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Talent Management in the Age of AI

Talent Management in the Age of AI
by Ryan Roslansky- CEO of LinkedIn

Business leaders have navigated an immense amount of change in recent years: varying hiring trends across industries, evolving remote and hybrid work strategies, swings in the number — and type — of people switching jobs, and changing generational preferences. But none of that compares to the seismic shift AI represents as it starts to fundamentally redefine the way we work across sectors and societies.

As the CEO of LinkedIn, a platform dedicated to creating economic opportunity for the global workforce, it’s no surprise then that in almost every conversation I have these days, especially with fellow CEOs, I’m consistently asked the same question: “What is happening with AI and work, and what does it mean for me?

Here’s my response: The world of work is changing this fast and the most important thing to do is realize that the old playbooks, especially around talent management, will not work — now, it’s time to adapt. Ignoring that truth all but guarantees that your business will fall behind. But embracing it, with a focus on three big shifts, will set your business up for new levels of success in the age of AI.

Redefine jobs as a collection of a skills and tasks, not titles.

The smartest companies today are starting to redefine jobs as a collection of skills and tasks — instead of just titles — and are considering how those skills and tasks will evolve as AI advances.

If this thinking is new to you, it’s easy to embrace. Take the jobs done by your team or across your workforce and categorize them not by title but by the key tasks that get done every day. We know that AI will eventually impact virtually all tasks at some level given the increasing integration of AI tools into our day to day. But the impact of AI is going to be more pronounced on some teams than others.

When you see jobs as a collection of tasks, you’ll quickly be able to see which jobs are more prone to be automated than others. In those areas, it’s not a given that a job goes away. Instead, you can focus on up-skilling workers to manage more complex tasks and help them develop the people skills that AI is least likely to automate, such as communication and collaboration. This view of jobs as tasks not titles empowers leaders to identify the skills your workforce must cultivate to stay competitive and agile in the age of AI.

If that sounds too big of a shift to implement at your company, consider what’s being done at places like Unilever. Unilever is one of the world’s largest consumer goods brands and has been redefining roles as a collection of skills for some time. That shift enabled them to create flexible pathways for employees to unlock opportunities they may otherwise not have been considered for, fostering a more dynamic internal talent marketplace. Unilever’s innovative employment model, U-Work, helps employees transition between a diverse set of assignments based on their skills, rather than being tied to fixed titles and roles. In between assignments, U-Work employees (or “U-workers”) can pursue other passions, whether that’s setting up their own business or spending more time with family. This offers employees flexibility and creates agility for the organization.

Figuring out how best to build this new thinking — and the systems around it — at your company is going to be one of the most important tasks every leader faces in the coming years. In fact, it’s likely we will see an entirely new category of jobs at companies crop up centered around the idea of “AI transformation,” where teams are tasked with figuring out which AI tools are the right tools to grow your business and, as a result, which workforce strategies are the right strategies to keep your teams agile and engaged. The battle for that talent will be fierce and it’s already begun.

Bring skills and workforce learning to the center of talent management.

Jobs are changing on us, even if we’re not changing jobs. The average LinkedIn member has seen the skills needed for their job change by 25% over the past eight years. That number is expected to reach at least 65% by 2030 due to AI.

Think about it. We’re already upskilling en masse on AI-adjacent skills to keep pace with change. How many of us have tried ChatGPT, experimenting with a slew of questions, trying to get the best results from AI? “Prompting” as a skill isn’t something taught in school, but being proficient in it has already become core to work in the last year.

For leaders, that means one thing: We need to prioritize and accelerate workforce learning, as it’ll be practically impossible for a one-off moment of learning (like a degree, or a two-year stint at a company) to last an entire career. Companies should start embracing a “training to hire” mindset with onboardings and apprenticeships as well as a “training to promote” mindset through upskilling and tours of duty that help guide employees into new functions, and perhaps even new careers.

IBM does this well. A longtime leader on skills-first thinking, IBM launched an apprenticeship program a few years ago to develop the skills that were essential for future roles at the company, building a framework centered on learning courses and on-the-job training. Now, they’ve had a thousand apprentices across 35 roles including cybersecurity, software development, data science, and design. The success of the program led IBM to commit to investing $250 million toward their Registered Apprenticeship and other training programs by 2025.

Another company leading the way is Genpact. This global professional services company has built an AI-enabled, scalable learning platform that harnesses the collective intelligence of Genpact experts at scale and delivers personalized reskilling paths for their 115,000+ global workforce. For example, as soon as GenAI took off, they identified it as a key skill for everyone and were quick to curate training courses on the basics, including prompt engineering and how large language models can be leveraged for their clients. So far, over 75,000 people have taken the beginner course, contributing to Genpact’s remarkable threefold increase in learning since 2019 — totaling nearly 40 million learner hours to date.

To help companies assimilate to the AI-led changes, leaders need to foster a culture of learning. Not just to boost AI literacy, but to build great soft skills, like leadership and problem solving, and create a workforce that’s resilient and agile in the face of change. And AI will help us do this better too — features like AI-powered coaching in LinkedIn Learning can help offer employees real-time advice and tailored learning content recommendations all personalized based on job title, career goal, and skills they follow.

Embrace AI to focus teams on human-to-human collaboration.

We’re seeing that professionals are excited that AI can help improve their productivity and reduce their workloads. Microsoft’s Work Trend Index shows that 70% of employees would like to delegate as much work as possible to AI to lessen their workloads and, at LinkedIn, our estimate is that more than 80% of our members are in a position to use AI to automate at least a quarter of the mundane and repetitive tasks that we do every day.

This is big news for leaders. It means, with the right AI tools in place, your employees will have more time for the tasks that require human innovation and strategy. For example, recruiters can save time and focus on the more strategic parts of the hiring process — like speaking to and building relationships with candidates — while AI takes on the heavy lifting of helping find the right pipeline of candidates that have the right skills. Or salespeople can focus on deepening customer trust and enhancing relationships, as AI helps with lead qualification and sales forecasting.

At LinkedIn, we’ve already seen the benefits of AI with our customer service team. By embracing self-service AI-powered experiences, our teams are no longer spending time on the basic questions they get all the time (How do I edit my profile? How do I get more followers?) and instead are spending time solving complex inquiries that only humans have the skills to do (think: empathy, patience, and cross-company collaboration). As a result, we’re becoming more effective by the day at solving all customer inquiries.

While it’s easy to look at AI as a tool that’s going to take away parts of our work, now is the time to reframe your mindset to see all your teams stand to gain with the help of AI. Simply put, AI is helping people focus more on the people part of work, which is why we see 70% of U.S. executives agree that soft skills are more valuable to their organization than AI skills.

What’s possible when we get this right

As big a deal as AI is, it’s not the first time — even in our lifetime — when technological change upended everything in our lives. When the internet became more mainstream in the 1990s, the conversation was very similar to the one we’re having today. Some jobs were lost, but ultimately, many more were created — in fact, 60% of employment in 2018 was found in jobs that didn’t exist in 1940.

Today, we don’t talk about the “internet.” Instead, we talk about the things we do with the internet: e-commerce, content creation, remote work, and the list goes on. The same will be true with AI. Eventually, we won’t talk about “AI,” we’ll talk about the ways AI is changing how we work and live, and that’s what makes this such a defining moment.

Across history, leaders just like us built and rebuilt the world of work time and again. This is our moment to rebuild the systems and pathways in place today and make them more equal, dynamic, and transparent than ever before. In creating these new playbooks, we could see economic opportunity reach more people in more places than ever before for decades to come, leading to innovation and growth at levels previously unseen. That future is not decided or inevitable. It’s up to us to create together.

By Ryan Roslansky- CEO of LinkedIn
Harvard Business Review