AI is the new frontier for business. Few could have missed the recent onslaught of headlines predicting sometimes revolutionary, sometimes devastating impacts on operations, the job market, and the way we live. A quick glance at Google trends will show searches for AI have skyrocketed in the last 7 months.
Contrary to media sensationalism, readily available AI is not the death knell of commercial success. Rather, the enhancement of business-as-usual capabilities by on-the-market AI tools will revolutionize performance at work, but only if talent is prepared with the relevant skills to use it.
Humans are the essential quality control element of AI, refining its near-endless potential functions to produce useful output. But in today’s talent climate, with demand for AI readiness at an all-time high, and ongoing shortages of skilled tech professionals, simply relying on hiring new talent to drive forward AI transformation will not do.
Instead, businesses can look in-house, to build their own internal skilling pipelines for a cost-effective and sustainable means to ensure they have the essential human element to successfully leverage AI to meet their business goals.
AI’s business potential
There are myriad ways AI can – and will – benefit business operations across all sectors. Automation can optimize the full lifecycle, from core functions to customer service.
For example, when designing business strategies or identifying commercial opportunities, AI can analyze the market and flag key trends in customer preferences or perform competitor analysis. The speed and capacity at which AI will perform this task frees up essential team resources to focus on the strategic application of the data AI will uncover.
For cybersecurity teams, AI is a gift to risk mitigation. Its real-time analysis can identify threats as they emerge, equipping talent with the knowledge that spurs them to take proactive, preventative measures that stop attacks or security breaches from escalating.
In all corners of business, from management-level decision-making to cybersecurity, HR to software engineering, effective implementation of AI will save time and resources which can be channeled into business growth – but only if the technical investment comes in tandem with investment in human capital.
Securing an AI-ready talent pipeline
It takes skilled individuals to understand AI’s host of potential functions, identify the best opportunities for a particular business or department, and effectively apply AI’s output for its benefit. AI will not self-identify where it can improve an organisation’s supply chain processes, for example. That will take human skill, and thinking strategically.
To ensure a sustainable pipeline of talent to manage the application of AI, businesses can establish in-house digital skilling programmes. KPMG recently recognised this, announcing a significant expansion of its partnership with Microsoft in early July to help its workforce deploy AI more effectively for clients and the employee experience.
In addition to freeing the business from the competitive pressures of the tech talent markets, organizations can benefit from the bespoke nature of in-house skilling programmes. Being designed to match commercial goals and timelines of digital transformation programmes ensures business investment is allocated in the most efficient manner.
For example, data lies at the heart of AI and so a strong technical grounding in data analytics, in addition to digital dexterity, is an essential skillset for talent keen to harness the full power of AI. If businesses begin their digital skilling initiatives mapping the existing skillsets of their talent pool, those with foundational strengths in relevant areas like data analytics can be fast-tracked for further development, taking on roles with greater responsibility that can capitalize on new AI-based functions at a greater speed.
To ensure the long-term sustainability of AI transformation programs, businesses can look to talent management software to actively track ongoing skills development to ensure that investment remains aligned with the capabilities of talent available.
The AI-empowered business
The effective application of AI needs skilled human talent to identify its benefits relevant to the business case and for quality control. AI can consume data in quantities incomprehensible to an individual and at revolutionary speeds. Yet it will be the clever application of its products that will differentiate a business from its competitors, particularly now that AI is so readily available. Clever application requires strategic thinking and understanding of a market, the thinking of key competitors, stakeholders, and business goals. In other words, the human context.
If done successfully, with tandem investment in AI and the talent to deploy it, businesses will not only benefit from the commercial edge of being an AI-enhanced organization. Investing in upskilling talent with cutting-edge capabilities like AI will help stem attrition, with talent finding increasing workplace satisfaction from the investment in their personal development and new long-term career opportunities opening to them.
In short, AI in business is inevitable. Businesses now must ensure their teams are ready to embrace AI, rather than be left behind.
About the Author
Aileen Allkins is the CEO of elev8 digital skilling, Aileen has spent her career transforming the customer service and support experience of some of the world’s best-known technology companies, and she is a strong advocate for investing in digital skilling and career progression programs, and the significant impact they have on both the customer and employee experience.