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Can upskilling stop robots taking your job?

Robots sitting at desks performing office tech work

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Sarah Gilchriest, president of circus street, explores how people can make sure they are well placed to benefit from the latest innovation step in generative ai through upskilling and training, rather than being left behind by developments such as ChatGPT.
SARAH GILCHRIEST, PRESIDENT OF CIRCUS STREET

As President of Circus Street, Sarah is responsible for ensuring the business evolves to stay ahead of the curve. The priority being driving the businesses exponential growth and global expansion without sacrificing the people focused, award winning culture of which the business is exceptionally proud. Sarah is passionate about creating a business that is thriving creatively, financially and culturally. 

Circus Street partners with global businesses to help people learn better and work smarter. They have transformed digital skills training by making it interactive, effective and informed by up-to-the-minute expertise. Working with the world’s largest brands to grow their digital capabilities, they have helped more than 600,000 people in 150 countries since launching their first digital online offering to market in 2011.

Under her leadership Circus Street continues to prioritize its ambitious growth plans. This relentless focus on growth has paid off. Since joining Circus Street in 2016 Sarah has seen headcount multiply over five times and revenues grow by 380% (FY17-FY22) at a CAGR of 30%. Over the same period the EBITDA margin has gone from a loss of 3% to a profit of 33%.

Prior to joining Circus Street Sarah worked for Centaur Media, spending many years as the Publishing Director of the Marketing and Creative portfolio, which included the flagship title Marketing Week.

ROBOTS TAKING OVER THE WORLD HAS ALWAYS BEEN AN IDEA CONSIGNED TO FUTURISTIC SCI FI.

And yet, with the latest developments of generative AI such as ChatGPT, some workers are beginning to fear that it could become their reality before too long. There is concern that some skillsets and jobs could be at risk as these generative AI tools evolve. There is no doubt that it is a game-changing technological creation with wide-ranging implications for businesses and jobs. The AI-powered chatbot is able to mirror human-like language incredibly accurately (although not perfectly), and answer almost any question, and so it is understandable that people should have concerns about the implications of this. But just how worried should workers be about the danger of being usurped by robots, and what steps can people take to make sure their skills are future-proofed? In my view, people need to progress beyond the thinking that these advances in technology will replace humans, and instead look upon it as an exciting opportunity to incorporate cutting-edge tech into your day-to-day work.

Business leaders should be thinking about how to make sure their team is trained properly so that employees have the skills required to work effectively alongside the latest AI developments.

Right now, the app of the moment is undoubtedly ChatGPT, the conversational AI phenomenon, which is one of the most important developments in the field of AI to date, and will play a key role in an inevitable AI revolution. Core to this is maker, Open’s AI technological breakthrough in prompt engineering – finally creating a model which enables bots to better understand prompts so that even a basic human input can generate a reasonable output. It can hold conversations, follow instructions, write essays, articles and poetry, and even create images and videos. Done well, generative AI could produce faster, personalised customer communications based on historical data and customer interactions around the clock. Perhaps most attractive to business though is AI’s ability, with programming and machine learning, to process and sort huge volumes of data.

Some people argue that this could have a significant impact on jobs in the future, replacing workers that traditionally specialise in these areas. However, rather than meaning that a business will become the preserve of just machines, these are attributes that can allow employees to do their jobs in a more effective and time efficient way.

It can be a tool to augment our own skills, while we automate the mundane and routine, and workers can use it to research, brainstorm and learn.

It could help businesses qualify leads and answer common queries much more quickly, for example, and provide the visibility and insights needed from data for businesses to make better strategic decisions quickly. The reality is that no current technology, including AI, can replace humankind’s capability of original thought, empathy and ingenuity. Inherently, any AI is trained only on pre-existing material, therefore it can only create new content that is similar to that work. This means that it cannot be impulsive or spontaneous, generate fresh ideas or invent anything, and human oversight will be needed.  

The next crucial step though is for people to learn to work alongside AI, and business leaders need to be looking to future-proof their employees in this way. They need to have a decent understanding of the workings of AI, and the necessary digital skills at their fingertips to allow them to utilise the potential on offer. Far too many workers in the UK are not ready for the changes that are coming, with the World Economic Forum estimating in a recent Future of Jobs Report that 50% of all employees will need reskilling by 2025 as adoption of technology increases. Data analysis skills, for example, will be needed going forward, with the ability to critically and rigorously evaluate the data that a robot might be able to provide.

The benefits do not stop with the ability to make the most of innovations in AI. A workforce trained in a variety of cutting-edge skills is also much more flexible and resilient – people can more easily move between industries and it can be a key driver of innovation. The more people who can understand and use the latest tech, the greater the chance of new applications and consequently breakthroughs which create new industries. It also can free up time to concentrate on developing and using skills that machines don’t yet have – strategy, innovating, complex problem-solving, and skills that require emotional intelligence and empathy. For businesses, the commercial rationale is clear. A better trained team is more efficient, creative and effective. 

There is still a long way to go in the development of AI technology, and the benefits that it can bring to businesses.

But, truly unlocking this opportunity will require a skilled balancing act between robot and worker.

Businesses must look to develop the skills of their employee alongside the technological developments that we are seeing unfold rapidly, and make sure they are well placed to benefit from the opportunity for busy employees and business leaders to offload the monotonous and mundane, and spend more time on the exciting, creative and strategic. If not, the truth could well be that AI will not replace you, but a person using AI will!

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