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How A.I. can help create jobs for humans, not just automate them

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  • For organizations creating a long-term strategy around generative artificial intelligence, the technology has the capacity to create jobs for humans, not just automate them.
  • AI job posts on global work marketplace Upwork increased more than 1,000% in the second quarter of 2023 compared to the same period last year.
  • AI without humans in the loop has the potential to be not only reckless, but short-lived.

For organizations creating a long-term strategy around generative artificial intelligence, the technology has the capacity to create jobs for humans, not just automate them.

AI job posts on global work marketplace Upwork increased more than 1,000% in the second quarter of 2023 compared to the same period last year — evidence of the industry's momentum. Despite the fast-moving nature of this technology, keeping the human in the loop, it seems, is here to stay.

When it comes to the use of generative AI at work, "The genie's not going back in the bottle," said Margaret Lilani, Upwork's vice president of talent solutions. The data echoes this sentiment. While job posts in all fields are up 230% on Upwork year-over-year for Q2 of 2023, it's AI-related jobs that are carrying these positive metrics forward.

Among the roles: Deep learning engineers, AI chatbot developers, prompt engineers, data annotators, Stable Diffusion and Dall-E artists, OpenAI Codex specialists and much more. Then there are even more nuanced roles, such as AI ethicists (whose job is, essentially, to maintain a responsible AI framework).

Not only are there more types of jobs as a result of the generative AI boom, but companies are actually hiring more because of the generative AI surge. While the industry is likely to even out in the future, a recent Upwork study shows that nearly half of hiring managers plan to hire more freelancers and full-time employees to accommodate the increasing capacity for thoughtful, creative work accelerated by AI.

Hire for new AI roles or upskill existing employees?

While task management is one of the most promising claims of AI, the integration of this technology doesn't eliminate the need for people. AI without humans in the loop has the potential to be not only reckless, but short-lived. That's why experts say upskilling existing employees is essential to any organization's AI integration.

When it comes to upskilling, Ger Doyle, senior vice president of IT professional resourcing company Experis, refers to the "pyramid of talent." That means educating college-aged students in advance of them entering the workforce and providing a "now" solution to fill the knowledge gap.

Doyle says mid-level employees are the working group for whom it's most crucial to upskill. "I always talk about the middle of the pyramid, and that is people who are working today, have a lot of business skills, are very culturally aligned and understand how the business works," Doyle added. "Getting those people and upskilling them is really where I think there's a huge opportunity."

A recent study focusing on the U.K. work environment from AI and data management firm SAS says 63% of decision-makers don't have enough employees with AI and machine learning skills, even though 54% use these technologies already. The latest Experis Tech Talent Survey takes an optimistic approach, stating that half of companies are in the process of training and upskilling their staff to address AI-driven staffing challenges.

Lilani advises managers to upskill their existing talent as best they can, in large part because the cost of hiring new employees results in expenses like recruitment, interviewing, onboarding and lost productivity. However, she recognizes the need for expert specialists. "If you don't have those in house or if you can't get there fast enough, tapping into a bench of expert freelance talent is going to bridge that gap for you," Lilani added.

Soft skills — including interpersonal, communication, listening, time management, problem solving, leadership and empathy skills — are complementary to the use of technology, Lilani said. "If you think of the iteration that's required to produce a quality outcome utilizing this technology, this is core to it," she said. Team effectiveness with these generative AI tools won't be a linear journey, and the process requires a higher level of collaboration and critical thinking than might be required with legacy systems that are slow to change.

Having the right people oversee AI implementation

Doyle adds that not only are we learning from AI, but it's learning from us. For nuanced AI operability, we must have thoughtful people at the helm.

The SAS report shows that organizations are most focused on the goals of innovation, agility and productivity. AI is now an ingrained element of our technological culture, and organizations must adapt in upskilling (including allowing for the evolution of existing roles and their responsibilities) and hiring (which will inevitably require changing the organizational architecture). Companies don't need to be perfect as long as they're moving forward thoughtfully, experts say.

"The people that move quickest to come up with a plan and get going with it, even though it's not perfect, are the ones that are going to lead the pack," Doyle said. AI is fast — business consulting firm Accenture's report on so-called "AI maturity" predicts that AI transformation will occur 13% faster than overall digital transformation through 2024. That gives credence to Doyle's argument of thoughtful progress over perfection, and new AI-oriented jobs show many organizations are already off to the races.

Copyright CNBC
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