3 steps you need to take to build an AI-savvy workforce
Ryan Shanks, client director, The Dock. Image: John Ohle Photography

3 steps you need to take to build an AI-savvy workforce

14 Mar 20181.43k Views

Are you ready to compete as intelligent technology meets human ingenuity to create the future workforce? Ryan Shanks from Accenture has some recommendations.

A recent Accenture Strategy report, Reworking the Revolution: Are you ready to compete as intelligent technology meets human ingenuity to create the future workforce?, estimates that if businesses invest in artificial intelligence (AI) and human-machine collaboration at the same rate as top-performing companies, they could boost revenues by 38pc by 2022 and raise employment levels by 10pc. Collectively, this would lift profits by $4.8trn globally over the same period. For the average S&P 500 company, this equates to $7.5bn of revenues and a $880m lift to profitability.

Both leaders and workers are optimistic about the potential of AI on business results and on work experiences, according to the study. 72pc of the 1,200 senior executives surveyed said that intelligent technology will be critical to their organisation’s market differentiation and 61pc think the share of roles requiring collaboration with AI will rise in the next three years. More than two-thirds (69pc) of the 14,000 workers surveyed said that it is important to develop skills to work with intelligent machines.

AI can create a world that unleashes the potential for employees to be more human, spending more time creatively solving problems and developing relationships, rather than completing routine tasks and calculations.

‘Upskilling courses that enable graduates from different backgrounds to hone their AI knowledge is a very positive step in future-proofing AI talent’

At The Dock, Accenture’s global multidisciplinary research and incubation hub here in Dublin, AI is a key focus. Our teams at The Dock work with many of our clients from around the globe who are actively looking at how they can apply AI solutions today.

We know that leading businesses are successfully using AI to improve productivity. But, to achieve superior rates of growth and employment, they must now apply AI in more innovative ways. An alliance between humans and machines will usher in a new era of work and drive competitive advantage. The full promise of AI depends on humans and machines working together to develop differentiated customer experiences and to create entirely new products, services and markets.

Cross-disciplinary upskilling

The research suggests that there is a strong foundation on which to boost AI skills investment. 63pc of senior executives think that their company will create net job gains in the next three years through AI. Meanwhile, the majority of workers (62pc) believe AI will have a positive impact on their work.

Against this background, Accenture was delighted to be involved in the development of Ireland’s first industry-driven master’s in artificial intelligence, which launched in January. The master’s aims to educate more than 300 people within the next five years. From our experience, we see AI development as a truly cross-disciplinary undertaking, requiring designers, data scientists, engineers and business experts. Upskilling courses that enable graduates from different backgrounds to hone their AI knowledge is a very positive step in future-proofing Ireland’s AI talent.

‘Nearly half of business leaders agree that job descriptions are already obsolete; 29pc say they have redesigned jobs extensively’

We also see real opportunity for Ireland in both the development and commercialisation of AI. This will require a range of new skillsets in addition to the technical sphere. There is unexplored territory in the management, governance and legislation required to maximise AI opportunities. This requires people from business, legal and administrative backgrounds to be AI-savvy.

3 top recommendations

Accenture’s report makes the following recommendations:

  1. Reimagine work by reconfiguring from the bottom up. Assess tasks, not jobs; then allocate tasks to machines and people, balancing the need to automate work and to elevate people’s capabilities. Nearly half (46pc) of business leaders agree that job descriptions are already obsolete; 29pc say they have redesigned jobs extensively.
  2. Pivot the workforce to areas that unlock new forms of value. Go beyond process efficiencies and prepare the workforce to create new customer experiences. Fuel new growth models by reinvesting the savings derived from automation into the future workforce. Foster a new leadership DNA that underpins the mindset, acumen and agility required to seize longer-term, transformational opportunities.
  3. Scale up ‘new skilling’. Measure the workforce’s level of skills and willingness to learn to work with AI. Using digital platforms, target programmes at these different segments of the workforce and personalise them to improve new skills adoption. Accenture has developed a ‘new skilling’ framework based on a progression of skill level and using a suite of innovative digital learning methods that maximises training investment at speed and scale.

By Ryan Shanks

Ryan Shanks is client director at Accenture’s The Dock, a multidisciplinary research and incubation hub based in Dublin’s Silicon Docks. An international executive with 20 years’ experience improving business performance across the private and public sectors, a running theme throughout Shanks’ career and his expertise lies in the intersection of business strategy, people and technology.

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