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AI: Tackling the Global Skills Gap

Blog
14th May 2019

Author: Craig Gibson, Chief Commercial Officer, Webhelp

The swift emergence of AI and automation technologies is creating a strategic challenge in terms of expertise. Increasingly, businesses are struggling to attract and retain the people they need. Webhelp’s Director of Strategic Marketing, Dave Pattman, examines the AI skills gap and international data trends to find creative ways to solve this crisis.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is poised to transform processes and productivity across business, industry and the economy as a whole. This burgeoning field is driving digital transformation in customer experience, forcing companies to compete to recruit top-end talent.

The financial services sector has been quick to embrace the use of chatbots and virtual assistants to help customers with routine tasks like scheduling payments and to automate frequently asked questions. At the same time, Predictive Analytics has become key in reducing the risk of loan defaulters and machine learning is being used to identify patterns of transactions to indicate fraudulent activity.

Across multiple fields, the increase in the use of AI technologies is creating a skill shortage for businesses seeking to expand in this area. As AI rapidly reshapes customer service, upskilling the workforce so it can thrive in this new environment is a critical business challenge.

An added complication is that the inevitable growth in automated AI services will create brand new roles, requiring very specific skills – AI supervisors, for instance, to deliver the human insight needed when deploying these technologies on a large scale.

According to Glassdoor research on salary, satisfaction and recruitment, data scientists currently occupy the top slot for employment in the United States, with technical roles dominating the top 50.  Further research from The Hays Global Skills Index strongly indicates that an international AI skills crisis is on the horizon. It will become absolutely crucial for companies to develop robust strategies to close the AI skills gap, in order to stay relevant.

Sam Lansley, AI Software Developer at Generis Knowledge Management, believes that the lack of AI skills is a concern for the economy:

“This is a particularly worrying area for the UK. Automated systems used to be very rigid but now enhancements to AI have meant that the impact of this technological evolution will soon be significant for all industries. Humans will need to be more skilled. There are going to be challenges in terms of how businesses transform and how industries – and even countries – remain competitive. Jobs will be lost, but in many areas it will be a case of changing the job description rather than taking jobs away.”

He adds that: “AI is currently more mainstream in the US and China, where data privacy rules are also much more relaxed. It is so important to invest in and to promote the necessary skills in data and in AI in order to compete.”

The World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs report found that 35% of core skills will change between 2015 and 2020. McKinsey research suggests that between 75 million and 375 million people globally may need to switch occupational categories by 2030. This begs the question – are businesses doing enough to bridge the AI skills gap?

Companies that aren’t investing enough in human capital should think again and take steps to upgrade their skill base to get the biggest benefits from machine learning and artificial intelligence. Tech giants Google and Amazon are investing internationally to expand their talent pool. But training and development for AI are not solely the responsibility of private sector businesses, education at a national level has a clear role to play in developing digital skills.

Webhelp is doing its bit too. From real-time systems that augment understanding between advisors and customers and the development of our own data professionals, to investing in tools that improve advisor focus and performance, we’re taking measures to ensure that our people have the AI skills – and support – they need to be at the top of their game.

While there’s no single route to success, a sustained, multipronged approach to create a highly-skilled and flexible workforce (ready to take on the next big thing!) will pay dividends. Those companies that are able to harness digital transformation will undoubtedly enjoy significant productivity and financial gains.

You can take a look at this recent post by our guest blogger, Dr. Sue Black OBE, Professor of Computer Science, Durham University, and Founder of Techmums, for a deeper dive on how digital disruption can have an impact on people and organisations.

In case you haven’t registered yet, Sign up to receive fresh insights and invitations to exec events with our Webhelp Disruptor Series campaign: https://www.go.webhelp.com/disruptorseries.

Get in touch if you’re facing disruption – or want to disrupt – and want to talk through the implications for CX. E: dave.pattman@webhelp.com


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