Mark Cockerill of ServiceNow standing leaning up against a red sculpture statue outside in Dublin.
Mark Cockerill. Image: Chris Bellew /Fennell Photography

Employers must help workers keep pace with the AI revolution

21 Dec 2023

Generative AI is ushering in the next industrial revolution, but as ServiceNow’s Mark Cockerill writes, workers need support to make the tech work for them.

Today’s workers are becoming increasingly aware of the need to learn new skills to keep up. The hype around generative AI apps, such as ChatGPT, has turned it from a niche technology interest to dinner table conversation.

New EMEA-wide research by ServiceNow highlights that workers crave the training needed to adapt to this rapidly changing landscape, with older workers particularly keen to reskill so they can better navigate a digitally transformed future.

For many workers, this coming period of flux is, understandably, sparking fears. The World Economic Forum forecasts an unprecedented period of churn in the job market, with 25pc of businesses predicting job losses and 50pc predicting job growth.

Workers around Ireland and the whole EMEA region now hope employers will provide opportunities to acquire the skills they need to shine in the future – with an emphasis on both digital and creative skills.

Education and AI

There’s a growing awareness that digital technologies present a huge opportunity in our changing world. Particularly as industries automate repetitive processes and AI-driven insights power the growth of businesses in every sector.

Yet, ServiceNow’s research shows that most workers believe much remains to be done. A large percentage of today’s workers feel that the best opportunities lie in digital, with nine out of ten of them believing digital technologies offer a way to progress their careers. However, many remain confused over where to develop the skills required. It’s no surprise, then, that three-quarters of workers believe AI and coding should be mandatory in schools.

Human creativity remains crucial though, with workers feeling this will still be the driving force in the businesses of the future. More than four out of five (88pc) believe that creative writing should be mandatory in schools, higher even than the 78pc who believe AI should be mandatory.

Whilst identified by workers across EMEA as two essential skills at school age, creativity and AI go hand in hand in the workplace too, as the effective deployment of automation tools enables workers to focus on more creative pursuits.

AI and retraining

With a wave of adjustment on the horizon, it’s hardly surprising that workers hope to upskill, and worry that they’re unprepared. Opportunities to upskill are already among the things employees value most. What’s clear from ServiceNow’s research is that workers now crave the specific skills needed to work with AI and other new technologies.

The research found that nine in ten workers over 40 are considering retraining as the AI boom reshapes the way the world works. Yet, almost half of Irish workers (49pc) said they struggle to fit ‘skilling up’ around their work schedules. In this new world, the onus will be on employers to offer workers ways to upskill and navigate the changing workplace. This can be as simple as providing digital access to necessary learning and information resources.

The appetite for such training is already here, with 61pc of workers across EMEA saying they’ve pursued or would pursue more education to develop digital skills. The fact that almost half (43pc) say they feel their formal education did not prepare them adequately for the digital working world they now inhabit is likely the driver.

Short courses delivered by employers can help today’s workers fill this gap, capitalising on workers’ eagerness to experiment with technology. An example of such an initiative is our RiseUp programme, which aims to support talent and develop the skills needed in a fast-growing tech industry.

Launched in October 2022, RiseUp with ServiceNow is creating new opportunities for tech training with a commitment to skill one million individuals by the end of 2024. Earlier this year, we also introduced partner training courses with Microsoft and a professional certificate in IT Leadership on LinkedIn Learning.

Automation in motion

With so many people seeking AI education, you might be surprised to hear that a significant number of workers are already using the technology to automate mundane and repetitive tasks in the workplace. Everyday writing tasks such as work emails and social media posts are one key area where today’s workers are already applying AI.

More than three-quarters (79pc) of Irish workers have either used AI for such tasks or hope to do so, and roughly the same number have used AI to create Excel formulas. As AI ‘thins out’ such repetitive tasks, more than half of today’s workers (52pc) believe it will enable people to work faster and smarter. Workers feel, as they dabble with AI, that the technology has the potential to make the office of tomorrow a brighter, more productive place. By offering the right education opportunities, employers can harness this enthusiasm and evolve with their employees.

The workplace of the future

With technology poised to transform faster than in any previous ‘revolution’, employers and the education sector must evolve to keep pace. Workplaces must offer easily accessible digital touchpoints so employees can gain the skills they need to shine in an AI-driven, digitally transformed world.

Technology is accelerating like never before. Training and upskilling have never been more important to give workers the right blend of technical know-how and human creativity for the future of work.

By Mark Cockerill

Mark Cockerill is VP of corporate, M&A, securities and international development at ServiceNow. He is also VP of the European Company Lawyers Association (ECLA) and he sits on the board of the American Chamber in Ireland.

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