In my experience from working with various organisations, I’ve seen that companies that effectively integrate AI are achieving more than efficiency gains; they are entirely redefining their operational strategies.
The real challenge I see lies not in adopting AI, but in adapting to it, ensuring that job roles evolve in step with it. While AI itself won’t take your job, someone adept at using AI might. Similarly, AI won’t render your company obsolete, but a competitor harnessing AI effectively could.
The survival of a company hinges on two things; one is productivity and the other is its ability to innovate. In this context, HR leaders have a responsibility to ensure their staff are equipped with the necessary skills – so that their current workforce is not left behind, and instead learns to leverage AI for improved performance and career advancement.
Upskilling in AI is crucial for maintaining relevance in your industry
I’ve seen firsthand the natural tendencies of CHROs, CTOs and other leaders to focus on cost optimisations when they consider the immediacy of AI, instead of focusing on improving quality (and productivity). The fact is that no new hire, no matter their background or expertise, can replace the experience and familiarity that your current employees have – and focusing on firing & hiring can quickly backfire. Enter upskilling: it’s a lot less disruptive, and more cost effective, to upskill rather than fire and hire.
Upskilling isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity. AI is reshaping job requirements, and those proficient in utilising AI tools will be the ones leading the charge. This transformation is about more than just keeping up; it’s a strategic decision to evolve with your workforce rather than replace it.
How do you upskill in AI?
Common challenges HR leaders face in upskilling their workforce all stem from a limited understanding of AI’s practical applications, and a lack of alignment between learning initiatives and their business and industry’s evolving needs. AI training is not just a corporate checkbox but a strategic investment in the workforce’s future. At Mindstone, we’ve come to realise very quickly that a cookie cutter approach doesn’t work when it comes to delivering training in AI.
Having conducted workshops for a wide range of companies and their staff, I’ve noticed a recurring trend. Initially, there’s a wave of enthusiasm about learning AI, but this excitement often dwindles as most people don’t know how to take advantage of it. This can be seen on a macro level too – interest in AI soared on initial hype back at the start of 2023, but when people realised practical applications being covered didn’t align with their roles, there was a dip in interest. Now we are seeing more alignment, which means the workforce could be more open to upskilling as it aligns with their needs.
Implementing an AI upskilling program demands a strategic and personalised approach.
This is what you need to consider as a HR leader:
- Start with understanding your team’s existing AI skills and knowledge gaps. While digital courses and interactive workshops can cater to learning preferences, they often fall short in keeping pace with the speed at which AI develops or being tailored to your exact needs.
- Identify your KPIs: Quality of work, sales numbers, and ticket resolution times are areas where AI can significantly amplify performance. For example, AI upskilling might lead to a 5-10 percent increase in sales or a 20 percent faster resolution of issues. While cost-efficiency remains important, especially in operations where it’s a key value driver, the broader aim should be to elevate efficiency in areas vital to your business’s unique strengths. In essence, AI’s role should be to enhance the metrics that matter most to your business, not just to trim costs.
- Get your leadership to drive communications around a culture of continuous, real-time learning – encouraging staff to carve our learning during their work day, with recommendations for resources
- Encourage engagement with contemporary learning platforms like articles, podcasts, and social media threads, which provide more current insights into AI advancements than conventional courses.
- Name an AI champion: companies excelling in AI integration often have a champion like a Chief AI Officer, who not only grasps the technology but also aligns it with business strategies, ensuring the learning is not just theoretical but immediately applicable and business-relevant. This role is important in going beyond outdated educational models towards a more fluid, real-time learning environment that keeps the workforce agile and informed.
How AI will change your company structure
It starts with the Chief AI Officer or an AI champion. There’s a temptation to shoehorn a CTO into the role; after all, AI is technology, right? From my experience, it’s actually the CEOs and COOs who are becoming more involved in HR decisions regarding AI. Traditionally, CTOs have navigated black and white realms of technology, focusing on automation and cost-cutting. However, AI demands a broader perspective. It’s about enhancing roles, not just automating them. The challenge is to look beyond traditional automation and explore how AI can augment and enrich workforce capabilities, and work towards common goals.
I also believe HR leaders will soon rise to the rank of the C-suite as a result of AI upskilling needs. This transition will offer HR leaders a chance to lead the charge rather than just executing strategies formulated elsewhere. The future I envision places HR at the heart of organisational strategy, where talent development and workforce adaptability become central to the C-suite agenda. This shift is not just about equipping the workforce with new tools; it’s about cultivating a mindset geared towards continuous upskilling, enabling employees to effectively harness AI under the guidance of CTOs and COOs. HR is going to be critical in steering organisations through the challenges and opportunities presented by AI and other emerging technologies after that.
There is a nuanced difference between automation and augmentation, but I firmly believe in the latter. Upskilling is about preparing your team for a world where AI is not just an aid but a fundamental part of how we work. Let’s embrace this change, not out of fear, but with the vision to build a workforce that’s future-ready as well as work-ready. Upskill, don’t replace. The future of your organisation depends on it.
Joshua Wöhle is the CEO and Co-Founder of Mindstone.
Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.