From education to employment

The skills search: Investing in AI for the digital workplace

Artificial intelligence is reshaping our approach to people, our businesses and our society. Now, it is time to gear up and embrace the transformation, adapt and upskill. We must act now to proactively prepare for a digital future filled with more innovative, productive and fulfilling job roles.

When ChatGPT was launched in 2022, many people were excited, and others were skeptical. Now that we have seen its potential, a growing group of people are beginning to fear what it can do – something even its creator, Sam Altman, admits. The technology has highlighted one truly significant lesson though: every company truly is – and should be – a technology company. Public digital tools like ChatGPT have shown more businesses the value of technology and how it can boost productivity.

Rising pressure to adapt artificial intelligence (AI), has thrust many companies into a state of panic – with a desire to run before they can walk just to prevent falling behind. Brands want to know what AI means for the demand for certain skills, and how it will change the structure of our leadership – should more of us be investing in a “Head of AI”, for example?

An opportunity to explore what AI can do for us

We, as individuals and businesses, now have an opportunity to explore what AI can do for us – and how it can improve the way we work. First, we need to start by doing an audit of our skills and roles that are bringing us the most value – and what skills we need to develop in order to be more agile in a digital future.

But accomplishing this isn’t always an easy task. Building a successful AI skills strategy is like building a brick house. The cement is the skilled workers with tech expertise needed to pull the individual bricks – or goals – in business together. And without this cement, we only have disjointed ideas of what could be. Investing in these key binding agents means expanding where we source them: branch out the search for talent, opening the door to career changers and those without a tech background and invest in upskilling the existing workforce.

For change to happen, leaders need to consider the people who will be a part of that journey and how it will impact them. When creating a plan for AI, here are some things to consider.

The foundation: Understanding your hopes for AI

AI has so many uses – so many in fact that it can be quite overwhelming for many businesses and their teams to really identify what they want to use it for.

If you work in HR and talent, you might be looking for a system where you can ask “Search for candidates, select the best applications, book interviews, and layout test cases for them to solve”. If you are in logistics, you might need a system that you can ask: “Help me optimise my fleet utilisation, book drivers for next week, and adjust the price to meet competition”. And if you are in the finance department of a company, you might be more interested in telling the system: “Do my financial reporting for this month, identify areas we can make savings and suggest green opportunities.”.

Essentially, the greatest outcome of adding AI to the workplace should be the increase in productivity, employee fulfillment and engagement – all whilst bringing value to the business. For example, in retail, the support of AI could help relieve pressure on staff during busy periods – whilst opening up opportunities to create exciting, omnichannel customer experiences.

So, although the needs of our job roles will change, it will bring invaluable opportunities to be more creative and productive.

The future: The impact of AI on human roles and skills

With so many changes, businesses undoubtedly need to make more long-term investments into learning and development to keep up with the need to upskill their current workforce. According to a report by Goldman Sachs, as much as 25% of all current work will be substituted by AI – owed in part to the fact that AI will replace a lot of roles with repetitive tasks, research and analysis.

This will hugely impact the structure of our workforce and the demand for different skillsets.

For workers who have empathy and care at the heart of their jobs, such as nurses and healthcare assistants, the adoption of AI will spark a huge appreciation for their skills – with greater value put on human experiences that are made more efficient by technology.  

However, teams that have previously focused on skills in planning, administration and procurement, will slowly disappear. With AI so well suited in these areas, many roles will dramatically change – with new skills needed instead. But this change isn’t to be feared – according to The World Economic Forum, 97 million new job roles are predicted to arise following the adoption of AI – meaning that businesses have a chance to reimagine their work structures.

Skills in leadership and strategy will always be important – and even more so with the implementation of AI. But AI won’t do it all for us. People in executive level roles are going to see growing demand for AI leadership skills and critical decision-making.

The human future

With such wide changes across our workforce, upskilling and reskilling will be essential for businesses to make change happen. 

Humans will always be a fundamental part of how our society operates and the values we want to continue. We just need to ensure that we collaborate with AI to continue to grow the areas that can make us learn more, achieve more and create more.

By Alex Rylance, Head of HR UK, Netcompany

FE News on the go…

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Alex Rylance (he/him) is a transformation and change focused human resources leader with over 20 years of industry experience.

He is an inclusive professional, advocating for social value, minimising digital skill gaps, and implementing changes based on employee voice and industry knowledge.  

His latest move into the technology industry is well supported by his strategic background in ensuring people are at the heart of technology change. In his role at Netcompany UK, Alex is well equipped with the resources to continue growing a more sustainable, people-oriented business. Actively working alongside executive leadership teams, he trusts that fast-paced growth in technology will help to create more fulfilling jobs within Netcompany, as well as the industries it works with.  

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