AI and the Future of Work: Reskilling the Workforce in an Age of AI

AI is transforming the way we work, and it’s happening faster than you think. Over 100M people already use ChatGPT every week, and more than half of employees say they use AI tools at work.

While there’s no question that AI will help certain types of people to do their jobs better, many people are worried that it will actually replace the need for people to do certain jobs at all. This could lead to large categories of jobs being destroyed.

As a result, it’s critical that we start thinking about where and how to reskill the workforce for an age of AI-powered software.

The Impact of AI on the workforce

AI is already having a significant impact on the workforce. According to a study by PwC, up to 30% of jobs in the UK could be automated by the early 2030s.

There are several different ways that AI will impact the workforce that researchers have observed in prior technology adoption waves.

  1. Some jobs will be entirely replaced by AI. After the invention of the ATM, people no longer needed to speak with bank tellers for basic transactions, so there was a drastic decline in the number of bank teller roles. We have seen similar declines in the number of call center reps, transcriptionists, and other types of roles that have been replaced with different types of technology.
  2. Some jobs will be augmented by AI. Certain jobs will become more efficient with AI. In the 1800s, 90% of the population were farmers, but as technology became more efficient, fewer farmers were needed to grow the same amount of food. With the current wave of AI adoption, AI will help doctors make better diagnoses and help lawyers review legal documents more efficiently.
  3. Some jobs will be enabled by AI. Before the telephone was invented, there was no such thing as a telephone operator. With this new wave of AI, there is a new category of machine learning engineers who are focused only on “prompt engineering.” This role is different from traditional software development, but it has arisen from the need for new ways to work with AI models.

All of these changes will have a significant impact on the job market, consequences for education and training programs, and implications for government policies and regulations.

The industries impacted most by AI

According to a McKinsey report on AI, three-quarters of executives expect AI to cause significant or disruptive change in their industry’s competition within three years. McKinsey’s research shows that all industries will see some degree of disruption, but the level of impact will vary.

Interestingly, compared to previous technology waves that have impacted industries like manufacturing, automotive, and aerospace, knowledge-based industries like tech, banking, and pharmaceuticals are expected to be the most impacted by the current wave of AI.

This is because the latest set of AI tools have unique strengths in language- and creative-based activities like creating marketing materials, creating first drafts of presentations using AI, and summarizing text documents.

Reskilling strategies for a world of generative AI

One of the most interesting findings from McKinsey’s research on generative AI is that the companies that will be the most impacted by AI are also investing most heavily in adopting AI tools.

While government organizations and policy institutions will invest in this AI shift, employers themselves will likely be some of the biggest drivers of this reskilling.

Here are some of the strategies that companies are using to reskill their workforce for an age of AI:

  • Encourage employees to be curious and experiment with AI tools and systems. Technology companies like Google have famously asked employees to spend part of their time tinkering with new products. Now that AI has made technology more accessible to more people, companies are asking more employees to try out AI tools that can help grow their businesses.
  • Provide access to training and development opportunities. Many companies are investing in training programs that teach employees how to work with AI tools and systems. These programs can be delivered through a variety of channels, including free online courses or internal-only training programs.
  • Invest in AI training for managers and executives. While it’s important for all employees to develop AI skills, managers and executives are in a unique position to drive change within their organizations. By investing in their own AI education, they can better understand the potential of AI and how to implement it effectively.
  • Create a culture of continuous learning and improvement. As the world continues to change, companies are trying to build dynamic cultures to help employees keep up with the latest AI trends and industry developments. Rather than specifying specific tactics, this allows companies to build an evolving culture that can adapt to new situations.
  • Hire for and develop skills that complement AI, such as creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving. Rather than hiring for specific rote skills, companies are placing a premium on soft skills like creativity and problem-solving with groups. This takes place in the hiring funnel as well as on the job.
  • Collaborate with other companies and organizations to share best practices and knowledge. The rise of AI is a global phenomenon, and it’s important for companies to work together to share knowledge and best practices. This can take the form of industry associations, conferences, or other types of collaborative events.
  • Partner with educational institutions to develop AI-focused curricula. As the demand for AI skills grows, educational institutions will need to adapt to meet the needs of students and the workforce. By partnering with these institutions, companies can help shape the future of AI education and ensure that students are learning the skills that will be in demand in the future.

While none of these tactics is a complete solution in itself, it’s a toolkit of strategies for companies to begin investing in the future of an AI-powered workforce.

The benefits of investing in reskilling for AI

Investing in reskilling for AI is not only important for individuals, it will also provide significant benefits for the companies who make the investments. Here are some of the potential benefits that companies can reap from investing in reskilling for AI:

  • Increased productivity and efficiency: As employees learn how to use new AI tools and systems, they can work more efficiently and effectively. This will lead to increased productivity and cost savings for the company.
  • Improved customer experience: AI tools can help companies provide better service to their customers. For example, chatbots powered by natural language processing technology can answer frequently asked questions quickly and accurately, freeing up human agents to handle more complex issues.
  • Competitive advantage: Companies that invest in reskilling their workforce for AI will be better positioned to compete with other businesses in their industry. They will have a more skilled workforce that is able to take advantage of new opportunities presented by AI.

Last but not least, investing in teaching employees how to use AI can help companies attract and retain top talent. Employees want to work for companies that are forward-thinking and invest in professional development. By offering training and development programs focused on AI, companies can demonstrate their commitment to employees, which helps them hire and retain the best talent.

The risks of investing in reskilling for AI

While there are many benefits to investing in reskilling for AI, it is important to consider the risks of such a large investment as well.

One of the most significant risks is that despite a large investment in training people on how to use new AI technologies, there is still a major job loss or displacement in certain industries.

As AI technology continues to advance, many jobs may become obsolete or automated if AI can perform better than humans. Rather than preparing workers in these roles to co-exist with AI, it could have been better to prepare them for new opportunities in new roles and new industries.

There is also the possibility of creating a skills gap between workers who have been reskilled and those who have not. There are ethical and equity concerns that people who already have access to the most opportunities are the ones who will have the best opportunities to be upskilled or reskilled as AI tools become more common in the workplace.

Despite these risks, the benefits of investing in reskilling for AI far outweigh the costs. People need to stay up-to-date with new technologies in order for our economy to remain competitive and for individuals and companies to succeed.

Conclusion

AI is transforming the way we work, and it’s critical that we start thinking about how to reskill the workforce for an age of AI.

There are many challenges that come with reskilling the workforce for AI, but there are also many opportunities. By investing in training and development programs focused on AI, companies can create a more resilient and competitive workforce. They can attract and retain top talent, improve productivity and efficiency, and provide better service to their customers.

However, it’s important to remember that reskilling for AI is not a silver bullet. There are risks associated with such a large investment, including job loss and displacement in certain industries, as well as the potential for creating a skills gap between workers who have been reskilled and those who have not.

Nevertheless, there is a strong set of incentives for individuals, companies, nonprofits, and government entities to invest in learning and leveraging the power of AI. By providing people with the skills they need to succeed in a technology-driven world, companies and countries can ensure their success in the years to come.

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