‘Desperate’ need for workers to upskill with AI

Workers are being encouraged to collaborate with AI.

Workers are being encouraged to collaborate with AI. Photo: Getty

The rapidly growing presence of generative AI in the workplace may have some employees questioning their job security, but many anticipate the trajectory of their careers will only improve.

In Australia, 88 per cent of workers expect their AI skills to have a positive effect on their careers, according to a report from Amazon Web Services, the cloud computing arm of Amazon.

This includes increased job efficiency, greater job satisfaction, and improved job security,

KPMG Australia chief digital officer John Munnelly told The New Daily this reflects a change in attitudes since generative AI technology suddenly became mainstream over a year ago.

Although the knee-jerk reaction of many workers – and companies – was fear over what this technology could mean for job security, people are finding ways to use AI to their advantage.

AI ‘fundamental’ to modern work

Within KPMG, Munnelly said the conversation is based around ‘everyday’ AI, which could perform functions such as translating documents to different languages, and ‘specialised’ AI, which can do things like draft tax advice for customers.

“I think [knowing how to use AI] is absolutely fundamental,” he said.

“[Not having that knowledge] would be like turning up to KPMG with an abacus instead of a calculator or an Excel spreadsheet.

“You need to understand how to use the tools or you’re just not going to be efficient.”

Seventy seven per cent of workers surveyed for Amazon Web Services’ report indicated an interest in developing AI skills to accelerate their careers, an enthusiasm Munnelly has witnessed within his own organisation.

In January, KMPG ran a short event that offered 24 one-hour courses on the fundamentals of AI – about 17,500 people attended the sessions.

Munnelly said organisations should take on the responsibility of educating employees about how they could use AI, rather than leaving employees to upskill themselves, and for some to potentially get left behind.

“There was an absolute desperation and need from our team members, to give them the tooling … to be able to skill up on that,” Munnelly said.

“[Organisations would] be mad not to be giving their people the skills they need because you’re going to get a happier employer, a better employee, the quality of their work will improve.

“I don’t understand why any commercial organisation, or government organisation, or anybody who looks at revenue and quality, wouldn’t want to educate their staff on tooling.”

Employee-led change

Gartner vice-president, research & advisory Aaron McEwan said so far, employees have been leading the charge in adopting AI into their working lives.

He said employees quickly realised that this technology could help them do their work more efficiently and could be an opportunity to reduce the load of boring or lower-value tasks.

Even employees working in companies that have banned the use of AI are secretly jumping on the bandwagon.

A Gartner survey conducted in 2023 found 19 per cent of employees who had used generative AI in their work in the past 12 months were employed by organisations that had prohibited the use of that technology.

McEwan said while companies might have concerns about privacy and intellectual property, not providing access to AI tools or training will prevent them from leveraging the potential of AI to improve employee productivity and performance.

With the possible applications of generative AI ranging from drafting emails to helping with research, he said the technology is more likely to augment jobs than replace them.

“The degree of impact on the workforce is also going to be determined by the acceleration of adoption by the company that people work for,” McEwan said.

“Some companies will invest in this technology to kind of tweak around the edges and make little improvements in efficiency building. Others will invest in a way that is designed to … make them more competitive.

“But there will be some companies that invest in this technology because they want to completely change the industry that they’re in or launch completely new products, services and paradigms to doing business.”

Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.