Getting Your Employees Ready for Work in the Age of AI

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The era of AI is upending work as we know it.  As companies start using intelligent technologies in earnest, many people who have been well-trained for their positions for a long time may suddenly find themselves in uncharted waters.

The good news, as Eva Sage-Gavin, Madhu Vazirani, and Francis Hintermann of Accenture Consulting explain in the Spring 2019 MIT Sloan Management Review, employees are ready to embrace the changes they see coming.  A recent Accenture study on the future workforce found that over 60 percent of workers have positive expectations for the impact of AI on their work.  And two-thirds acknowledge that they must develop their own skills to work with intelligent machines.

However, large companies, are not on the same page as their employees.  For one thing, business leaders believe that only about one-quarter of their workforce is prepared for AI adoption.  And only 3 percent of business leaders are planning significant increases in their training budgets to close the skills gap created by AI.

How can companies and employees find common ground when it comes to skill development and investment in AI capabilities?  To start Sage-Gavin, Vazirani, and Hintermann say senior executives should seek clarity around capability gaps and determine which skills their people need.  From there, leaders should find an approach that builds the skills needed for human-AI collaboration.
Let’s start by examining the nature of the widening skills gap.

Much of the press around AI has focused on automation and what it will mean for jobs.  These predictions run the gamut from completely devastating to highly positive.  Meanwhile, continued progress in technology has stoked fears in people that AI may someday make their jobs obsolete.

However, most of the meaningful data related to jobs suggest that humans will continue to play a major, though transformed role in “the AI workforce.”  Using the U.S.  Department of Labor’s O*Net database, Sage-Gavin, Vazirani, and Hintermann analyzed more than 100 abilities, skills, tasks, and working styles in the United States over the past decade and found a sharp rise in the importance of the uniquely human skills of creativity, complex...

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