Upskill, Reskill, or Hire? For GenAI, You Need All Three

Businesses are betting big on generative AI. A recent report from IDC forecasts investment of nearly $16 billion globally in GenAI solutions for 2023, with projections reaching $143 billion by 2027. 

All of this investment in GenAI technologies will have significant ramifications on the workforce, with an estimated 40% of all working hours impacted by large language models like ChatGPT, according to Accenture

The data suggests that workers aren’t ready: a survey by Salesforce found that while the majority of workers are optimistic about GenAI’s potential to advance their career, 62% say they “don’t have the skills to effectively and safely use the technology. 

HR leaders need to be proactive in preparing their workforce strategy for AI. While it may be tempting to think exclusively in terms of net-new hiring, a balanced strategy including upskilling, reskilling, and net-new hiring will be needed to address the growing demand for AI-related skills.

In this article, we explore the essential skills HR leaders will need to develop on their teams in order to effectively navigate the era of GenAI. Then, we look at different approaches to acquiring these skills, including hiring new talent, upskilling existing employees, and retraining workers in new roles—and when it makes sense to pursue each.

What Skills Will Employees Need?

The first step in preparing for the era of GenAI is identifying the essential skills that organizations and their employees will need to navigate the shift. It’s useful to think about these skills in three buckets: technical skills, AI literacy, and soft skills.

Technical Skills

In this new era of AI, technical skills will form the foundation for all other competencies. The World Economic Forum predicts a 40% increase in AI and machine learning specialists by 2027.

Some technical skills expected to be in high demand include programming languages, machine learning, deep learning frameworks, and data manipulation techniques.

AI development uses programming languages like Python, R, and Java due to their flexibility, extensive libraries, and ease of use. They serve as the primary tools for implementing algorithms and creating AI models.

Machine learning uses algorithms and statistical models that automatically improve through exposure to data. It is the cornerstone of AI; therefore, it's crucial for employees to have a strong understanding of machine learning concepts and capabilities.

Deep learning frameworks, like TensorFlow and PyTorch, are essential for building neural networks that can mimic human cognition. These frameworks allow developers to create complex AI models capable of learning and making decisions.

While employees don't need to be experts in these technical skills, a basic understanding is crucial for effective collaboration and communication with AI teams.

AI Literacy Skills

In addition to understanding the technology that powers AI, employees need a fundamental understanding of how AI works and its potential impact on the business.

Because AI builds off existing data and cannot create anything new, employees must know how to scrutinize and verify the data. They should understand AI ethics, bias mitigation, and techniques to ensure accurate and fair results.

As AI systems generate vast amounts of data and insights, employees must review and make sense of this information to drive decision-making and strategy. As such, employees must learn how to filter through AI data to derive strategic insights.

AI literacy skills are not only for technical roles; they are essential for individuals at all levels of an organization. From executives to frontline workers, a basic understanding of AI can lead to more informed decisions, ensure ethical practices, and improve collaboration with technical experts.

Soft Skills

A report from McKinsey Global Institute predicts that up to 30% of current work hours could be automated by 2030. As AI automates routine tasks and frees up time, employees will shift their focus to more complex, abstract, and strategic work, which will also require a shift in skillsets. These soft skills — problem-solving, creativity, communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and adaptability — are not as easily replicated by machines.

HR leaders should emphasize soft skills when developing new training programs and communicate their importance throughout the organization. These skills contribute to strategic work, problem-solving, and innovation, so HR should emphasize their growing significance in the AI-driven workplace.

Hiring practices need to integrate soft skills alongside technical abilities. Incorporating assessments that measure specific metrics related to soft skills can help identify individuals well-equipped for the future workplace.

Upskill, Reskill, Inskill: The Three Pillars of an AI-Ready Talent Strategy

To optimize the benefits of AI in the workplace, employers must invest strategically in the three pillars of an AI-ready talent strategy: upskilling, reskilling, and inskilling. Integrating all three establishes a versatile workforce that drives innovation, enhances productivity, and secures a competitive edge in the market.

Level Up with Upskilling

The GenAI revolution will transform the workplace but not the way many fear. Most experts predict that GenAI is less likely to replace entire jobs; instead, it will augment or streamline specific tasks. According to The Conference Board, "More than half of US employees are already using generative AI tools, at least occasionally, to accomplish work-related tasks." 

However, that doesn't mean employees feel comfortable using these tools. A Salesforce study found that most workers say they don't have the skills to effectively and safely use generative AI. This statement highlights the need for upskilling. 

Organizations must be ready to step in and assist employees in filling these skills gaps, enabling them to effectively incorporate AI into their workflow and optimize its use for productivity and innovation. Upskilling is an essential strategy for corporations, offering the necessary training and resources to help employees fill their skills gaps. It's how employees will seamlessly integrate AI into their day-to-day operations for enhanced productivity and innovation.

Employers looking to invest in empoyee skills through upskilling should focus on three things:

  • Customize Learning to Specific Roles and Responsibilities: Customizing learning to align with specific roles and responsibilities increases engagement and ensures the immediate applicability of skills. This approach enhances productivity by providing employees with relevant skills that directly impact their daily tasks and long-term career objectives.

  • Prioritize Real-World Application and Solve Actual Business Problems: Training that emphasizes real-world applications allows employees to understand and solve actual business challenges, bridging the gap between theory and practice. This method not only makes learning more impactful but also brings immediate benefits to the organization through practical skill application.

  • Work Collaboratively with Employees to Gather Input and Feedback: Collaborating with employees in training development ensures alignment with their needs and preferences, leading to higher engagement and satisfaction. This approach fosters a culture of continuous learning and development, enhancing the overall effectiveness of the training program.

Realign Talent with Reskilling

While GenAI may not replace all jobs, it could displace a portion of the workforce. The World Economic Forum estimates that while 69 million jobs will be created by 2027 due to innovations like GenAI, 83 million will be eliminated in the same time frame.

AI is expected to affect positions that involve repetitive tasks or tasks that are easy to automate. This makes the reskilling of displaced workers a DEI issue, since this displacement could disproportionately affect women and people of color.

Workers are ready and willing to take on new challenges the workplace, with 68% of employees are willing to retrain to remain employable, according to BCG. HR leaders must proactively identify the positions likely to be impacted by AI and facilitate transitions into in-demand roles.

Effective reskilling will require the following:

  • Identify and Acknowledge Employee Fears and Concerns: Recognizing and addressing the fears and concerns of employees regarding reskilling is crucial for building trust and motivation. By openly discussing potential challenges and uncertainties, employers can create a supportive environment that encourages employees to embrace new learning opportunities confidently.

  • Provide Flexible, Contextual Learning Opportunities: Offering flexible learning opportunities that are contextual to the employees' work environment enables them to learn at their own pace and in a manner that suits their individual learning styles. This flexibility ensures that learning is integrated seamlessly into their work, making it more relevant and effective.

  • Offer Personalized Coaching and Feedback: Personalized coaching and feedback are vital in reskilling, as they help tailor the learning experience to each individual's needs and progress. This personalized approach not only accelerates learning but also ensures that employees feel valued and supported throughout their reskilling journey.

Augment Skills with External Hiring

While upskilling and reskilling are priorities, HR leaders may need to look externally to satisfy specific skill gaps. Businesses must often augment their workforce to keep pace with AI innovation and growth.

As important as preparing the current workforce for an AI transition is anticipating the company's future needs. HR leaders need to understand which new roles and skill sets will be required after AI implementation and hire for positions that did not exist in the past.

The fast pace of AI integration is increasing the demand for AI ethics specialists, AI integration specialists, and data privacy experts. However, because these roles are unclear, companies struggle to understand the job responsibilities. As a result, it becomes challenging for HR leaders to identify the talent they need to recruit.

As employers look to augment their existing workforce with net-new hiring, they should consider the following:

  • Continuously Monitor Industry Trends to Identify Emerging Roles and Skill Sets: Keeping a pulse on industry trends is essential for identifying new roles and skill sets that are becoming critical in the evolving marketplace. This continuous monitoring helps employers stay ahead of the curve, ensuring they are well-prepared to recruit for emerging positions that align with future business needs and technological advancements.

  • Create Job Descriptions that Clearly Define the Requirements and Expectations for These New Positions: Crafting clear and detailed job descriptions is key to attracting the right talent for new positions. These descriptions should accurately convey the specific requirements, skills, and expectations associated with the roles, enabling candidates to self-assess their fit and ensuring that applicants have a clear understanding of what the role entails.

  • Look Beyond Traditional Sources of Talent to Attract Individuals with Diverse Backgrounds and Skill Sets: Expanding the talent search beyond traditional sources is crucial for attracting a diverse range of candidates with varying backgrounds and skill sets. This approach not only enriches the talent pool but also brings in fresh perspectives and ideas, fostering innovation and a more inclusive workplace culture.

Don’t Just Train Models, Train People

Implementing GenAI is not solely a technological endeavor. It is also a human-centric task that demands careful consideration of the workforce's skills, fears, and aspirations. As the demands of GenAI continue to evolve, organizations must ensure they are prepared to upskill and reskill their current workforce in addition to bringing in new talent with the specialized skills and competencies to fully leverage the potential of GenAI.

The right training provider can partner with HR leaders to equip their existing workforce with the skills they need to understand GenAI and how it will impact them. At Correlation One, we offer tailored programs that empower both business leaders and individual contributors to make the most of GenAI. Our workshops go beyond the basics, delivering role- and company-specific training that directly ties to job and business outcomes. Interested in learning more about how Correlation One can partner with you on your GenAI training goals? Reach out today.

Publish date: December 8, 2023