The Tech Skills Shortage — AI and Intelligent Automation

Original article was published by Dr. Priyanka Singh on Artificial Intelligence on Medium

The Tech Skills Shortage — AI and Intelligent Automation

Arguably, one of the greatest threats facing organizations today is the talent shortage. Executives recognize the skills gap. They know it’s both real and problematic. But most of their organizations don’t appear to be actively or effectively tackling the issue. Many organizations are merely running in place. Ironically, although executives recognize the significant threat the talent shortage poses, most organizations have not proactively attacked the problem. The vast majority have not moved beyond traditional hiring and training strategies. Compounding the issue, new skills requirements continue to emerge, while other skills are becoming obsolete. And it’s all happening quite rapidly. As organizations scramble to meet their talent needs, many are making adjustments to their education and experience requirements just to fill roles.

Also, as business platforms mature and companies continue to introduce new intelligent workflows to succeed on those platforms, the need for continuous reskilling in the workforce will be paramount to remain competitive. Hiring alone is not a sustainable solution to the talent crisis. Successfully navigating this new environment requires fundamentally reshaping how organizations manage skills, talent, and culture. And while reading and learning about creating agility in leadership teams and enterprises is helpful, it’s more important to mobilize and begin to apply the new insights to create positive change and adapt.

The human factor & the strategic importance of skills and talent.

The labor force has a significant impact on national and regional economic vitality. Without skilled workers, organizations struggle to innovate, deliver value to citizens and shareholders, grow their businesses, and create new jobs. Executives grasp the critical importance of skilled workers, pmainlywhen scouting locations for expansion. ILaborfactors top the list of considerations for organizations making location investment decisions. After being on the back burner for a few years, people skills are among the top three external forces ,CEOs expect to impact the business, just behind technology and market factors.

Current Skills Challenges

Data has been referred to as the new natural resource, with an article in The Economist going so far as to say it has replaced oil as the world’s most valuable resource. Ultimately, however, humanity is at the heart of the enterprise — and without talented and innovative people, the power of data remains dormant. Humans are essential to extract value from data and apply itthemn increativeays. The availability and quality of these critical human resources are under stress. And the shortage of skilled workers is only expected to grow. By 2030, the global talent shortage could reach more than 85 million people. To be clear, the issue is not a shortage of workers — but a shlackf workers with the right skills.

The tight labor market is one of the factors employers are forced to focus on building and maintaining critical skills in their existing workforce rather than continually sourcing new skills from outside the organization. Also the way the workforce approaches learning has evolved. Expectations among learners for curated, on-demand, multi-channel experiences have some enterprises struggling to meet their rapidly changing skilling requirements. The reality is that human resources (HR) executives and other business leaders are tasked with juggling the demands associated with recruiting scarce talent while simultaneously finding ways to motivate and engage the workforce to continuously skill and reskill in a culture of exponential learning.

AI and Intelligent Automation — An economic game-changer

Throughout history, automation has represented an opportunity to create new value from the balance of the classic paradigm of people, process, and technology.

As AI and intelligent automation have been hyped by media, much of the rhetoric has focused on doomsday predictions of massive job losses. Advancements in AI are spawning a new phase of automation: intelligent automation. Intelligent automation incorporates recent advances in AI and other technologies to manage and improve both physical and digital business processes automatically and continuously. Intelligent automation is transforming the way humans interact with and benefit from technology. It is also helping organizations create new personalized products and services, improve operations, reduce costs, and elevate efficiency. As more tasks are performed by process automation, humans are free to engage in higher-value tasks.

According to a recent survey on AI and ethics, only 38 percent of CHROs say their organizations have an obligation to retrain or reskill workers impacted by AI technology. If nations aren’t prepared for the challenges associated with adopting intelligent automation and most CHROs don’t believe reskilling is the organization’s responsibility, what is the path forward?

Closing the gap

To be sure, solving the skills challenge is no easy task. It will require concerted effort and action across an extended network of entities including industry, education, public policy, and economic development leaders. However, organizations must take the lead, moving beyond hiring and traditional training initiatives and committing to the continuous, strategic exploration of new paths. Regrettably, this is not yet happening. What combination of traditional and emerging tactics will help organizations tackle the skills challenge? Where should organizations invest their time and money?

Tactics to close the skills gap: What are executives using?

— Acquire talent from outside the organization — Move talent across business units and divisions — Reskill employees based on business priorities — Leverage visa programs to source international talent — Leverage apprenticeship/internship programs to train talent — Leverage new and emerging educational programs/platforms to enhance employee skills — Apply analytics to analyze and predict skill supply and demand — Implement skill recognition initiatives to recognize and track skills progression — Leverage talent through ecosystem partners — Skills recognition programs could provide the incentive employees need, inspiring them to take the initiative. Similarly, for executives keen to expand their learning partnerships to academia and industry, leveraging new education programs like code schools is an obvious strategy. Organizations should consider how best to apply each of these within the context of their unique culture, workforce, leadership, and business strategy

Three recommendations for closing the gap

Make it personal — Personalization has become part

Employees want a career, skill, and learning development uniquely tailored to their experiences, goals, and interests. Companies also want personalization. Employee skill and learning experiences that are tailored both to customer and market needs and to employee goals and interests can help retain the best and brightest and build a future workforce. To make an organizational impact with the speed required to be competitive, companies must personalize “at scale.” It means understanding the current skills of each and every employee, knowing where the corporation and the individual want or need to progress, and personalizing a learning and career path.

AI can help enable this level of personalization and bring a meaningful employee experience to life. Some organizations are leveraging AI to tailor employee notifications, learning paths, and content to fit both business and individual needs. Companies are also looking beyond traditional learning methods, growing skills in different ways for different learning styles, with programs that encourage internal job mobility, ad-hoc projects, peer-to-peer learning, job shadowing, and coaching. Most importantly, companies are fostering a culture of perpetual learning, personalizing the parts of the employee lifecycle to build, grow, and reward continual skill growth.

Turn up the transparency & Stop operating in the dark

Place skills at the center of your people strategy and aim for deep visibility into the skills position across your enterprise. Advanced analytics, AI, machine learning, and market-based skill data have shifted the conversation to one about obtaining actionable, often predictive, insights — at scale — and then making these insights available to everyone, from individual employees to enterprise business leaders. Leading companies are transparently signaling to employees the roles and skills that are growing in market demand and providing employees with engaging, meaningful ways to grow their skills in the areas that matter most, demonstrate their skill proficiency, and be recognized for doing so. This new level of transparency provides employees with information to self-direct their learning and career choices — information that is much needed to stay ahead of the shrinking half-life of skills.

In addition, companies including Ernst & Young, Banfield Pet Hospital, and IBM are applying analytics and AI to traditional and new data sets to infer what skills are available within the organization — and what skills the company should proactively retain — with significant granularity. This approach assesses and measures the skills — and skills depth — of the workforce on a regular, automated basis. The outcome is a transparent, objective, reliable skills baseline to monitor a company’s skills position over time and provide needed details for targeted workforce planning.

Look Inside and Out

Gone are the days when anyone company had all of the answers. Gone, too, is the ability to solve the skills challenge without the partnerships of broader internal and external ecosystems. To remain competitive, companies must adopt an open technology architecture and a set of partners able to take advantage of the latest advancements. Culture shifts are required to welcome third parties as part of the team, embrace partners to manage specific internal functions, and prepare for an integration of data across the enterprise and ecosystem not experienced to date — yet vital to success. Closing the global skills gap will require collaboration across ecosystems that span industry, education, and government. Executives can start today by committing to a modern workforce strategy that places skills at the center, delivers deep visibility into the skill position of both the enterprise and individual employees, personalizes skills development at scale, and leverages new partnerships and platforms that integrate data and insights across the employee lifecycle. The status quo is not an option. The time to act is now.