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Should Businesses Be Worried About Upskilling Workers for AI?

If you’re worried about how your organization will handle upskilling your current workforce to make the most of generative AI (GenAI) tools, you’re not alone. More than one-third of executives (36%) say their workers will not fully embrace GenAI due to a lack of technological understanding, according to a recent survey by Accenture.

But are those worries well founded? As an experienced HR leader, you’ve probably seen your department through many digital transformations. You know how hard change can be. But there’s reason to believe this time will be different.

Here’s why GenAI will be easier for workers to adopt than other new technologies:

  • GenAI tools are conversational. The transformations of the past often required learning complex workflows and finicky user interfaces. GenAI has none of those challenges because the input is conversation. The challenge won’t be figuring out how to get the tool to do what you want, as much as figuring out what you really want in the first place.
  • The most important skills are transferable. Learning a new payroll system teaches you how to use that specific version of that specific system. Learning to use GenAI opens up an entire category of new tools because the user isn’t memorizing information; they’re developing communication and judgment skills that transfer to all sorts of other tasks.
  • Your workers are already developing AI skills. GenAI isn’t something your workers will only use on the job. They’re going to learn to use AI tools in their daily lives and then cross-apply those new skills in the workplace, just as many workers did with email and web browsing decades ago. The same Accenture survey found that 82 percent of workers believe they already grasp GenAI, and 94 percent are confident they can develop the needed skills.


The real challenges of deploying GenAI tools in the workplace won’t come from skill shortages. They’ll be the result of leadership vacuums and strategic oversights. If you’re ready to have those deeper conversations, join me at The AI+HI Project, March 4-6, 2024, in Mountain View, Calif., where business leaders will come together to examine the most pressing workplace issues of our time.

Nichol Bradford is SHRM’s Executive-in-Residence for AI+HI, shaping global thinking on human-AI collaboration.


​An organization run by AI is not a futuristic concept. Such technology is already a part of many workplaces and will continue to shape the labor market and HR. Here's how employers and employees can successfully manage generative AI and other AI-powered systems.