AI Is Changing the Skills Employers Want from Workers

Employees want training, and HR is looking at how to develop their skills

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek August 18, 2023

​Workers in the U.S. and around the world are using generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) tools such as ChatGPT for a variety of tasks.

And that's a problem. Business leaders don't think their teams have the necessary GenAI skills to use these tools, workers say they don't have the necessary skills and HR managers are anticipating a GenAI skills gap, according to various surveys.

In fact, 62 percent of 4,135 full-time workers surveyed in Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. said they lack the skills to effectively and safely use GenAI, 67 percent expect their employers to train them, and 66 percent said that's not happening, according to Salesforce's Generative AI Snapshot Research Series. The May survey found:

  • 53 percent of workers said they don't know how to get the most value from GenAI.
  • 43 percent of workers said they don't know how to leverage GenAI using trusted data sources while keeping first-party data secure.
  • 40 percent of workers said they don't know how to effectively use GenAI.
  • 70 percent of business leaders said they don't think their teams have the skills to safely and effectively use GenAI.

‘Start with the Basics’

Workers in the U.S. are using GenAI primarily to write content, analyze data and information, and provide customer support, according to a March survey of 1,000 employees for TalentLMS. TalentLMS is a learning management system provider based in San Francisco. 

U.S. Employees Find Chat GPT Most Useful for:           

Writing content36%
Analyzing data and information33%
Customer support30%
Brainstorming and developing new ideas27%
Scheduling and task prioritization23%
Navigating tough conversations22%
Writing code20%
Making strategic decisions19%

Source: ChatGPT At Work Survey by TalentLMS


However, 49 percent of workers said they need training in using AI tools, and only 14 percent said they had received any instruction.

Concern over the skills deficit doesn't stop with employees. A separate survey TalentLMS conducted with 309 HR managers in June found 43 percent anticipate a skills gap as their workplace adopts AI.

A majority of those HR managers ranked the ability to use AI tools as the top digital skill an employee can have. It encompasses the ability to navigate AI-powered systems along with familiarity with AI interfaces, the fundamentals of natural language processing and models, and ethical use of the technology.

There is a lot of opportunity for learning, said Ann Weeby, senior vice president of Trailhead at Salesforce, a gamified online learning platform. 

"Generative AI presents massive opportunities for businesses and workers alike. However, as AI
becomes more common in the workplace, the skills gap will continue to widen," she said in a statement about the findings.

"We really need to just use simple language, unpack this technology and we need to educate everybody, from executives to front-line employees," she told SHRM Online. GenAI skills include a knowledge of basic concepts, being grounded in the technology and the safe use of GenAI to guard against plagiarism, defects and inaccuracies, she noted, saying, "Start with the basics."

HireVue in South Jordan, Utah, specializes in video interviewing software, conversational AI and pre-hire assessments. 

"Skills around data and machine learning are highly valuable in today's job market," said Lindsey Zuloaga, HireVue's chief data scientist. "AI systems are able to do a lot of the heavy lifting themselves—like writing code—and humans are learning the skills of controlling them, often in natural language, like we've seen with ChatGPT and similar technologies."

"Properly safeguarding these systems and ensuring that they are doing what you expect is a skill," Zuloaga noted, pointing out that prompt engineer is a new job that involves testing AI for errors, defects and limitations. "I suspect all of us will develop this skill."

It's also important for employees to understand the different AI models, said Marc Booker, vice provost of strategy at the University of Phoenix. 

"One of the best trainings employers can provide to upskill their workers with AI is foundational training on the different models of AI and what AI is—and isn't," he said. "Understanding AI models can also help employees problem-solve to determine which type of tool or model is most appropriate to mix into job functions or workflows." 

Internal Training

Some employers are starting to use internal training programs.

Multiverse, a tech start-up, announced Aug. 14 that it is launching a new training module for its apprentices in the U.K. and U.S. in September

"When we polled apprentices earlier this year, about half were not using ChatGPT in their daily work, either because they don't know how to use it or did not have access to it via their employer," Multiverse said on its website. "The impact of AI on the workplace will be radical, but by learning how to use AI effectively in our roles, we will build a more skilled and more strategic workforce."

The Wall Street Journal reported that software company UKG plans to retrain its engineers to work on AI products. Other companies have said they "would need to train existing employees to take on AI projects if only because there are not enough mid-level or senior-level employees with the desired skills," The Wall Street Journal reported, citing a source from Korn Ferry.

Eighty-five percent of HR managers told TalentLMS they plan to invest in some type of AI learning and development with employees, and 54 percent said it was important to allocate a budget for this training. They're looking at using:

  • Online courses (48 percent).
  • Face-to-face instruction and live events (44 percent).
  • Workshops and webinars (40 percent).
  • Online platforms (35 percent).
  • External training (34 percent).
  • Company-sponsored scholarships (21 percent).

"[Employees] should get grounded in this technology," Weeby said, adding that employers should highlight where workers are using this new technology in their careers and share success stories.

Other SHRM Resources:

The Potential and Peril of Using Generative AI for People Analytics, SHRM Online, July 11, 2023.

Europe: ChatGPT's Use and Misuse in the Workplace, SHRM Online, April 11, 2023.

What Is Artificial Intelligence and How Is it Used in the Workplace? SHRM members-only Q&A.



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