Organizations that want to bring artificial intelligence (AI) into their workplaces are unlikely to gain the rewards for doing so if they overlook the need to take the necessary steps. What’s more, businesses will have to start thinking about what these steps entail, so their workforce is prepared to face the oncoming wave.
The skills that are needed for roles across the globe are estimated to change by at least 65% by 2030, driven by rapid developments in AI that will accelerate workplace change, according to LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends report.
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Shifts are already noticeable on the executive networking platform, where job posts containing references to AI or generative AI have more than doubled worldwide during the past two years. LinkedIn’s research further reveals the majority of professionals in Asia-Pacific are excited to use AI at work, including 99% of employees in Indonesia, 98% in India, 97% in Singapore, and 84% in Australia.
More employers are seeking talented inivdiduals who know how to use new AI technologies to boost productivity in their organization, said Chua Pei Ying, LinkedIn’s Asia-Pacific head economist. The number of posts mentioning topics such as generative AI and GPT on the networking platform has grown 33 times during the past year, while job postings that mention GPT or ChatGPT have also increased by 21 times since November 2022.
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The spikes are hardly surprising because AI can be a powerful tool and it has the potential to revolutionize different aspects of work, improve productivity, and differentiate services, Chua told ZDNET. In India, for example, almost 70% of professionals think AI can help drive productivity, and another 60% believe it can push growth and revenue opportunities during the next year.
Generative AI will change the way many people carry out their work tasks, such as assisting employees in drafting emails or running initial rounds of checks for errors in a budget report.
Citing Microsoft’s annual 2023 Work Trend Index, she said 70% of employees would delegate as much work as possible to AI to lessen their workload. Some 76% were comfortable tapping AI for administrative tasks, while 73% would do the same for creative work.
In addition, 33% of pofessionals would use AI to produce quality work in half the time and 30% valued the ability to learn a new skill twice as fast.
As it is, LinkedIn members worldwide are adding AI skills to their profiles more quickly than before, with the number of AI-skilled professionals being nine times bigger in June this year than in January 2016. Growth was the largest in Singapore, at 20 times larger over the same time period, followed by Finland at 16 times, India at 14 times, Ireland at 15 times, and Canada at 13 times.
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With AI already reshaping the way employees approach work, Chua said there will likely be greater emphasis on skills and employee training to use the technology moving forward.
The global workplace has been in flux even before the emergence of ChatGPT, where skills for jobs have evolved by 25% since 2015, she noted. In addition, the pace of change is higher in Asia-Pacific, at 36% in Singapore, 30% in India, and 27% in Australia.
“There might be some trepidation among companies and professionals around the changing world of work and the impact of AI. The truth is, we’ve seen change like this before,” she said.
“When the internet became more mainstream in the 1990s, it was viewed as a threat to many jobs and companies. But while some jobs were lost, new jobs were also created…[and] the internet also created many opportunities for companies. I believe the same will be true for AI.”
Figure out employee journey to reap AI rewards
But before deciding whether to integrate AI into the workplace, organizations first need to understand what elements the technology comprises and the limitations of each type of AI, said Voo Poh Jee, partner of audit innovation at professional services firm KPMG in Singapore.
Executives will then be able to determine whether implementing AI as a tool can meet their business’ needs and evaluate the potential benefits and challenges associated with implementing it, Voo said in an email interview.
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The implementation of new digital tools, such as AI, is also only part of the overall process, she said. Further iterations and refinements need to be considered along the way to ensure AI is properly integrated, adding that organizations should have the relevant resources to follow through on their strategies.
AI will inform a lot of enterprise workflows, so organizations will need to understand the employee journey of different teams, in order to better determine where it should be applied to create the most value, said J. P. Gownder, Forrester’s vice president and principal analyst.
For instance, applying AI on data from the CRM system can help a sales executive seeking new leads to identify prospects that are most likely to convert to actual customers, which in turn helps the sales employee spend their time more productively.
Gownder added that work tasks that are predictable, routine, or scalable are most likely to benefit from AI. AI can speed up research and development work, for example. He noted that Dow was able to reduce its product development process for polyurethane formulations by 200,000 times, cutting the discovery phase to just 30 seconds.
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Voo also suggested that companies should start with processes that involve large volumes of data, varied datasets from multiple sources, or repetitive and manual tasks. In addition, AI could be used to facilitate data-monitoring processes and analysis.
“Implementing new technologies such as AI will require a substantial amount of time and investment to review the process, as tech implementation is also about process optimization, and ensure it runs smoothly,” she said. “This includes time spent on maintenance of the system and reviewing of work processes to ensure the integration is seamless.”
The management team also needs to be onboard, which helps set the path for the rest of the workforce to follow and creates an open mindset to embrace potential changes in workplace processes, she added.
Despite the improvements in productivity that AI can bring into the workplace, companies’ lack of trust in their workforce is a key challenge, according to Christina Janzer, Slack’s senior vice president for research and analytics.
Echoing Voo’s views on the need for constant refinements, Janzer said the industry is still figuring out what the future of work means due to the emergence of AI. This effort requires continuous investment in trying new things and investing in new tools, she said.
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Unless organizations have a foundation of trust, it will be difficult for employees to feel comfortable enough to try new things at work, she noted. Workers also function better if they are trusted, but one in four employees currently do not feel trusted, she said.
AI has a lot of potential, but companies will need to be thoughtful about how it should be introduced into the workplace and how its impact is measured, Janzer said. This process will help ensure AI is bringing improved efficiencies and positive changes to the organization.
Putting in place a proper change management plan is essential, she said, and this approach requires a two-way communications channel between employee and employer.
Bringing AI into the workplace involves a big change and companies that have an open feedback loop can better understand, and resolve, potential employee concerns. This loop helps to create transparency, which will lead to employee trust, Janzer said.
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Companies can improve their chances of success with AI by looking at their employees and leaders, said Gownder.
“It all starts with people, specifically, the interactions between people and AI. Keeping humans in the loop — retaining a role for human talent, guidance, oversight, and collaboration — is crucial to success with any AI system today,” he said. “All employees, not just technical employees, need to have the skills, inclinations, and beliefs that will allow them to work successfully with AI.”
Employees will need to cultivate a growth mindset to adapt and pick up new, in-demand skills, Chua urged. Companies should also adopt a skills-first model in hiring and developing talent, she added.
“In this environment, employees are concerned about staying relevant and they want to expand their skillset,” she said, noting that LinkedIn has seen a 65% increase in learning hours for the top 100 AI and generative AI courses from 2022 to 2023.
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Four in 10 executives in Australia and five in 10 in India are planning to upskill or hire for AI skills in the coming year, she said. The increase in hiring for AI talent in Asia-Pacific has also outpaced overall hiring growth, at 24% in Japan, 20% in Indonesia, 14% in Singapore, and 12% in Australia.
“AI is ushering in a new world of work, and the technology is already reshaping jobs, businesses, and industries,” said Feon Ang, LinkedIn’s vice president for talent solution and Asia-Pacific managing director.
“With so much change underway, now is the time for business leaders to assess the skills their organizations need now and in the years ahead, so they can set their teams up for success.”