Skills for the future: How tech can help solve the skills conundrum 

Aside from computer-generated poetry and a ‘code red’ on AI development at Google, the release of ChatGPT opened fresh dialogue about the threat that ‘robots’ will take all our jobs.

For journalists I can certainly say ChatGPT does a very good job of drafting soft-ball questions for HR directors. But as it’s not yet able to take my place at CIPD ACE, follow-up nuanced answers, or demonstrate empathy, I think my job is safe (for now). 

For HR, chatbots are already being used to handle employee holiday requests, and AI can be turned to everything from recruitment to payroll. The lightning speed at which society is changing though, partly thanks to such technologies, means as one challenge is solved, another two are born. HR is destined to be busy for a long while yet. 

Since the turn of the millennium, the World Economic Forum estimates AI has phased out 1.7 million jobs in manufacturing. It’s an alarming stat, but nowhere near as eye-watering as the 97 million new jobs it is expected to create by 2025.

Newly created jobs are only one part of the puzzle, however. The UK is already in the middle of a skills crisis, in which skills learned one year can be irrelevant the next.

We also have a productivity problem, fuelled by an over-reliance on so-called ‘low-skilled,’ low-value jobs and under-investment in education. 

It’s going to be a struggle to keep up – and if HR professionals aren’t quick off the mark, they and their organisations may be rendered obsolete long before the robots take over.

As explored in this supplement, organisations are still in the foothills of defining, understanding, keeping track of, and developing employees’ skills. There are exciting developments on the horizon, but the burgeoning skills gaps may signal HR’s own code red. 

Beau Jackson is deputy editor at HR magazine


Check out the 2023 Technology Supplement, including a feature exploring talent marketplaces; a how to for lasting L&D selection and Q&A with Microsoft's head of employee skilling here.