Researchers say “urgent action is needed” to address the AI skills crisis, according to analysis by SAS. Tech experts say that the lack of artificial intelligence know-how is currently “stifling US productivity and innovation.”
To pinpoint the current state of tech proficiency, Coleman Parkes Research surveyed decision-makers at 111 U.S.-based, U.K.-based and Ireland-based organizations; these lead in the banking, healthcare and life sciences, and education industries, as well as the government sector, tech and insurance.
So, how bad is the AI skills gap?
Particularly in the U.S., many decision-makers (34%) are prioritizing improving innovation. Americans were also notably interested in improving workforce productivity (32%). The report then confirmed that adopting new tech — a practice in which most of the surveyed organizations had engaged — brought with it fresh pain points.
While most U.S. business leaders felt confident about their workforces’ ability to handle data analysis, management and visualization, only 36% felt like their organization had sufficient skills to work with AI and facilitate machine learning. And 63% of American business leaders said their employees’ AI abilities were insufficient.
The problem lay in the fact that employers had “suitable digital tools” for workers, but that employees were not using them “as effectively as they could.” Half of survey-takers in the U.S. and overall agreed that they wouldn’t need to hire as much new talent if their existing staff used the digital tools at their disposable “more effectively.”
No matter how you slice it, corporate leaders are increasingly frustrated about their data technology investments and how, arguably, they are going to waste without the talent to properly yield return on said investments.
Where does that leave CHROs?
Based on the insights from SAS’s report, one could argue that more thoughtful processes around tech adoption are needed. Undeniably, talent should also be a factor in tech adoption.
According to Russell Reynolds’ 2022 Global Leadership Monitor, 72% of employers worldwide cited attracting and retaining qualified talent as their top concerns. This rate jumped 59% from the previous year’s report. Prior to that, 57% of CNBC Technology Executive Council survey-takers said that finding qualified employees was their biggest concern — more than supply chain issues or cybersecurity threats.
"Businesses cannot rely solely on graduates or continue the poaching merry-go-round,” AI expert Sally Eaves, AI expert and contributor to SAS’s September science skills report, said in the press release. The good news, she added, is that employers have increasingly recognized the importance of on-the-job training.
SAS’s report outlines actionable ways to facilitate that: for one, give workers “modern, open, multi-language tools.” This can empower them to do basic analytics tasks. “By democratizing analytics, more people can join the field,” researchers said in a statement.
Another way to close the tech skills gap is to increase upskilling and cross-skilling, and to encourage certifications.