Skip To Main Content

Embracing AI: Strategies for Success

Our Global Workforce of the Future survey uncovered some surprising attitudes toward artificial intelligence (AI) among workers, which are examined in depth in our full report.

Reading Time 


Posted On May 03, 2024 

Our just-published Great Potential report, based on the annual Global Workforce of the Future research, which surveys 30,000 workers across 23 countries, has provided a huge amount of food for thought for all of us at LHH. To provide some context to our research, we decided to look beyond the numbers and explore what other people are saying about some of the key points raised by our data. Our survey uncovered some surprising attitudes toward artificial intelligence (AI) among workers, which are examined in depth in our full report. But we also wanted to look at what employers can do to make sure their organisations and people are prepared for the wave of AI-driven change to come.


There was no escaping the AI hype in 2023, with media coverage ranging from assertions that the technology will reshape the world to stark warnings about the possible extinction of humanity. Experience teaches us that the reality of AI is likely to land somewhere between the promises of utopia and prophecies of doom; we expect that the full impact of the technology on society and the economy will be much clearer by the end of 2024.


Succeeding in the scramble for talent


Already, though, AI is having a significant impact on the world of work. Employers are searching for AI skills in a competitive talent market and workers are rushing to develop relevant skills, but demand continues to outstrip supply. This is largely a result of the technology being so nascent and dynamic: There has not yet been enough time for AI skills to become a core part of workers’ skillsets, outside of specific parts of the tech sector. Further, the broad applicability of AI across sectors means that a wide range of employers are, in effect, chasing the same people.


Such scarcity is leading to a real scramble for talent, exemplified by SalesForce CEO Marc Benioff’s pledge to match the contracts of OpenAI researchers willing to quit and join Salesforce. If even a tech-led company such as SalesForce has to issue such a public call to attract AI talent, where does that leave employers outside of the technology space? Can they really compete for AI skills with tech companies? In a word, yes. But doing so might require some creative thinking about how these skills are recruited and developed.


Employers seeking to recruit AI talent from the tech sector need to identify their unique differentiators from the perspective of the people they are targeting. For example, tech companies have vastly varying attitudes to their people’s work-life balance, with some tech CEOs even arguing for a 70-hour workweek. While some people thrive in such working conditions, others will welcome opportunities that offer more balance. In a similar vein, more idealistic tech workers may respond positively to proposals that mean they can use their skills to have a positive impact on people’s lives, such as in the healthcare or transportation sectors.


We also advise employers to think creatively about the sectors and roles from which they are recruiting their AI talent. The video games industry, for example, has been an early pacesetter in AI adoption, often in roles that may seem surprising to people unfamiliar with the sector: While a video game’s narrative designers may be seen as writers first and foremost, they will often have AI-relevant skills derived from procedural narrative generation or from designing the behavior of non-player characters.


It is also an industry that routinely lays off workers on the completion of projects, and one which looks set to smash its own records for layoffs in 2024. But because it is often seen as part of the entertainment sector, employers seeking tech skills (and AI skills in particular) can overlook it – and thus miss out on large numbers of tech-savvy potential recruits with relevant skills.


Meeting the AI reskilling challenge head-on


Recruitment is only part of the solution, though. Even with creative thinking around recruitment, employers are likely to find it difficult to externally recruit all the AI-skilled people they require – and those they do recruit will need to keep their skills up to date in a rapidly evolving area of expertise. Even tech companies such as Amazon, Vodafone, and Infosys recognise that reskilling is a strategic imperative in the AI age: If even tech employers cannot recruit sufficient AI skills externally, employers in other sectors aiming to make the most out of the AI revolution will have to adopt a similar approach.


This presents a catch-22 situation. How can employers develop their people’s AI skills while lacking such skills within the organisation? The smallest employers with the least need for AI can probably get by with self-administered programs on platforms such as LinkedIn and Udemy, but for many organisations, a specialist third party will be the right solution.


We advise that organisations exercise care in choosing a partner in this context. The nature of a skills gap – any skills gap – means it can be difficult to assess whether a proposed solution will truly meet your needs. A supplier may, for example, have good overall knowledge of AI skills, but not be able to take into account the specific needs of your sector. This is no fault of either side of this equation, but rather an inevitable result of a broad swathe of companies needing skills in a nascent, dynamic technology.


Your first port of call should likely be your existing learning and development (L&D) services provider: If you have a longstanding and productive relationship, the provider will already understand your organisation’s needs. That said, employers should be prepared to thoroughly question their L&D providers on their AI credentials and satisfy themselves that their partners are capable of teaching industry-leading AI skills – and be prepared to seek a new partner if the answers are unsatisfactory.


AI skills: LHH’s view


The AI talent conundrum is one that needs a two-pronged approach, with equal weight given to recruiting the needed skills and developing them in house. Such skills are likely to remain in short supply for years to come, so developing skills internally – and, crucially, keeping those skills up to date in a fast-shifting business landscape – will be a necessity for most employers, even those that already have in-house tech expertise.


Employers need to satisfy themselves that their recruitment and education partners have access to the requisite tech expertise to effectively deliver on their promises. At LHH, for example, we not only offer access to our industry-leading EZRA executive digital coaching platform; we also leverage our position in the Adecco Group to give our clients access to a global pool of tech and engineering talent via our sister company Akkodis.


Finally, we urge employers not to forget the human angle here. Or, rather, the human angles, as there are two aspects to consider. First, there is the unfortunate reality that AI-led automation will inevitably lead to some people losing their jobs, even with extensive reskilling, upskilling, and redeployment programs in place. Employers should remember the recent case of Brittany Pietsch, whose recording of her layoff call went viral in January, and note that Ms. Pietsch’s video was part of a growing trend. The potential damage to the employer brand of the company that laid her off was such that its CEO felt the need to respond directly.


To avoid such negative publicity, employers need to take a more human view of the layoff process. Ms. Pietsch’s experience of being laid off by people who seemingly had little knowledge of her role and her work is all too common, but increasingly unsustainable in the face of a workforce that’s unafraid to “name and shame” employers that handle layoffs poorly. If there is genuinely no scope to reskill and redeploy a worker, employers should strive to be at least as supportive to their outgoing people as they are to their incoming staff. This means that an offboarding program should be in place that helps departing colleagues identify their transferable skills and prepare themselves for a career with a new employer – or even in a new field entirely.


The other potential pitfall in terms of the human angle is to believe that AI means you no longer need people with soft skills in your organisation. Dr. Pantelis Koutroumpis of the University of Oxford points out that successful AI teams have a great need for collaborative leaders, or what Dr. Koutroumpis terms the “glue guy” – a leader who can “coach, influence, negotiate, take strategic decisions and effectively lead the scarcity of AI talent.” Dr. Koutroumpis’ words are echoed in a recent interview with John Sicard, CEO of supply chain management firm Kinaxis (operating in a sector that is, in many respects, ahead of the curve in AI implementation), in which he says, “There is no replacement for the emotional intelligence, creativity and critical thinking that only individuals possess and which will be vital in our AI-enhanced future.”


At LHH, we agree with the assessments of Dr. Koutroumpis and Mr. Sicard. While the AI era will undoubtedly be transformative, we believe that the companies that emerge most successfully will be those that use the technology to strengthen their organisation’s human side rather than replace it. This means you not only need to identify who can be reskilled into AI roles, but also who can serve as the so-called glue guys.


Our research suggests that many workers agree with us too. For more information and other insights from our data, including workers’ views on the impact of AI on their careers, access our Global Workforce of the Future report here.


To discover how LHH can help your organisation prepare for AI era, get in touch.