AI's Dual-edged Sword: Job Disruptions and Opportunities

AI has become an integral part of our everyday lives, often without us even realizing it. From predictive text on our smartphones to recommendation algorithms on streaming platforms, AI is everywhere. But its impact goes beyond these seemingly trivial applications. According to Nicola Morini Bianzino, Global Chief Client Technology Officer at Ernst and Young (EY), AI is opening up an era where machines are becoming smart and self-optimizing, fundamentally altering the way we work.

However, despite the pervasive presence of AI, there is a significant lack of awareness about its potential to disrupt current workflows and empower us with new skills. A survey by Aimpoint Digital revealed that more than a quarter of UK adults have never heard of AI, and only two in every ten Britons have ever used AI at work. This lack of awareness and understanding of AI-powered technologies can make individuals more vulnerable to the associated risks and biases.

The rapid adoption of AI also poses a threat to job security. Goldman Sachs recently released a report suggesting that 300 million jobs could be lost worldwide due to AI adoption. This figure underscores the urgency for organizations to embrace the AI revolution and equip their workforce with the necessary skills to leverage its advantages.

Despite the worries AI brings, its advent is not only filled with darkness and despair. John Rudaizky, global brand, marketing, and experiences leader at EY, believes that AI will bring about a degree of displacement, but it will also create new and unexpected roles. He argues that AI will free employees from mundane tasks, allowing them to focus on more creative and impactful work. This shift will inevitably change the way organizations recruit talent and form new roles.

The Imperative of Re- And Upskilling

To prevent leaving the existing workforce behind in this AI-driven revolution, reskilling and upskilling programs become essential. Organizations must prioritize the upskilling of their employees, empowering them with the knowledge and skills necessary to adapt to the changing landscape. Upskilling for AI may involve training programs and initiatives to improve overall awareness of AI and identify areas where the technology may impact workers' roles.

However, the responsibility of reskilling does not lie solely with HR departments or corporate learning functions. It is a strategic imperative that requires the commitment of every leader and manager within an organization. Companies such as Ericsson and Amazon have made reskilling a core strategic objective, visibly championed by senior leaders. They have worked hard to articulate the connection between reskilling and strategy, ensuring that leadership and management teams understand their shared responsibility for implementing these programs.

Moreover, successful reskilling initiatives require treating employees as partners and designing programs from the employee's point of view. Employees are more likely to participate in reskilling programs if they understand why the programs are being implemented and have had a role in creating them. Reducing the risk, cost, and effort involved in reskilling and providing almost guaranteed outcomes can also encourage participation and engagement.

Towards a Future-Ready Workforce

Companies must possess a savvy comprehension of supply (skills present within and outside of the organisation) and demand (skills necessary to remain ahead of competitors) in order to create a successful reskilling program. A beneficial method to attain this knowledge is through a "skill taxonomy" – a comprehensive explanation of the qualifications needed for each job in the company.

Businesses used to put lots of energy into creating such taxonomies from scratch, but now, numerous leading companies are relying on external providers for the majority of the work. For instance, HSBC has embraced the taxonomy published by the World Economic Forum and tailored it a bit to add abilities exclusive to its business.

Furthermore, SAP, which used to retain an in-house taxonomy of 7,000 skills, has started collaborating with Lightcast, which maintains a continuously updated skill database. Nonetheless, crafting a skill taxonomy is just the initial step. Subsequently, comes the laborious job of determining which skills get connected to which occupations. Managers from different divisions may have different opinions about this. These types of disputes are often a result of a more profound discrepancy, and companies must resolve this before implementing any major reskilling endeavour.

Effective leaders must identify what skills will be necessary in the future - a constantly changing and essential procedure for successful reskilling programs. To do this correctly, they must consider what skills are necessary to meet the current strategy. In order to succeed in this, it is essential to form a sound and structured strategy for workforce planning.

As we look towards the future, here are some steps to help guide you on your journey:

1. Conduct a skill gap analysis

One of the first step is to conduct a skills gap analysis to identify areas where employees need improvement or new skills. Once identified, HR should establish formal upskilling programs and encourage self-led, company-subsidized career development. It's also beneficial to accommodate different learning styles and reward employees for their efforts. Partnering with third-party organizations can provide additional resources and expertise.

2. Monitor and evaluate

Key performance indicators (KPIs) such as employee turnover rate, time to hire, cost per hire, absenteeism rate, training and development metrics, employee engagement, and employee retention can be used to measure the success of upskilling and reskilling initiatives. Regular evaluation and refinement based on changing needs are crucial for continuous improvement.

3. Choose the tools and platforms

There are plenty of tools and platforms available that can analyze an employee’s job experience and career trajectory to personalize their learning experience. These tools can also identify pathways for employees whose jobs will be significantly disrupted, helping them transition to in-demand roles. Companies can also consider partnering with e-learning platforms to provide access to various courses and education programs.

4. Anticipate resistance

To overcome resistance, companies should communicate the benefits of upskilling and reskilling clearly and consistently. They should also provide employees with the freedom to own their career development, which can increase their motivation and engagement.

5. Ensure funding

Companies should treat skilling as a business investment. Clear business, people, and learning KPIs should be defined at the outset to guide program design and budget allocation. Demonstrating the potential return on investment can help secure funds for these initiatives.

Nurturing Continuous Learning in the AI Era

In addition to upskilling, organizations should also consider the importance of continuous learning and development. AI technology is constantly evolving, and employees need to stay updated on the latest advancements and best practices. This can be achieved through various methods, such as online courses, workshops, conferences, and collaboration with industry experts.

Furthermore, organizations must foster a culture of learning and innovation. This includes creating an environment where employees feel encouraged and supported in taking risks, experimenting with new ideas, and embracing change. Leaders should lead by example and demonstrate a growth mindset, emphasizing the importance of continuous learning and adapting to new technologies.

In conclusion, the fourth industrial revolution driven by AI presents both challenges and opportunities. The rapid pace of technological change necessitates a proactive approach to upskilling and reskilling the workforce. Organizations play a critical role in this endeavor and must embrace it as a strategic imperative. By doing so, they can ensure that their employees are equipped with the necessary skills to navigate the AI landscape effectively, thereby securing their future in the rapidly evolving world of work.

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