Skills shortages continue to bedevil AI introduction

A shortage of relevant technological skill is hampering the expansion of AI in the workplace, suggests new research. The poll also found that many do not feel AI threatens their jobs.

Artificial Intelligence using workplace laptop
Businesses are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to boost performance but say their plans are being hampered by a chronic shortage of people with the relevant skills, according to a recent survey.

AI job creation

The survey, conducted by EY among 122 business leaders attending the EmTech Digital Conference in San Francisco, found that while AI was creating jobs, 80 per cent of respondents cited a lack of talent to fill positions.More than half of those questioned said they were now using AI to improve products and increase efficiency. Some 32 per cent believed that, although AI was expected to reshape the traditional workplace, its implementation would result in more jobs being created than lost. And 20 per cent anticipated that AI would result in a surge in new jobs, boosting the economy in the process.
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Jeff Wong, EY’s global chief innovation officer, said, “Like the poll respondents, many of the people on teams I work with don’t feel their jobs are jeopardized by AI.“In fact, they demand intelligent automation that enables them to redirect their time toward more complex work that drives greater employee engagement and adds real value. We estimate that we will save approximately 2.1 million hours of our people’s time on repetitive tasks in fiscal year 2018 due to automation. Those are hours that can be repurposed and reinvested into the EY business.”But the report added that while organisations were increasingly implementing AI technologies, plans were being hampered by a shortage of people with relevant skills “which may explain the proportion of organisations applying AI for purely functional capabilities”.While four-fifths of respondents expressed concerns over the shortage of available skilled staff, other concerns expressed by businesses included a lack of integration of AI insights into current business processes, a lack of managerial understanding and sponsorship, and data used for AI not being trusted or of high quality.

Improving efficiencies through AI

The survey found that the top three outcomes business leaders wanted from AI were to improve and/or develop new products/services, to achieve cost efficiencies and/or streamline business operations, and to accelerate decision-making.While 30 per cent of respondents said their businesses had functional AI capabilities and were piloting the technology within corporate functions, they said they still needed an enterprise-wide AI strategy that aligned with these programmes.Chris Mazzei, EY’s chief data and analytics officer, said, “Enterprises are increasingly applying AI to their operational models. As a result, we are seeing leaders develop a more sophisticated view of how the technology could impact value creation and provide commercial differentiation.“While AI is still in the early stage of maturity, businesses need to develop an AI strategy that is supported by the C-suite with the proper team to execute and measure its success.”
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