When AI could displace millions of jobs, investing in employees’ reskilling and upskilling emerges as a vital strategy for businesses to bridge the skills gap and embrace technological advancement.


SwissCognitive Guest Blogger: Reddy Mallidi – “The Urgent Case for Upskilling Employees in the AI Age”


Artificial intelligence (AI) could potentially displace 30% of activities across 60% of occupations in the next few years. That’s over 85 million jobs gone by 2025 according to World Economic Forum estimates. Yet even amidst this looming unemployment crisis, companies already report shortages for skilled talent to develop and manage new AI systems.

This growing mismatch between human skills and those needed to thrive in an AI-powered world signals an urgent need for businesses to invest in reskilling and upskilling their workforces. Otherwise, the disconnect will likely worsen, causing substantial unemployment and loss of competitive edge.

The Skills Gap Widens

On the one hand, AI and automation are making some jobs redundant. Cashiers, Customer Service specialists, accountants and even radiologists among others may face displacement with the advent of AI.

Simultaneously, these technologies are creating new specialized roles like AI researchers, data analysts, machine learning engineers and automation specialists. Positions requiring technical expertise to build, implement and manage AI systems are seeing a surge in demand. But talent supply is scarce even amidst increasing unemployment.

This bifurcation is causing a skills gap across industries. Employers are forced to choose between two less than ideal options – either invest significant resources to retrain existing employees or compete for expensive external talent in an overheated job market. Both choices have heavy cost and productivity implications.

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Real-World Challenges for Companies

Inability to access qualified talent hampers competitiveness for firms racing to deploy AI. An IBM survey found that inadequate skills was the top barrier to AI adoption for over half of North American executives. Companies investing in upskilling will gain an advantage over those lacking capable staff to leverage AI.

Moreover, lack of future-ready skills magnifies displacement risks for employees. With no reskilling support, redundancies and unemployment likely will rise.

The business case for investing in retraining and upskilling is clear when we consider these talent challenges companies face today:

  • Shortage of qualified talent for emerging tech-driven roles.
  • High costs and effort competing for external hires.
  • Loss of institutional knowledge as people leave.
  • Reduced competitiveness against rivals deploying AI rapidly.
  • Growing skills gaps and displacement leading to higher unemployment

Upskilling: A Win-Win for Employers and Workers

While the scale of disruption is daunting, it presents exciting upskilling opportunities through training programs tailored to build capabilities for new roles.

Amazon is heavily investing in upskilling and reskilling initiatives to build AI capabilities of employees with their Machine Learning University. Adobe’s Digital Academy helped several employees transition to data-focused roles and upskilled employees saw a salary increase of $30-100K. Deloitte has launched the Deloitte AI Academy, a program aimed at educating the next generation of AI professionals. As part of Deloitte’s initiative to train up to 10,000 professionals in AI. Deloitte AI Academy has expanded its curriculum to include Generative AI training that both practitioners and clients can tap into.

These examples demonstrate that targeted reskilling delivers manifold benefits beyond filling open positions:

  • Preserves valuable institutional knowledge.
  • Motivates and engages employees by investing in their growth.
  • Shows commitment to workforce employability and mobility.
  • Allows filling of critical skills gaps from within
  • Saves costs of external recruitment and onboarding

With adaptable vision, companies can cultivate the talent they need within existing teams. Reskilling helps workers remain relevant amidst seismic technological shifts.

Recommendations for Successful Reskilling Initiatives

Here are some best practices for executing effective workforce upskilling:

  • Conduct skills gap analysis to identify role-based deficits.
  • Curate customized programs blending technical and soft skills.
  • Offer incentives like bonuses, promotions and certifications.
  • Seek partnerships with online learning platforms and academia.
  • Leverage government aid for subsidized training initiatives.
  • Promote a culture of continuous learning and growth mindset.

The future of work will require new collaborations between humans and AI. With pragmatic and compassionate leadership, companies can upskill workforces to harness the full potential of technological progress. The result will be more inclusive prosperity and promising futures for both business and society.

About the Author:

Reddy Mallidi is an eminent business executive, an AI visionary with over 25+ years of leadership in operational excellence, digital transformation, and customer experience, and author of the “AI Unleashed – Harness the Power of AI to Transform Your Business” book. As a Partner and COO at Seventrain Ventures, he delivered multimillion $ value using AI and Automation to his clients. Previously he held executive roles at Intel, Autodesk, and ADP. Beyond his impressive accomplishments, Reddy remains grounded by his humble beginnings and unwavering belief in the human potential and sees AI as a tool to empower people and drive positive change in the world.