How To Reskill Your Employees For The AI Era

How To Reskill Your Employees For The AI Era

Ciarán Daly

May 13, 2019

4 Min Read
Graphic showing employee skills plus technology equals better outcomes

by Sarah Tierney

LONDON - Implementing AI is a journey for your organisation. Not just from your perspective but also for your employees. After all, these are the people who will be hands-on with the technology every day.

You can have all the beneficial AI tools in the world, but without employee buy-in, you won’t succeed.

“AI is not technology that solely sits within the IT team. We all have the ability to learn and it is important we look to democratise AI across our business” –  Louise O’Shea, CEO,

Set your teams up for success

It’s not just their buy-in that you need, either. Your employees also need access to training so they can reskill themselves for the AI era. They can’t reap the benefits of AI if they’re not confident in how to use it.

With a growing digital skills gap, it’s never been more important to have training plans in place for your employees. 65 percent of today’s students will be going into jobs that don’t even exist yet. Not only does this mean businesses need to invest in their digital talent pipeline, but it also shows the importance of reskilling existing employees. It’s important they’re equipped with the confidence and skills to collaborate with new technologies and evolve their jobs.

“Traditionally, people have learned in education and then entered the workplace. AI will significantly change this as the pace of development means we must constantly adapt and learn throughout our lives.” – Ian Fordham, Chief Learning and Skills Officer, Microsoft UK

It’s not only your employees who will benefit, either. Reskilling is beneficial for your organisation too. 70 percent of employees were more likely to stay at their job if they had training and development opportunities. An organisation with a great training and development programme is more likely to retain their employees, attract the right talent. They’re also more likely to be collaborative, productive, and innovative.

What skills are needed?

79 percent of UK leaders say it’s worth investing in reskilling their current workforce. Yet, only 28 percent of employees are actively learning new skills to keep up with the changes AI bring.

When thinking about the future of work, thoughts tend to go straight to those digital skills. We need to understand how to use these emerging technological advances and prepare ourselves for the ones that don’t exist yet.

AI will give us more time to be more ‘human’ – where soft skills such as innovation, creativity, problem-solving, and analytical thinking reign supreme. So, whilst we all need to invest in technical training, developing our soft skills is also becoming increasingly important.

Organisations that have a culture of learning and collaboration, where employees have the technical knowledge and the opportunity to take risks, tend to outperform those who don’t by 10 percent.

No one left behind

Even when you look at AI as an additional tool to the workplace, it will change the nature of job roles. While this can be a great thing, it does mean that, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF), 54 percent of employees will need significant re- and upskilling.

Think of your AI journey as a train – you don’t want to leave anyone behind at the station. Don’t just focus on a select number of your employees, or those in high-performing or high-value roles. Make sure all your staff are included. The WEF reports that only 33 percent of organisations will prioritise at-risk employees, whereas over 41 percent will focus on high-performing employees. Basically, those most in need of re-skilling are least likely to receive this training.

The organisations that will thrive are the ones who build a culture that supports continuous learning, investing time, and resources into really getting to grips with what workers need to evolve alongside AI.

Align your employee’s objectives, not only on KPIs, but also on learning digital skills and developing soft skills. Skills like curiosity, innovation, and agility.

Embed an inclusive culture of learning and development into your organisation’s values. Those organisations that will succeed will be those whose employees improve and collaborate with technology and each other, rather than compete.

Join Microsoft and 20,000 other industry and technology leaders at The AI Summit London, June 11 - 12. Find out more

Sarah Tierney is a Digital Storyteller for Microsoft UK

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