Why AI is the key to help — not replace — future workforces

Experts agree that A.I. will play a significant role in the way we work, but won't outright replace people at the scale many fear.

Why AI is the key to help — not replace — future workforces

  • Fears abound about the use of AI — especially since the launch of generative AI like ChatGPT — to replace workers.
  • AI can, in fact, help organizational leaders better identify and plan what roles and projects they need to fill by identifying the skills they need, potentially helping them avoid mass layoffs.
  • AI can also help employees identify what skills they need to acquire to stay competitive, or identify areas where workers can be redeployed.

Related content: Go “Beyond the résumé: Building a workforce with a skills-based approach” to talent planning. Read our latest research report now.

Recent media headlines have amplified fears about a doomed workforce with A.I. encroaching on human territory. And yet, amid speculation of how mass layoffs and a possible recession could upend industries, business owners continue to face huge talent shortages.

The truth, of course, is more complex, especially where A.I. is concerned.

In fact, implementing A.I. may be a key to future-proofing businesses from a need to lay people off or suffering from labor shortages.

Prevent mass layoffs

When costs need to be cut, nothing does it faster than reducing head count, and a looming recession means that layoffs are expected to rise. This is already affecting multiple sectors, but the information services sector is estimated to have the highest risk of job losses amid the projected economic downturn, according to the Conference Board Job Loss Risk Index.

A.I. can significantly speed up the process of cost cutting and help prevent downsizing. Talent intelligence involves a constantly updating framework that captures skill adjacencies, understands context, and matches skills, not roles, to business goals.

What if organizations took a step back, evaluated the skill sets of their employees, matched their critical needs with the skills they already have in-house, and were able to keep their employees and redeploy them to other areas?

An Eightfold AI customer with more than 100,000 employees is doing just that by using our platform to redeploy about 20 people a week. Saving 20 jobs a week equates to a cost savings of more than $1 million a week for this organization. Reassessing roles and skills aren’t just the right things — organizations also win overall.

Help employees continuously upskill

Even as layoffs hit multiple sectors, one of the biggest challenges for employers of all sizes, especially small businesses, has been to find the right qualified talent for their open positions.

According to the NFIB, 45 percent of all small-business owners cannot fill their job openings (compared with the historical average of 23 percent), whereas 92 percent report few or no qualified applications for openings. Despite increasing compensation, perks, and bonuses, labor quality remains a serious problem and will continue to be one as 17 percent plan to create new jobs in the next quarter.

One of the barriers to attracting the right talent is failing to bridge the disconnect between the skills you want and the skills a candidate holds. A.I. can help identify the hidden or adjacent skills, learnability, and potential of candidates and existing employees so an organization can hire more effectively, and plan training and learning opportunities that target the right people to meet the most pressing business needs.

How to implement A.I. in your organization

Analysis of workforce data tells us that the average worker has more than 3,000 skills — but the key is to understand which skills are relevant for which positions and business objectives.

For example, in looking for what leadership skills lead to real innovation, a Harvard Business Review study identified five “discovery skills” that distinguish the most creative executives: associating, questioning, observing, experimenting, and networking. The researchers found that innovative entrepreneurs spend 50 percent more time on these discovery activities than CEOs with no track record for innovation.

A.I. can use large workforce data sets to make these kinds of connections. Instead of investing in a training curriculum because it’s always been used or is the industry standard, organizations can use A.I. to efficiently align talent and upskilling strategies with business strategies.

Organizations can also use A.I. to identify skill needs growing across their industries and get ahead of the curve with talent planning. Using Eightfold data, we’ve identified the leading industries ahead of the curve in training their workforces with the skills of tomorrow. These industries have high percentages of rising skills in their workforces. The top three industries are telecommunications, banking, and renewables, but even as these are the leading industries, rising skills still make up less than 10 percent of the total distribution of skills.

If an organization had a system in place to know what skills it needs — and easily identify existing employees who have those skills, or the adjacent skills to quickly learn them — it would be already ahead when finding talent to fill those needs.

Overall, protecting your business from external forces means implementing the right tools today to prevent tomorrow’s pitfalls. If the problem today is labor quality or misalignment of talent with business goals, upskilling is the answer. The future will consist of reimagining roles and breaking them down into skills, so people can move from project to project, or team to team, wherever specific skills are needed, instead of staying in a siloed unit. A.I. will be the key to doing this effectively, benefiting employers, workers, and the economy alike.

Sania Khan is the chief economist at Eightfold AI, the AI-powered platform for all talent, and the author of the upcoming book Think Like an Economist. She previously worked for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This article originally appeared on Inc. in June.

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