While the desire to take advantage of artificial intelligence (AI) remains high, we still see constraints in the levels of adoption. The problem does not lie in the technology itself, but rather with lack of people who can implement it. As a result, there is an unforeseen talent gap emerging, which we need to address, especially considering the following:
- The stakes are enormous. Skill shortages will be a defining factor of enterprise competitiveness in the future. Technology can become a great equalizer, exposing established companies in developed markets not only to disruptive competitors at home but also to those coming from fast-growing markets where players can leapfrog stages of development and avoid the burden of legacy systems and processes. For instance, as MIT Technology Review noted recently, operating models built by new firms in China are often remarkably more efficient than existing ones and may over time displace everyone else. If we do not have the right talent, then we cannot level the playing field.
- The scale of the issue is overwhelming. It is not just that we don’t have enough people with the right skills. The half-life of learned skills has shrunk dramatically down to five years, in a world where we see careers spanning 60 to 70 years. Consequently, the number of people impacted is huge: tens of thousands in each large company, from finance and research and development, to sales & marketing and supply chain. In aggregate, this accounts to tens of millions of people or more.
While top management grapples with these issues, workers are growing restless. The second edition of Genpact’s global AI research study presents a few interesting insights.
More than half of workers (59%) indicate they would be more comfortable with AI if they understood it more, and 80% of workers say they are willing to learn new skills to take advantage of AI in their current job. Yet, when it comes to how companies are addressing re-skilling for AI and technology disruption, there is room for improvement. More than half of senior executives (53%) say their organizations provide employees with re-skilling opportunities, which is up from 38% in 2017. Yet despite more senior executives saying they offer re-skilling, only 35% of workers say re-skilling options are available at their companies – and only 21% of these respondents say they have participated in that training.
There is clearly a disconnect here. Employees want training, executives say they are providing it, but the needle doesn’t move. What’s going on? At the core of the issue sits learning and development (L&D) organizations that struggle with the fast speed of technological change coupled with – by historical standards – older learners.