AI is a game changer. AI can improve efficiency, increase productivity, and create new efficiencies in business processes. But Leaders need to know how they can address the AI Talent Gap.
SwissCognitive Guest Blogger: Aruna Pattam, Head – AI & Data Science, Asia Pacific & Middle East, HCL Technologies
AI is a game changer. AI can improve efficiency, increase productivity, and create new efficiencies in business processes.
AI is being used across all sectors of the economy and has the potential to change every industry from agriculture to transportation, healthcare to financial services, with some industries seeing more AI-driven innovation than others.
In order, for AI technologies to reach their full potential, we need talented people who are trained in AI and related fields: computer science engineers, data scientists or machine learning experts, domain experts and others who need to use AI. If you want your organization to reap benefits that come from incorporating AI into its operations, then it needs these human resources as well as access to advanced technology tools that will enable it to develop innovative applications and systems using AI techniques.
A lot of organizations are facing issues with lack of human resources and access to advanced technology tools, both necessary for incorporating artificial intelligence into operations.
Leaders need to know how they can address the AI Talent Gap.
Topics covered in this blog:
In this article, I will discuss:
- Factors leading to the demand in AI talent,
- Impacts of AI Talent Gap to businesses, and
- What leaders need to do to address the AI Talent Gap.
What factors are leading to the demand for AI Talent?
Artificial intelligence (AI) has advanced from science fiction to usable technology. It is now at a point where it’s being deployed in real-world applications: Netflix uses AI to improve its recommendations, Google Photos uses AI to label photos, and Facebook uses AI for tagging your friends in photos.
With more businesses eager than ever to build AI solutions, they will face serious problems without new employees trained in AI technology. This AI Talent Gap is a global challenge with implications across political, social, and economic spheres. AI jobs are increasing at such an exponential rate that there aren’t enough qualified AI experts to fill these roles.
Below are the factors that are leading to the demand for more and more AI talent, such as:
#1: Competitive advantage:
As AI has become an important part of modern organizations, they need to hire AI professionals in areas like business, IT administration, project management etc.
Robotics have already found its way into retail stores where customers use robots to fulfill their orders. This has the potential to create new jobs and opportunities for people in the future, however AI companies will need AI-related talent if they want to be successful.
Governments around the world are implementing AI on a national level. This can affect almost every single process within government operations from healthcare to agriculture, transportation, or education etc. You need AI specialists who understand AI algorithms used in specific applications and processes to successfully implement.
#4. Untapped market:
AI technologies have the potential to create new processes and products that can change industries or humanity – as a whole. As such, AI companies will need AI-related talent to be successful in their industry.
#5. AI Management:
As AI gets implemented in companies, they should then be managed and supported. You need AI specialists who know how AI systems work or which methods and tools are considered the best.
Impacts of AI Talent Gap for business
The rise of AI has created a new demand for AI talent, and it is the critical factor to help companies gain a competitive edge. Companies are facing an increasing challenge and they cannot afford to lose ground in this fierce competition.
But with such strong demand, where can I find people who have proper skills? This is one of the problems that leaders in businesses are facing now.
Here are the challenges companies are facing due to lack of AI skills:
#1. Increase cost of Development:
Huge demand in AI will result in Brain Drain and will make R&D efforts Costly. The brain drain will increase the cost of development as qualified human resources and research and development will be very expensive.
#2. Loss of Market Share to Competitors:
Harnessing AI technology becomes a must, if businesses want to survive in this fiercely competitive environment, otherwise it will be too late. A company that doesn’t have AI Talent could also be at risk of being overtaken by a competitor who does have AI Talent.
#3. Risk of Staff Turnover:
AI talent is a rare commodity, and it is very hard to find AI experts who have the right mix of knowledge in data analytics, automation and comfortable talking about data and technology with non-technical people in the company. This is a rare combination of skills, which require the business to invest heavily in retaining them otherwise they are at risk of losing valuable employees.
#4. Loss of Customer Confidence:
Customers can also lose confidence in your company if they see that
you are lagging, behind the competition. Expert AI talent will give you the ability to understand your customers better and enhance customer experience.
#5. Risk of Regulatory Issues:
Since AI is a trending topic these days, it is very likely that the Government or the Regulator will step in and regulate how we use AI.
Thus, it becomes very important for businesses to have a deep understanding of AI to avoid any risk of regulatory oversight.
What leaders need to do to address the AI Talent Gap?
I can see that there are two types of skill gaps that exists:
The first – Technical teams who usually design and build AI solutions for business. Skill gaps here are mostly about the technical aspect of AI, for example: designing a powerful deep neural network model or building a robust computer vision system for autonomous driving; for these skills, it is hard to find good candidates currently.
And the second – Business teams who use it in their businesses. The skill gaps here are about the business context, for example: business users, managers, and executives from all kinds of industries need to understand how AI can be used in their businesses. They also need a good understanding of this technology such as how it works or where it excels.
AI leaders should focus on addressing both the gaps. Business leaders must be proactive and creative in finding methods to attract talent as the AI field emerges, and the current supply of talent is simply inadequate to meet demand.
And how can businesses address the AI Talent Gap?
The best way to fix this problem is to focus on up-skilling internal resources making their current employees transition to AI. How do we do that? Well, there are many ways.
#1. AI Thought Leaders:
First, we need to identify the AI thought leaders in each business area and make them AI evangelists. Let’s call them “AI gurus”.
These people should come from different areas within a company and their job is to raise awareness about AI, identify others who are interested and help in framing the appropriate training plan.
We need to educate our thought leaders about the AI techniques and how they can be applied in different business models.
#2. Re-training and up-skilling:
Secondly, we need to focus on re-training and up-skilling. When we re-train the employees it’s important that we not only focus on the technical aspects but also on how to think critically and creatively about AI to drive innovation and uncover new applications. This will require new skills – not just technical skills, but also interpretive and cognitive skills such as creativity, problem-solving, emotional intelligence and strategic thinking. We need to make sure that internal resources are aware of the capabilities and use cases for AI.
#3. Innovation Labs and Internal Conferences:
Thirdly, we could also establish “Innovation labs” and “internal conferences” which would serve as a platform for employees to participate in AI. This will help create interest and curiosity and can be used to highlight ways AI solutions can be used in driving business value. This will make it easier for us to tap into the potential knowledge of people who are interested but do not have a way to showcase their talent. And can help employees to network with other like-minded individuals and with experts in the field of AI.
#4. Create a cross functional team:
Another way to think about the talent shortage is to break skills down into different roles. Having a team is better than having “a person” for the role such as people with different skills like domain expertise, AI development expertise, and data science model selection/evaluation.
A team will work much better than a lone wolf more likely to make mistakes because they are less aware of the impact they have on others. For example, instead of looking for a unicorn data scientist, we could create a team with different skills that work together and complements each other.
If we have exhausted the internal option, we could then look at external sources to address the gaps that exists especially in the technical skills areas.
#1. Hiring Experts:
This might include hiring experts such as data scientists or AI engineers on a full time, contract or on an interim basis to support the work of an AI project team.
Leaders will need to plan for and create roles and get the required skills in place as quickly and efficiently as possible. There are tools available out there which can be used to manage the process including: Job Descriptions, Job Postings, Skill Mapping and RFP’s.
#2. Young Talent:
We could also look at the young talent on internship, part-time or full time. They are fresh talent with a different approach on problems and solutions. They usually come with fresh ideas and perspectives to new innovations, which is important as AI has the potential to redefine our world as we know it.
#3. Partners and Consulting firms:
We can also reach out to partners and consulting firms that have more experienced talent pool. They might have resources that can be used to help you kick start the AI journey in your company. The nature of these partnerships could come in various forms and can range from a simple contractual agreement, joint venture or even a merger.
This is especially useful if the AI project is large and requires experienced talent pool which are not available internally.
A big factor leading to the demand for AI Talent is that AI has changed and continues to change number of industries. This leaves companies without enough people who have the right AI skills, which will be essential in order keep up with the pace of AI. Companies need to find ways of addressing this issue now before they’re left behind by their competition.
Alongside AI Talent Gaps impacting businesses’ competitiveness, many leaders don’t even know how much an impact these gaps have on their company’s bottom line or what they should do about them when they arise.
In order, to address this challenge head-on and ensure AI talent isn’t a roadblock to innovation and growth, leaders in any company can take these three steps:
#1. Acknowledge the problem
Acknowledging the problem allows a leader to identify it early on and work out how to address it in their company.
#2. Acknowledge AI talent is a necessity
Acknowledging that AI talent isn’t just a nice-to-have, but a necessity for any AI innovation in their company will allow them to appreciate it more and realize what role it should play in their company’s transformation.
#3. Acknowledge why AI talent needed
Acknowledging why you need AI talent will allow a leader to develop solutions and prioritize their actions to close the gaps, instead of just addressing the symptoms. Addressing the AI Talent Gap is not a quick fix. It will require a strategy and an approach that will evolve over time. Depending on where you are in your AI journey, you must choose the right option.
What do you think? Do you feel there is a talent gap of AI experts in your organisation? What do you think leaders need to do to prepare themselves to address the skills shortage?
About the Author:
Aruna Pattam heads the AI & Data Science practice at HCL Technologies for Asia Pacific and Middle East region. She has spent the last 21+ years delivering high impact solutions using data analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and analytics platforms.
Aruna is highly passionate about is Women in AI, AI ethics, responsible AI and how AI is helping organisations meet ESG expectations. Aruna is a thought leader, speaker, content creator and regularly shares informative blogs, storytelling videos etc. aimed at demystifying AI and detailing the ever-expanding AI scope for business transformation.