As we continue our series about the impact of AI in the workplace, we turn our attention to the crucial aspect of building an AI-ready workforce through reskilling and upskilling.
To leverage productivity and creativity gains from AI, we need a workforce that is prepared to use AI properly. The first step in the process to building an AI-ready workforce is to realize (and to help your teams understand) that AI is an “augmentation” rather than “substitution.”
Think of AI as a tool rather than a pseudo-person. Today, we leverage tools like Google to search and find information. The most productive people use the tools at their disposal and become great at using them. Further, those using the tools they can access are outperforming and advancing in their roles more quickly than those who do not.
AI is no different. It is a different tool, used slightly differently, but AI is not a replacement for human skill. Equally important is understanding that while AI will not replace people, people who use AI will replace those who do not.
If an individual is good at something, AI will help them become great. If they could not do something before, AI can help them do it now. AI lowers the barrier to realizing our visions, which makes work more rewarding.
The Basis of Fear for Those Using AI in a Modern Workplace
The fear that AI will replace jobs is rooted in two undeniable facts that ultimately stem from misconceptions about the technology:
AI will take jobs or replace workers entirely.
Work we can automate will almost always be automated in the name of advancement and productivity. This has been true for farmers and factory workers alike. The same is true for white-collar professionals. While AI has the potential to automate tedious tasks — much like tractors revolutionized harvesting and packaging crops — the elimination of certain tasks is often mistaken for the complete loss of a job. In reality, as some jobs are automated, new opportunities and roles emerge.
AI can do anything.
The perception that AI can do anything arises from its ability to assist in previously impossible tasks. For example, ChatGPT can write and debug code, even for those without coding experience. This may lead to the assumption that AI can replace any job. However, the truth is AI’s capabilities are often limited to entry-level work with average quality. While it’s impressive that AI can perform these tasks, the output is not necessarily exceptional.
These two factors — automation and the unknown skill of AI — fuel the fear that AI will replace jobs while, in reality, it merely creates productivity in areas where it was absent.
Augmentation vs. Substitution: A Key Concept for an AI-Ready Workforce
The critical distinction between “augmentation” and “substitution” is at the heart of preparing your workforce for the AI revolution. Augmentation refers to enhancing human capabilities through AI, allowing individuals to excel at tasks they were already good at.
Substitution, on the other hand, implies replacing human labor with AI. By focusing on augmentation, organizations can ensure their employees feel empowered to work alongside AI and to use its benefits rather than fearing job loss or obsolescence.
The Joyful Experience of an AI-Augmented Workforce
As AI continues to reshape the workplace, employees can experience greater satisfaction and joy in their work. By focusing on augmentation, organizations can help their workforce realize their full potential and transform previously unattainable goals into achievable outcomes. Embrace the possibilities that AI brings and invest in reskilling and upskilling your employees to ensure they are well-prepared for the future.
Preparing the Workforce for an AI-Driven World
Here are some practical and actionable strategies to help you adapt to the AI revolution.
- Identify core tasks and responsibilities: Start by breaking down the job into its core tasks and responsibilities. Create a comprehensive list of all the activities the job entails.
- Categorize tasks: Divide tasks into three categories, including creative tasks, productivity tasks and tasks with automation potential. This step will help you understand which aspects of the job are more likely to benefit from AI integration.
- Creative tasks: These tasks require human intuition, imagination and problem-solving abilities. Examples include strategic planning, designing and brainstorming new ideas. Use AI to support these areas, especially with brainstorming and organization. Additional opportunities include artistic endeavors such as image generation from text.
- Productivity tasks: These tasks often relate to your core job responsibilities and skillsets, which can make this the most challenging space to identify how AI can assist. Look for opportunities to leverage AI when you run into a hiccup in your job. For example, as a developer, this may occur during a coding issue, while as an executive, it could be creating charts or analyzing data to get a specific insight. AI can significantly improve productivity by automating these tasks or providing smart recommendations.
- Repetitive Tasks: These tasks involve repetitive or routine actions you need to complete efficiently and accurately. Examples include data entry, scheduling and managing emails. AI can significantly improve productivity by automating these tasks or providing smart recommendations.
- Analyze current pain points: Identify challenges or bottlenecks in the role, such as time-consuming tasks, inefficient processes or areas where errors frequently occur. Determine if AI can help address these issues by streamlining processes or providing decision support.
- Research relevant AI technologies: Investigate AI tools and technologies specifically designed to address the needs and pain points you identify. Evaluate their capabilities, ease of use and potential return on investment. Ensure the AI solutions align with your organization’s strategic objectives and technological infrastructure.
- Plan AI integration: Develop a plan for integrating AI into the job. The plan should include timelines, resources required and any necessary training or upskilling initiatives for employees. Consider running pilot projects in smaller groups or divisions to test the effectiveness of AI solutions before fully implementing them.
To help adapt your workforce to the new AI world, help your teams identify ways to leverage AI in their roles, much like the examples above. Organizational leaders should:
- Assess current skill levels and identify gaps: Begin by evaluating the current capabilities of your workforce and identifying areas where AI could augment or substitute tasks. This analysis will help you understand which skills need improvement or development.
- Develop tailored training programs: Create personalized learning paths that address the specific job responsibilities of your employees. Demonstrate how AI can assist them in their role.
- Foster a culture of lifelong learning: Encourage continuous learning and improvement by providing access to resources and tools that support skill development. Promote a growth mindset and recognize employees’ efforts to develop new skills.
- Employ strong organizational change management (OCM) culture: Work to break down resistance to using and experimenting with AI tools and promote collaboration between users of AI tools of various skill levels.
Reskilling and Upskilling are Critical for Organizations to Thrive
Building an AI-ready workforce through reskilling and upskilling is essential for organizations to thrive in an increasingly AI-driven world. By focusing on augmentation rather than substitution, we can empower employees to leverage AI technology to enhance their capabilities, leading to a more fulfilling work experience.
As we prepare our workforce for the future, we must also acknowledge and address the complexities and challenges associated with AI, including governance, security and ethical considerations.
As we move on to our next blog, we will explore how leaders can ensure their organizations are responsibly implementing AI solutions. By understanding and managing these complexities, organizations can not only create an AI-ready workforce but also establish a solid foundation for AI adoption that balances innovation with responsibility.