Business leaders are exploring how to responsibly adopt AI to augment worker contributions. How can AI help close the skills gap of their workforce?
Though artificial intelligence (AI) has been around for decades – with technological advancements appearing in fits and starts over the past 50 years – nothing has quite captured the imagination of the world like Open AI’s release of ChatGPT in late 2022. Suddenly, individuals, businesses, community leaders, and government organizations were caught up in the frenzy of discovery, as simple online queries returned ideas and answers to a broad range of prompts. Just as suddenly, news stories hyped both the promise and fears of generative AI – including loud proclamations that AI will soon replace a vast number of workers.
Now, nearly nine months removed from the ChatGPT release, more rational heads are prevailing. Business and HR leaders are curious, learning, and imagining how to responsibly adopt AI to augment worker contributions. Many, in fact, are exploring ways AI can help close the skills gap of their workforce.
What’s Causing the Workforce Skills Gaps?
There are numerous factors contributing to workforce skills gaps today. Some can be attributed to outside forces. Others reflect the strength of a company’s skills and competency management program. Here are a few examples:
- National Labor Shortage. In July 2023, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said, “there are too many jobs without people to fill them.” Labor force participation is down and there are 75 workers for every 100 job openings in the U.S., explains the Chamber. Employers in transportation, health care and social assistance, and the accommodation and food sectors have the highest numbers of job openings. Unless the work can get done with fewer people or more people can be enticed to the work, employers will have a gap in the talent required to complete the work.
- Pace of Technology Advancements and Market Changes. Technology advancements (including AI) continue a rapid evolution. The global marketplace is constantly evolving. Businesses – and their workforces – need to continually learn and adapt to be successful. As quickly as employees master skills and competencies, it may be time to consider upskilling or reskilling to keep up or catch up to broad market changes.
- Outdated Skills Requirements. There have always been both durable and perishable skills, where durable skills are generally relevant for seven years or more and perishable skills may only be relevant for two years. According to The World Economic Forum’s 2023 Future Jobs Report, released in April 2023, the shelf life of skills is getting shorter. The report predicts that by 2027, nearly 70 million new jobs will be created globally and 83 million will be eliminated. Many companies struggle to track immediate, near-term, and longer-term skills needs – and that task will only get more difficult with accelerated change.
- The Great Retirement. Baby Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, are “aging out” of the workforce and retiring, taking their skills and experience with them. According to J2T Financial Recruiting, 10,000 Boomers reach retirement age every day. And 75 million Boomers are expected to retire by 2030, paving the way for what is now called “The Great Retirement.” These workers often hold higher positions in the company, managing teams and projects. When their knowledge and skills are not systematically shared before retirees depart – and/or, if new leaders are not prepared to step in – companies may experience a drop in knowledge and productivity.
How AI Can Help Close the Skills Gaps
AI is already incorporated into many HR and learning tools – and many more are being developed. AI is very good at processing massive amounts of data and finding trends, taking on repetitive tasks so humans are freed to do higher-value work, and, more recently, augmenting human creativity. With those attributes, AI can be harnessed to help close workforce skills gaps in many ways. Here are just a few.
1. Staff Augmentation. Especially with our current widespread labor shortage and predicted smaller workforce once the Baby Boomers retire, “AI is absolutely becoming a tool that can help combat the labor shortage and enhance workforce performance,” says our CEO, Tom Grobicki, in a recent LinkedIn article. “By augmenting human talent, AI can enhance employees’ abilities to complete tasks faster,” he says.
2. Non-traditional Job Candidate Identification. AI is already a powerful recruitment tool, as many applicant tracking systems use AI to identify targeted keywords, phrases, and candidate attributes in job applications. AI can also be helpful in identifying non-traditional job candidates, which may become an even more important recruitment approach as labor force participation drops. Use AI tools to review and propose edits to your job descriptions. Root out unintentional bias that can get in the way of applications from older workers, neurodivergent professionals, culturally diverse personnel, those without a college degree, or adults returning to the workforce. Tuned correctly, AI can speed up and improve the recruitment process, quickly matching job requirements with available talent across traditional and non-traditional talent pools – and within your own workforce.
3. Advanced Skills Gap Analysis. AI-powered tools could be used to analyze all job openings in a particular industry and in a particular geography, to see skills that are predominant today as well as emerging skills. By combining results of your employee skills assessments with the job openings data, AI can forecast future skill needs and help analyze how well (or how poorly) your workforce is keeping up with current and anticipated skills in your market. With jobs and skills evolving quickly, AI may help companies to fill current and future gaps by shaping targeted training or identifying current employees to promote from within.
4. Personalized Learning Plans. AI is excellent at identifying trends. By analyzing individuals’ learning preferences and patterns, AI-powered tools could recommend personalized learning paths to close identified skills gaps. By identifying and recommending relevant training options that fit with an individual’s learning style, AI can help enhance learning and performance outcomes.
5. Accelerated Reskilling Initiatives. AI can be used to accelerate and improve training and reskilling programs. As one example, the U.K.’s National Health Service is exploring the use of AI to accelerate the onboarding of healthcare professionals. AI can be used, too, to analyze training and reskilling outcomes, providing feedback on which initiatives deliver the strongest (and weakest) performance boosts, so you can optimize learning opportunities aligned with your skill development goals.
Truly, we’re just in the early stages of widespread application of AI to advance workforce skills and help close the skills gap. The sooner we all get informed and involved, the better positioned we’ll be to adopt the tools and applications that make the biggest difference for our companies and team.
Of course, it (almost) goes without saying: AI is only as good as the data it ingests. Even the much-lauded ChatGPT has come into question recently, as researchers found a significant drop in accuracy in a matter of months. For now, it’s wise to continue to see AI as a tool to augment human analysis and decision-making, while remaining vigilant to ensure that AI outputs are helpful and aligned with your company goals and values.
Are you curious about AI and skill development? So are we! If you’re ready to prepare your team and workforce to adopt a skills and competency-first approach to future skillsets, download our Competency Management Toolkit for ideas on getting started. Or contact us to find out how Avilar’s WebMentor Skills™ competency management systems could support your next steps and close the skills gap of your workforce.
Generative AI: Friend or Foe to the Workforce?
Reskilling, Upskilling and New Skilling: When to Use Each
Closing the Skill Gap with Continuous Learning
Comparing Durable vs Perishable Skills Training