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How Generative AI will Impact the Workforce

Generative AI created one of the above paintings, while I painted the other in a studio recently. Can you guess which one?

I've never been this excited about generative AI. Not because I wasn't before but because now AI has gone mainstream with non-technical people experiencing its power. Overnight, everyone suddenly has heard of one application of generative AI, ChatGPT. A quick technical note for those of you who want to sound super smart at the next cocktail party: GPT stands for Generative Pre-Trained Transformer. ChatGPT was developed at the OpenAI research lab and can have conversations or chat with humans.

How will generative AI impact the workforce? There are numerous dimensions generative AI can change the way we work. Here are five considerations to start the conversation. Given the importance of this topic, I’d welcome you join the dialogue on LinkedIn directly by commenting or respond to me directly in an email.

1. New Jobs will Emerge and the War for Specific Talent Will Be Intense

There are several jobs that will be needed as generative AI is more widespread. I’ll share a few:

  • Generative AI Prompt Engineer, who helps makes best use of the generative AI by providing the right prompts. ChatGPT is more likely to answer prompts correctly if it has high quality sources of data but will answer incorrectly on topics with lots of misinformation.

  • Generative AI Ethics Officer, while ethical AI is not a new topic, it might be new in the specific application of generative AI. What type of questions should chatGPT be allowed answer in a hospital setting when patients have questions? What customers questions about an insurance claim should chatGPT be assigned to answer? There may be several ethical implications to consider in your industry.

  • Generative AI Bias Detective, who looks for bias in the conversations. There are already reports of ChatGPT and other text generators providing sexist or racist responses in the output because the input data have inherent bias.

  • Generative AI and Human Coordinator, who serves as the bridge between machine and humans.

There will be other new jobs that emerge and the war for these specific talent will become intense because of the scarcity. When there is not yet broad educational program or corporate training courses for someone to become proficient as a Generative AI and Human Coordinator, those who have had experience working with bots may be in high demand. There also isn’t a standard job description or talent pipeline for these brand new jobs.

2. New Skills and Training will be Required

If the number of people who have worked in the new jobs is virtually non-existent, you will have to hire people with close-enough of experience and provide training during onboarding. As generative AI starts to perform more of the tasks that human employees perform today, it is key to develop complementary skills.

Everyone will have to learn new soft skills and take time to foster people-to-people connections, according to Satya Nadella, Chairman CEO of Microsoft at Davos 2023. “Unless and until people feel fulfilled in their jobs, in terms of new skills that they've acquired, they're not going to have loyalty to the organization,” he said. “That means really investing in their progress.”

There are important implications for the HR function. Learning & Development teams must start getting prepared now for a shift in the learning strategy that will be needed for their organization to be successful longer term.

3. The Role of People Manager becomes Even More Complex

As if it wasn’t difficult enough to manage a team that’s a mix of remote, onsite, and hybrid, now there are activities generative AI will do on the team. In the not-too-distant future, people managers will manage employees in job titles that never existed before, and facilitate the collaboration of AI and human team members. Satya Nadella said artificial intelligence will be a co-pilot for workers of the future, aiding them in their tasks rather than replacing them completely. I’d expect a new set of skills that make people manager effective will emerge as well.

4. Traditional Workforce Planning Has Not Worked and It’ll be More Apparent Than Ever

The over hiring in 2021-2022 and recent layoffs are a piece of evidence that traditional workforce planning has not being effective. There are dimensions not considered in several organizations’ workforce strategy, such as skills and hybrid work. Generative AI now provides an opportunity to once again rethink workforce strategy. Specifically, what tasks can generative AI do better than human employees? What skills take years to master for human but only minutes for generative AI?

It’s time to rethink the return-to-office strategy based on what activities need to occur in the office if generative AI can perform some tasks that used to be completed by human employees. Organizations using traditional role-based workforce planning ignore the nuances of skills and can end up laying off employees who may have transferable skills. As getting workforce planning “right” becomes more challenging, the time is ripe to review the function as it stands today and assess what additional capabilities will enable you to create a skills-based workforce strategy. Stay tuned for my LinkedIn Learning course on this critical topic this year and reach out if I can provide an outside-in assessment of your workforce planning and/or people analytics team.

5. The Ability of An Organization to Get Employees’ Buy-In on its Workforce Strategy Directly Impacts Employee Productivity and Retention

Notice I did not say the ability of an organization to communicate its workforce strategy – because every organization does such communication. However, employees are not always onboard and they leave when they don’t see a future with the company upon such communication. Do employees agree with having generative AI perform certain tasks in the workplace? Do they feel fulfilled in their newly designed role and team? These are questions leaders must be able to answer to have productive employees who want to stay.

How do you think generative AI will impact the workforce?

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