjusting difficulty levels, recommending helpful resources, and providing customized feedback.

The potential benefits of AI are vast, but organizations must be mindful regarding adoption—with so many different solutions available, companies risk overwhelming employees with new information and capabilities, inadvertently diminishing the value they’re aiming to provide. The key is to start slow and offer plenty of support as employees familiarize themselves with these new tools.

The pitfalls are well known – when using Generative AI to answer critical questions – checking the answers is equally critical. Additionally, simply asking Generative AI to create something and using that output without any refinement can result in generic, unhelpful answers that are easily spotted as the work of an LLM model.

M.R. Rangaswami is the Co-Founder of