The AI revolution and how it will affect jobs and reskilling of staff

 The AI revolution and how it will affect jobs and reskilling of staff

Artificial intelligence is an industrial revolution that will affect peoples’ jobs and require reskilling. “The more I study artificial intelligence, despite, or maybe because of the wonderful things that it can do, the more optimistic I get about the labour market and about where we’re going, Christopher Pissarides, Nobel Prize winner in economics and professor at London School of Economics, says in an interview with LSE IQ Podcast and published in the LSE Business Review.  

In the coming decades millions of workers may need to be not just upskilled but reskilled. Companies have a critical role to play in addressing this challenge, but to date few have taken it seriously, five researchers write in Harvard Business Review after having made a study of how companies plan for AI and reskilling staff,. 

The best gift we could give our children would be responsible and sustainable AI/GenAI, coupled with a well-thought-out and compassionately implemented talent transformation programme, Didem Un Ates, vice president of French multinational Schneider Electric and with a long experience of AI from Microsoft and Accenture, writes in a blog post for World Economic Forum.

“In summary, as we architect and build the job landscapes and ecosystems for our children, in addition to using AI responsibly and sustainably, it’s also essential to invest in talent development and workforce planning based on business demand and technology applications (e.g., GenAI/AI use cases)”, she writes. 

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“Within each organization, function or even team, multiple “boxes” in the talent impact matrix are likely to apply. In other words, some team members need to be hired for new breakthrough roles with high demand, and others may need to be trained for augmented skills – even in the same team.”

Professor Pissarides stresses that what we are going to do with AI is our decision, and companies will take these technologies on only if they improve their performance. 

Asked how the introduction of AI is affecting jobs already, his answer is: ”So far it hasn’t been affecting them very much because there’s been a limited application of AI to work so far.”

“I think AI will take over jobs that can be programmed, that follow a certain routine, that are based on the analysis of data that we already have.” 

“All our information is going to come from AI. ChatGPT, for example, is already being put into practice as a way of generating information the way that Google was and still is. That’s going to be the main impact.” 

“And that’s why I’m optimistic. The manual work that robots are doing in warehousing or in production lines, those jobs are not particularly satisfying. Those have been taken over. Or the old type of work where you would go through massive volumes of past cases or examples or whatever to discover what information is relevant to what you’re doing now, all that has gone and will be gone even more in the future.” 

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“But it’s not going to take over most of the jobs in the service sector that involve personal contact, jobs that require creativity, those will remain in human hand”, Pissarides forecasts.

 He stresses that the big difference that we have with AI compared with previous technologies is that it is opening up much bigger, much richer possibilities than before.

“I’d say that the more I study artificial intelligence, despite, or maybe because of the wonderful things that it can do, the more optimistic I get about the labour market and about where we’re going.” 

The researchers writing in Harvard Business Review say that in the coming decades, as the pace of technological change continues to increase, millions of workers may need to be not just upskilled but reskilled—a profoundly complex societal challenge that will sometimes require workers to both acquire new skills and change occupations entirely. 

“Companies have a critical role to play in addressing this challenge, but to date few have taken it seriously.” 

The authors—members of a collaboration between the Digital Data Design Institute at Harvard’s Digital Reskilling Lab and the Boston Consulting Group’s Henderson Institute—interviewed leaders at some 40 organizations around the world that are investing in large-scale reskilling programs. 

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They conclude that there are five paradigm shifts that are emerging in reskilling: 

  • Reskilling is a strategic imperative. During times of disruption, when many jobs are threatened, companies have often turned to reskilling to soften the blow of layoffs, assuage feelings of guilt about social responsibility, and create a positive PR narrative. But most of the companies we spoke with have moved beyond that narrow approach and now recognize reskilling as a strategic imperative.
  • It is the responsibility of every leader and manager. Reskilling investments need a profound commitment from HR leaders, of course, but unless the rest of the organization understands the strategic relevance of those investments, it’s very hard to obtain the relentless and distributed effort that such initiatives require to succeed.
  • It is a change-management initiative. To design and implement ambitious reskilling programs, companies must do a lot more than just train employees: They must create an organizational context conducive to success. To do that they need to ensure the right mindset and behaviours among employees and managers alike. From this perspective, reskilling is akin to a change-management initiative, because it requires a focus on many different tasks simultaneously.
  • Employees want to reskill—when it makes sense. The key to success in this domain, our interviews suggest, is to treat workers respectfully and make the benefits of their participation in reskilling initiatives clear.  
  • It takes a village. Companies have tended to think of reskilling as an organization-level challenge, believing that they have to do the job by and for themselves. But many of the companies where we interviewed have recognized that reskilling takes place in an ecosystem in which a number of actors have roles to play.

The authors argue that companies will need to understand and embrace these shifts if they hope to succeed in adapting dynamically to the rapidly evolving new era of automation and AI.

The researchers writing in Harvard Business review are Jorge Tamayo, assistant professor in the Strategy Unit at Harvard Business School; Leila Doumi, PhD candidate in the Strategy Unit at Harvard Business School; Sagar Goel, managing director and partner at Boston Consulting Group, Singapore, and a fellow at the BCG Henderson Institute; Orsolya Kovács-Ondrejkovic, associate director at Boston Consulting Group, Zurich, and an ambassador at the BCG Henderson Institute; Raffaella Sadun, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School.

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