The widespread introduction of generative AI across professional services will transform not just the way we work, but the work we do, says Mary Alice Vuicic.

Just as seminal as the advent of desktop computing, AI will enable the automation of repetitive and time-consuming tasks – allowing professionals to spend more time on higher value work, helping to deliver increased value for their businesses as well as enhancing job satisfaction.

As AI adoption in the workplace grows, we can also expect it to drive a redefinition of roles and organisations, fostering new job categories, and dramatically increasing the focus on data and data quality.

However, a profound shift in working practices will need to be accompanied by investments in training and skills development to ensure that we can unlock the true potential of AI technology. The overwhelming majority (87%) of professionals (such as lawyers and accountants) surveyed in the Thomson Reuters ‘Future of Professionals Report’ expect mandatory training in AI to be introduced within the next five years as adoption of the technology continues to grow.

The report, which surveyed over 1,200 professionals, also found that 26 percent of professionals believe AI training is likely to become mandatory even sooner – within the next 18 months.

So, how can training be used for organisations to fully benefit from AI? How will AI change traditional career paths? And what is the opportunity for HR professionals to help organisations leverage AI for the better?

A new era of upskilling and reskilling

As AI capabilities grow, we will see an unprecedented wave of upskilling and reskilling driving AQ (Adaptability Quotient) to be as or more important than IQ and EQ. Organisations will be required to not just embrace change but to actively participate in shaping and directing it, and this represents a powerful opportunity for HR professionals to help navigate these complexities.

We can also expect new roles to emerge such as Integrators – transforming the design of work to integrate technology and elevate human work – and Reskillers – to rapidly train and develop people for the work humans are uniquely positioned to do.

While AI can help drive positive change across professional services, organisations need to ensure that their staff are able to gain greater value from it. Upskilling employees through AI training will become a greater area of focus for firms as they seek to harness the full potential that AI offers.

If companies seize the opportunity to make real change, AI will have a significant impact on the way people work, reconnecting employees with the most fulfilling aspects of their jobs.

Our research, however, highlighted that there is still some distance to go before many firms feel confident about using AI. While 30 percent of professional practices, like law firms and accountancy firms, currently use or plan to use AI within the next 18 months, a lack of technology skills was ranked as the second biggest barrier to change amongst professionals. 41 percent surveyed ranked technology skills as among the top two barriers to change.

This emphasises the need for changes to training practices if AI is to be utilised to its fullest within an organisation. With large cohorts of four different generations now in the workforce, firms will also need to adjust training and overall change management to accelerate the adoption of AI for all employee segments.If HR professionals can help their organisation get to grips with the technology early on, the benefits to a company could be considerable. 45 percent of professionals said their biggest hopes for AI was in improved productivity, internal efficiency and client services.

Role of training in reassuring professionals about AI

Training can not only teach professionals how to use the technology, but also reassure them about the positive impact AI can have on their work and personal development.

This is important as some professionals still have doubts about the effectiveness of AI. For example, 45 percent of professionals believe that if AI had been available to them during their training, it would have made it tougher to build up an understanding of the foundational basics of their job.

There is role for HR to help educate professionals in what AI can and can’t do, and how it can augment professional work rather than replace. By allowing AI to take on mundane tasks, such as large-scale data analysis or non-billable admin work, professionals can instead devote more of their time onto those more fulfilling, enjoyable and high-value tasks which many find to now be too small a part of their jobs. These include generating new business and forming better relationships with clients.

The overwhelming majority of professionals realise this. 76 percent believe AI can help increase their productivity, particularly important as 39 percent of professionals say long working hours negatively impacts their mental health. Training will be crucial to show professionals how they can automate monotonous tasks to bring benefits to how they work, and the work that they do.

Forging new education and career pathways

AI will also have a significant impact on individual career paths, forging new career opportunities for many professionals.

For example, AI will open new opportunities for computer science and maths graduates into sectors previously out of reach, such as the professions. These graduates are expected to be in greater demand so firms can take full advantage of AI.

Emphasising this, 28 percent of professionals believe that there will be an increase in those without the traditional qualifications in their respective professional fields within the next 18 months.

But AI is also expected to help other professionals in their careers. Encouragingly, 64 percent of all professionals said they anticipate a rise in the appreciation of their professional skills because of widespread AI adoption.

But to best prepare all graduates for an AI workplace, modernising university and college courses could be required. 76 percent believe that there will be a change in university/college training within the next five years to assist in this upskilling. This will greatly help professionals, as they ranked new skills and training needed as the number one challenge to succeed in an AI workplace.

Some survey respondents also said that an AI course module should be part of every degree course to help young people at the start of their careers. Emphasis may need to shift away from academic learning to more operational training so that professionals are ready for the workplace from day one of their careers.

Laying the groundwork now is key

If HR professionals seize the opportunity, and help their organisations prepare their personnel for the introduction of AI in their workplace as soon as possible, they can steal a march on their competitors through greater productivity and efficiency. In doing so, this has the potential to improve work-life balance and employee well-being.


Mary Alice Vuicic is the Chief People Officer at Thomson Reuters.