- Larbi Touahir, Director of Executive Education within Institut Mines-Télécom Business School (IMT-BS)
- Marc Decombasdirector of companies specializing in artificial intelligence (Just IA) and video intelligence (Kooping) and director of the Executive Master “IA for Innovative Managers” within IMT-BS.
✔️Manager: a training prescriber role
Cadremploi: Raising the skills of its teams, is this a role to which the manager must devote time?
Larbi Touahir: Yes, more than ever. The health and economic crisis that we have just gone through has changed the roadmaps of management committees with regard to issues related to digital technology and climate change. These 360° ambitions, to come to life, rely on the managerial level. The manager must rely on his collaborators to lead the change. He must constantly assess the skills of his teams and adjust them if the collective ambitions so require. But he must at the same time preserve the individual interests of each employee, so that he remains employable both internally and externally.
In the companies you run, how much time do your employees spend training?
Marc Descombas: In our specialties (AI and intelligent video), innovations are daily. So I will first talk about self-training time. Ideally, employees spend half a day there per week. I want them to do an active watch for ½ hour to 1 hour a day. It is certainly not a production time but it is a profitable investment for the company.
Do you apply it to yourself?
MD: I try to stick to this “hygiene” of daily self-training, even if it is sometimes difficult… Being myself a specialist in my field (AI and field of vision), the amount of info to store is huge. Fortunately, I have sources that save me time. I recommend, for example, the video channel “Two minutes paper” on Youtube which broadcasts in English two videos of 10 minutes each each week.
What do you observe in the companies that call upon your institution to train their managers?
LT: Our programs reassure them. These companies do not need to turn their managers into technical experts. A veneer of solid knowledge is enough to enable them to work with experts without being experts themselves. Our training meets these specifications.
And do managers have a say?
LT: In the choice of training for his employees, the manager remains the best prescriber. Provided that he himself is competent, that he masters the potential impact of digital technologies and the ability to use them responsibly.
✔️Manager: a know-how-duo role with HR
What role do HR teams play in these training choices?
LT: If the manager is a prescriber for his teams, it is the HR department that defines the programs that can be offered to employees in a collective approach. It translates the manager’s vision into skills and needs. Beyond the technical skills needs reported by managers, the HR department ensures that the company is a place of personal development for employees, and encourages the hybridization between knowledge, technical know-how and know-how. be.
MD: HR are indeed the guarantors of “good” know-how in the company. A “good” extrovert AI expert has nothing to do with a “good” introvert AI expert. They are not the same profiles. HR avoids casting mistakes.
Under what conditions do HR teams make a good duo with managers when it comes to developing skills?
MD: Provided that there are enough HRs to do individual talent management. In large groups in any case, a perimeter of 200 employees per HR manager is far too many. Especially since the HR profession is not yet sufficiently equipped with AI technology to free up administrative time.
LT: HR and manager also form a good duo if they are both acculturated to digital technologies. Everyone involved in the company’s employee skills development plan, regardless of size, must be trained. This is also true for HR. We also welcome them in our Executive programs at IMT-BS. They seek to acculturate themselves in order to be able to dialogue with engineers, in particular, and ultimately better support their careers.
✔️Manager: a visionary role on the next professions
All companies that want to move forward quickly ask themselves the question: how to train for professions that do not yet exist?
MD: As a business leader, what has worked for us for years is to recruit “very good” people: I am talking about the 1 or 2% of fairly exceptional students, those who do not necessarily have grades dazzling but who are curious about everything and interested in others. They are “very good” technically but they also have outstanding communication. Having become managers, they are always one step ahead and train their teams to go beyond their current knowledge. It is these “hybrid” visionaries who are creating the next professions.
LT: These managers do what can be called “positive hacking”. They have the reflex to challenge the solutions mainstream to discover confidential technologies, used only by a few researchers on the other side of the world. It is not necessarily the technologies that make the most buzz that are the most useful. For example, there are platforms that are less known than the blockchain and which are much more promising. This is the interest of doing this watch that Marc was talking about. And to take care of its communication in order to be spotted internally for its human skills.
Do you have these “positive hacker” profiles in your “IA Executive Master for Innovative Managers”?
LT: Yes, these are the profiles that we attract and we help them to strengthen this vocation of career “pivot”, this skill which consists in interesting their collaborators in emerging trends, the desire to make them evolve towards new professions. These professions are not created overnight, it is done gradually.
✔️Manager: a role of ROI pilot
In some companies, we observe that the adoption of digital technologies is not always considered… Is it up to the manager to give meaning?
MD: I’ve observed it many times indeed… Sometimes companies do data for data’s sake with a vague objective. I recently saw an HR department that had decided to use its internal data to improve its hiring process. Except that, in reality, what would have made it possible to shorten the hiring times, it was the improvement of the platform for manual entry of identity documents. No need for a datascientist, a developer would have sufficed. An acculturated HR manager could have avoided this mistake.
LT: In our Executive Masters, we allow managers to have a culture of results, driven by finality. He learns to prescribe objectives in line with the vision of the leader and to present a return on investment that makes sense.
What if the manager does not assume this role?
MD: No one else will. And the danger of these errors in the long term is that data and AI are considered deceptive in view of their return on investment. It would be an AI winter. It wouldn’t be the first time in history…
✔️Manager: a whistleblower role
Isn’t the role of the team manager also to play down the AI?
MD: In some SMEs and ETIs with which I work, fears exist. Both executives and non-executives are asking questions about how their job will be impacted by these technologies. Their manager doesn’t have the ability to reassure them and that’s a shame.
LT: In fact, it all depends on the sectors and professions. The barometer conducted by Ifop for IMT-BS among business leaders and HRDs* reveals that their vision of the professions impacted varies greatly depending on the sector of activity. For example, retail companies consider that the professions “most affected” by digitalization are marketing and customer relations (+21 points above the average). While in the construction industry, they mainly insist on the digitization of HR (+6 points). The results show that each sector targets its priority professions differently. There are different maturities on the subject.
MD: There are also different maturities within the same company. In the automotive industry, for example, production jobs are already highly digitized while the accounting department continues to enter documents by hand, while an AI could free up time for tasks with higher added value. In a French unicorn whose name I will keep silent, the invoices are still entered… by hand.
LT: It is also up to the managers of these support functions – which are not in the heart of the business of the company – to raise their finger. We help them demonstrate that a well-conducted digitization generates a very interesting ROI. Moreover, in our Executive Education programs at IMT-BS, we adapt our approaches to each profession in order to provide managers in training with operational tools. The HRD, the DAF or the commercial director must be trained in AI but not as a datascientist. Faced with administrative burdens, time-consuming responses to calls for tenders, recruitment processes slowed down by manual entries for example, we equip them to know how to define the need, plan, budget and communicate on the virtues of digitization.