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13 February 2024

AI Skills Report: Aligning Investments with Workforce Readiness

By Jan Iverson
Virtually Human

Organizations are already using AI: A Pluralsight survey revealed that 20% have formally deployed AI skills-related technologies and tools, and 55% plan to soon.  

The surge of generative AI has only sped up AI adoption. 92% of organizations that have adopted or plan to adopt AI have accelerated their AI initiatives in the past 12 months. With that acceleration comes an increase in spending for more than 4 in 5 organizations in the next year. On average, these organizations plan to allocate an additional 17% to AI in the next 12 months.  

Efficiency 

The pursuit of heightened efficiency serves as the key motivator behind the widespread adoption of AI. Organizations are primarily integrating AI to enhance efficiency, elevate the customer experience, and optimize specific business functions, such as fraud prevention, data analysis, and forecasting. Despite the prevalence of generative AI, only a minimal 6% of organizations intend to harness AI technology specifically for its generative AI capabilities.  

Budget and Talent Concerns 

Some organizations are hesitant to embrace AI, citing budgetary constraints and a shortage of skilled personnel. Not all are quick to dive into AI implementation; in fact, 25% of organizations have no intentions of deploying AI technology in the next year, and 12% are not increasing their AI expenditures. 

The primary reasons for their reluctance are either a lack of budget or talent to effectively utilize AI technology, or satisfaction with their current tools. Organizations that formulate a strategy and enhance the skills of their teams before adopting AI are likely to derive value more rapidly than those that adopt AI without a plan or the necessary expertise. 

The key takeaway is that, despite the widespread belief among executives and IT professionals that organizations not investing in AI will fall behind the competition, AI alone does not guarantee future success. Organizations must develop a comprehensive AI deployment and skill development strategy to improve efficiency, enhance the customer experience, and derive value from their investments. 

AI Skills Gap  

The AI skills gap presents a hurdle to achieving success. Among organizations that have implemented AI technologies, 97% report positive outcomes, including increased productivity and efficiency, enhanced customer service, and decreased human error. 

For IT professionals, the motivation for AI skill development stems from concerns about job security. A significant 74% of IT practitioners fear that the skills they currently utilize in their daily roles may quickly become obsolete due to AI tools. Additionally, 69% believe they are at least somewhat vulnerable to being replaced by AI. 

The apprehensions are not unfounded, with 35% of executives investing in AI technology and tools to streamline operations and eliminate redundant positions. Despite these challenges, or perhaps spurred by them, IT professionals recognize the necessity of acquiring AI skills to safeguard their careers. In fact, 96% acknowledge that staying abreast of AI skills is the most effective way to ensure job security in a competitive market. 

Workforce AI Preparation 

Based on IDC research, 41% of global organizations prioritize investing in employee skills and digital training over generative AI solutions like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard in 2024. This underscores the belief that, for long-term value, training surpasses technology.  

Notably, 95% of executives and 94% of IT professionals acknowledge the indispensability of staff proficient in AI tools for successful AI initiatives. Executives and IT professionals agree that investing in talent, training, and fostering the right culture is crucial for preparing for emerging AI technology, yet only 40% of organizations have formalized structured training for AI.  

AI Skills

Outsourcing vs Upskilling 

Securing AI experts in the market can be uncertain, making it worthwhile for organizations to cultivate AI talent within their existing workforce, offering both the specific AI skills needed and valuable professional development opportunities. 

  • Prioritize an AI skill development strategy before introducing AI technology. While organizations might be pressed for time to train employees, implementing an upskilling strategy beforehand enables teams to immediately contribute value. 
  • Evaluate employees’ current AI knowledge and skills to identify gaps, facilitating the development of a targeted upskilling program. Provide hands-on learning opportunities through labs and sandboxes, allowing technologists to navigate new AI tools while addressing ethical, security, and privacy concerns. 
  • Measure the success of AI upskilling initiatives and foster a continuous learning culture. While course completion and employee satisfaction are valuable metrics, tracking skill improvement and impact on ROI provides a deeper understanding of long-term AI success. 

AI Success 

As organizations embrace or plan to adopt AI, the absence of effective skills within their teams poses a challenge. Delaying upskilling efforts only widens these skill gaps.  

To optimize AI investments, organizations must rethink their approach, implementing a comprehensive upskilling strategy featuring skills benchmarking, hands-on learning, and a commitment to continuous learning.  

As AI evolves, a perpetual need to acquire new skills arises. Sustaining a competitive edge necessitates a constant effort to enhance organizational AI skills, staying attuned to the latest technologies. 

Jan Iverson is Head of Studio at FS Studio and an award-winning product leader with over 20-years of extensive experience in digital media and marketing, with a specialization in the design and development of AR, VR and 3D activations: mobile apps, games, LBE, sales tools, digital twins; with XR cross-platform content development, and a track record of success in leading award-winning digital creative teams. Virtually Human is her bi-weekly series.