While a new consortium of tech firms is responding to AI-driven redundancies with reskilling and upskilling, most HR leaders admit that skills training and mobility are serious workforce challenges. 

Last month, tech giants, including Google, Microsoft, and IBM, announced the formation of a new consortium to support those impacted by AI job losses through reskilling and upskilling. However, new research indicates that most organisations are responding slowly to AI’s impact on workforces.

Concern about AI-driven redundancies has been growing. Research from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), for instance, estimates that up to 8 million UK jobs will be at risk due to AI.

Carsten Jung, Senior Economist at IPPR, has warned that “Some occupations could be hit hard by generative AI, starting with back office jobs,” while women could be significantly more affected by job losses.

In response to this, Cisco has led the formation of the AI-Enabled Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Workforce Consortium.

The Consortium aims to drive reskilling and upskilling training programmes to benefit multiple stakeholders, including students, career changers, current IT workers, and employers, in order to skill workers at scale to engage in AI. However, while these tech titans are responding decisively to the AI challenge, research by Spotted Zebra and PeopleScout reveals that most organisations are failing to focus on talent mobility or development.

When asked how they are preparing their workforce for the implementation of new technologies, only a fifth of the 100+ senior HR leaders polled reported that they are investing in upskilling initiatives to enhance employee skill sets. Elsewhere, only 14% reported that they are implementing targeted reskilling programmes for employees.

The Case for Reskilling

“Reskilling enables businesses to retain loyal, capable employees that are at risk of redundancy and retrain them to fill high-growth roles – such as in AI – where they may have skills gaps,” says Nick Shaw, Co-Founder of Spotted Zebra. “These initiatives are a crucial way of creating a sustainable and adaptable workforce to ensure employees are happy and productive, and businesses thrive in changing conditions.”

While a third (30%) of HR leaders report that they do not view upskilling and reskilling as a priority, most organisations admit that it is on their radar but that they are struggling to make progress. 46% of HR leaders say that upskilling is one of their biggest workforce challenges, with reskilling reported as a challenge by 22%.

Overall, only 7% of HR leaders surveyed said that they feel fully prepared and are actively investing in strategies to adapt, reskill, and support employees in taking new roles.

“The biggest challenge for many organisations is knowing where to start,” notes Nick Shaw. “With reskilling, my advice would be to first identify a role that is proving difficult to fill and a cohort of employees whose roles are at-risk.

“Then determine the employees who would be a good fit for reskilling. Find those who have adjacent and transferable skills that are relevant, and behavioural skills that are aligned with the role, and the motivation to reskill. Then train these people into the new role, collecting and sharing success metrics.”

James McKenna, speaker, learning consultant, and author of Upskill, Reskill, Thrive, agrees that organisations should start with a pilot programme and scale. “Perhaps start small and build a case study. Show how reskilling a pilot group led to positive outcomes like increased engagement and loyalty, avoidance of lost productivity that normally ensues by waiting to find the right talent outside the organisation, etc.”

Senior Content Manager at Spotted Zebra

Neil has over 20 years of experience writing for business publications, and is the former Managing Editor of HRZone and TrainingZone. He is now the Senior Content Manager at skills intelligence platform provider Spotted Zebra.