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Businesses warned employees lack skills to handle AI

Businesses have major skills gaps to fill before they can implement artificial intelligence (AI) into their workplaces.

Despite 44% of firms wanting to invest in AI technology, research from analytics company SAS showed 63% of businesses lacked staff with the necessary AI skills.

A further 61% didn't have enough staff to deliver the benefits of AI.

The problem was worsened by businesses not knowing which skills were required for AI, of which 53% of respondents admitted to.

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Hannah Jeacock, research director at HR, payroll and finance solution provider MHR, said improved data skills were vital for businesses who want to introduce AI properly.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: "Businesses are in danger of using AI as a solution looking for a problem, especially when there is only this shallow level of comprehension. But without possessing analytical and data literacy skills, there is no point in investing in AI technology.

"A better approach for businesses is to review the problems they would like to solve before thinking about solutions. Taking a problem-first approach will then lead them to think about answering the important questions."

Skills development is a vital tool to stay competitive, Jeacock added.

She said: "Businesses should aim to upskill everyone so that the level of data literacy and awareness as a whole improves, increasing the likelihood of buy-in and success of improvement projects and initiatives.”

The pandemic has exacerbated AI skills shortages – 21% of companies said it worsened the shortages they were experiencing.

Government research from May 2021 also found the UK recruited for 215,000-234,000 roles requiring hard data skills last year. 

Lauren Thomas, EMEA economist at Glassdoor, said candidates with AI skills are increasingly sought after.

She told HR magazine: “AI skills are increasingly valuable in the labour market at the moment as they are relatively rare but can add significant value for businesses. Businesses can use AI to automate tasks that would’ve previously required thousands of human hours, freeing employees to focus on higher-level workplace tasks.

“This value is reflected in the salaries AI experts command in the labour force – even relatively inexperienced machine learning scientists, one category of AI practitioners, earn strong salaries, with an average salary of over £66,000, much higher than the median UK full-time employee salary of just over £31,000. As AI technology continues to advance, these skills will only become more valuable.

"AI is not a magic bullet for businesses and results are frequently misinterpreted, but used properly it can allow firms a leg up."