By Jill Goldstein
Generative AI is already fueling massive workforce changes, driving a host of talent-related issues for business leaders, and raising questions about the scale of its impact on the future of work. HR leaders play a critical role in navigating these organizational changes by rethinking workforce planning, design, and strategy for the era of AI.
As more business leaders embrace the technology, a new IBM survey shows that building new skills for existing employees is the most pressing talent issue for C-Suite leaders. The survey also found that executives estimate that 40% of their workforce will need to reskill as a result of implementing AI and automation over the next three years.
For many organizations, employees at all levels will feel the impact of generative AI. But it’s lower-level employees that will likely be most affected in the short term. Seventy percent of executives surveyed say entry-level positions are already seeing the effects of generative AI, compared to only 22% who say the same for executive or senior management roles.
AI’s impact on work will only intensify. Now is the time to get ahead of the growing disruption. Organizations have a responsibility to prepare their employees for this changing landscape, so their workforce is resilient and ready. HR leaders are uniquely positioned to shepherd their organizations into the future.
HR leaders should consider several actions to guide their strategies in this new era of AI.
Establish a new operating model, reimagining the work itself.
A significant advantage of generative AI is the ability to automate repetitive and manual tasks, unlocking more opportunities for employees to focus on higher level work. In fact, 87% of executives expect job roles to be augmented rather than replaced by AI. Yet, building the business of tomorrow cannot run with yesterday’s talent, and tomorrow’s talent cannot be plugged into yesterday’s operating model.
The key to success is structuring work strategically. Rethink and re-engineer work by identifying and eliminating lower value tasks that can be handled by AI, merging roles to create new ones, expanding roles to include tasks like applying or managing AI tools, and creating targeted skill development for higher-level tasks driven by people. IBM data shows that those organizations that evolve their operating model and put new technologies at the core are already outperforming their peers on revenue growth.
Invest in both talent and technology with skills at the forefront.
To prepare their employees for new applications of AI, leaders need to put skills at the center of a workforce strategy. This starts with a focus on increasing the general technical acumen of the entire workforce. While this does not mean every employee needs to be a technical AI expert, every employee should be familiar with AI applications. Roles and skills will change, and every employee should have a basic understanding of AI so they can embrace the change and apply technology to enhance their capabilities.
This is an opportunity for reskilling and upskilling in both technology and key behavioral skills, equipping employees with the relevant skills to work with AI creatively and responsibly. In addition to providing resources like apprenticeship programs and on-demand learning tools, empower employees to lead their own learning journey to gain the skills that are important to them.
Cultivate a culture of engagement and transparency.
AI has the power to transform the employee experience, helping employees improve productivity and speed adoption of new ways of working. But success is dependent on employees seeing AI technology as being valuable to their jobs. It’s imperative for leaders to share their vision with employees and be transparent about how AI will be applied.
Yet, IBM’s survey shows that employees and employers are not aligned when it comes to the most important attributes at work. Employees are prioritizing impactful work over all other job attributes beyond compensation and security. Employers haven’t recognized this fact, ranking impactful work the least important factor to their employees. This disconnect will only increase tension as more organizations rush to automate as many mundane and repetitive tasks as possible.
It’s important to engage employees in the process of re-evaluating the tasks to be automated. They should be empowered to provide recommendations on how AI can make their jobs better and more fulfilling. When redesigning processes to incorporate AI, bring the employees who will use it into the design process, encouraging them to share their insights and feedback.
AI plays a significant role in driving productivity, but this won’t happen with technology alone. Led by HR, organizations need to embrace a new approach to change management that includes cultivating new ways of working, shaping new job responsibilities, and driving a cultural shift in the organization. With AI’s profound impact on jobs, how an organization rolls out the technology will be key to achieving business value.
Jill Goldstein is managing partner of talent transformation for IBM Consulting.