Elevating talent in the age of generative AI

Organisations across all industries face a common challenge: the digital skills gap. The dawn of generative AI has only increased the urgency to equip employees with skills for the future

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Generative AI may have quickly become a key part of the business lexicon over the last year, but for many business leaders, a key question remains: how can they use it to their organisation’s advantage? Getting a handle on new technology and finding the right talent to utilise it is a predicament many organisations continue to encounter in today’s rapidly evolving digital age. 

“Five years ago, bringing in technical talent to historically non-technical parts of the organisation, such as HR or marketing, wasn’t even part of the conversation,” says Maureen Lonergan, vice president of AWS Training and Certification. “The pandemic accelerated digitisation across industries, with cloud powering more and more areas of the business. The roles of the chief human resources officer (CHRO) and learning and development leaders have become increasingly challenging as a result. There simply isn’t enough skilled technical talent available right now. The biggest challenge we hear is: ‘How do I recruit and retain talent?’”

Beyond recruitment

“The reality is you won’t be able to recruit your way through this current skills gap,” says Lonergan. HR and talent leaders must therefore prioritise learning and development for in-house talent if they are to succeed. This is especially true as technology becomes more complex and use cases become more specific to individual businesses. While basic tech skills or an understanding of specific software are often only a minimum requirement for many job roles, organisations must reconcile with the fact that employees need upskilling to make effective use of layered and unique technology stacks that are quickly growing in complexity. 

The reality is you won’t be able to recruit your way through this current skills gap

Digital upskilling is no longer about technical staff gatekeeping all of the knowledge around technology within the organisation. Everyone from the CEO down to the sales team needs to have a strong foundation of digital skills and an understanding of how technology fits into their role. The most innovative organisations will recognise this and ensure they bring their people on the journey with them whenever they go through any kind of digital transformation. “Investing in the skills of your people will always be the most strategic and valuable business lever you have,” says Lonergan.

Generative AI upskilling for everyone 

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the emerging area of generative AI, which is further democratising a technology that was once reserved for specialists. 

Business leaders need to stay on top of developments and understand how generative AI can benefit their organisation if they are to remain competitive. According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2023, more than 75% of organisations plan to adopt technologies such as big data, cloud computing and artificial intelligence over the next five years. “Generative AI is not only here to stay, but it is the fastest evolving technology I have ever seen. Organisations and individuals must take steps now to hone their knowledge in this area,” says Lonergan. 

The accessibility of generative AI is both a challenge and an opportunity. On the one hand, its abilities and easy access have the potential to enhance productivity and innovation at all levels. On the other hand, this means that it can be tricky to control the use of the technology. Both technical and non-technical leaders need to quickly build an understanding of how generative AI could and should be used within the organisation, putting the right guidelines and guardrails in place to avoid any mishaps. For example, a lack of understanding of the hallucinations and biases that AI-powered technology can produce may lead to employees trusting false information or staff could be inputting sensitive data into public platforms without realising the risk.

While the learning curve might not be steep for every role, business leaders need to take a swift and proactive approach to training if they hope to keep pace with the march of both technology and their competitors. Short courses and training programmes can go a long way in helping organisations prepare their staff for the future. For example, AWS Training and Certification offers simple, accessible training courses in generative AI and cloud for both technical and non-technical leadership roles, many of which are free.

Technical training 

It’s also vital that organisations consider generative AI-adjacent skills. For example, cloud skills and data skills will be crucial to providing the foundations for the technology. And while there is a level of upskilling that needs to happen across all roles in the business, naturally a more complex technology stack is going to require more specific technical expertise too. Integrating AI and machine learning workloads, for example, necessitates a skilled and diverse team of professionals. 

As well as offering accessible courses for non-technical professionals, AWS offers training for technical roles and provides access to generative AI services. These services can be tailored to an organisation’s business needs and talent, making this emerging technology available to customers of any size and developers of all skill levels. For example, businesses can choose options ranging from services with built-in generative AI that don’t require specific expertise right up to building their own foundation models. Of course, to make such decisions, leadership needs to have a basic understanding of the skill levels within their organisations and what business use cases they want to use the technology for. Completing their own basic training in the technology can help here.

Building a case for training investment

“HR leaders have made it a goal, if not their top goal, to align learning programmes to the business strategies of the organisation,” says Lonergan. 

Putting together a case for training is therefore about ROI. What will the business gain from upskilling staff in emerging technologies across the board? “Organisations and individuals who invest in skills training are better equipped to keep pace with innovation, and this may be even more true with generative AI,” explains Lonergan. 

Leaders who invest in training talent are likely to see a huge payoff in productivity, helping increase business efficiency and innovation opportunities. According to recent research from Access Partnership, employers believe that AI could boost productivity by 47%, with large organisations expecting a 49% boost. Meanwhile, employees expect AI to boost their productivity too, with 41% saying that it could help them complete tasks more efficiently. 

To confidently lead their companies into the future, executives need to brush up their own skills and invest in optimising the skills of their workforce. AWS offers more than 100 courses and learning resources on AI and machine learning through AWS Skill Builder and AWS Educate. Business resilience starts with people and now is the perfect time for organisations to start taking learning seriously.

Prioritise your people to put generative AI to work