by Greg Simpson

As cognitive technologies take hold, preparing your workforce for change is key

Sep 23, 20195 mins
Artificial IntelligenceCareersIT Jobs

Enabling technologies like AI, machine learning and RPA will eliminate jobs and open doors to new opportunities. Here are one IT leader's tips on what you can do today to prepare people for a new era of human-machine interaction.

Robotic + human hands touch via a futuristic virtual interface.
Credit: ipopba / Getty Images

In a world where artificial intelligence (AI) is being rapidly embraced and technological change is constant, one of the most important dimensions of an organization’s AI strategy is understanding how to prepare your workforce for the pace of change.

This comes at a time when the half-life of a learned skill – the amount of time it takes for a skill to reduce to half its value – continues to rapidly fall to five years, according to Deloitte. And more than one-third of sought-after skills across most occupations will change by 2020, according to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report.

The most critical digital technologies being explored today all have a common thread. They are focused on augmenting the human experience with digital capabilities. By using AI, organizations can augment their workforce with machines to make them more productive and help employees position themselves for the future.

Recently recognized by CIO, Synchrony is reaping some of the benefits from deploying a system-wide, AI approach to help improve the customer experience, drive faster decision-making and enable our employees to focus on fulfilling cognitive tasks and do complex problem solving.

Here are my takeaways on how organizations can equip their people and future talent for the AI era:

Focus on augmenting human intelligence

Your AI strategy should be one of augmentation. As you look at your business processes and redesign them, leverage automation technologies like robotic process automation (RPA) alongside new, higher skilled, employee roles to raise the quality of the job and automate the less engaging aspects of the job.

This can result in both a more engaging job and a more engaging customer experience. Processes flow faster, improving customer experience and our employees don’t have to push as much data around to get the job done. People and robots collaborate on a new more streamlined process. And while some jobs will go away, new higher value ones will be created.

Proactively prepare your workforce through skills training

This isn’t just about automating repetitive work with robots. Technology advances will ultimately shape every job. As humans and machines join forces to drive value together, business leaders have a responsibility to proactively prepare their workforce for the skills of the future. Employees should take advantage of resources to actively pursue new skills and future-proof their careers.

Companies may need technologists who have specific domain expertise to become multi-skilled and knowledgeable across more than one domain.

At Synchrony, we’re looking at what jobs are needed in the future and making opportunities available for our employees to pursue new careers in these areas, both inside and outside the company.

We provide our employees up to $20,000 per year to help gain higher education degrees and certifications. This robust tuition reimbursement program also includes growing fields like education and health care.

As people look to move into jobs of the future, we are also training software engineers who write Java code to become services engineers who create scalable components that can be deployed companywide. We’re piloting bootcamps to offer entry level employees skills training in coding and technology to enable a transition to technology jobs through apprenticeships with tech talent organizations.

Conduct continuous learning at every stage

Creating an environment where your technology employees are supported in their journey of continuous learning is essential. Innovative new technologies are appearing regularly, and employees must be continuous learners to learn how to adapt the best solutions for their business. That includes adapting to an agile way of working, testing and innovating. As we move into this age of AI and machine learning, skills such as persuasion, problem solving, collaboration and emotional intelligence will be in higher demand.

Fostering a culture of learning is critical to sparking innovation and creative problem solving. We invest in leadership training for entry level employees to senior executives. In one of our programs, some of our employees learn technology skills by programming a new generation of bots.

Pave the way for tomorrow’s innovators

Public-private partnerships play an important role in building a strong tech pipeline and preparing young people for the skills of the future. To help equip students with real-world skills in AI, cybersecurity and data science, Synchrony has partnered with the University of Illinois and the University of Connecticut. Students from diverse disciplines work with our developers and data scientists at the Emerging Technology Center at the University of Illinois Research Park while youth engage in cyber scenarios at Synchrony’s Cybersecurity Center at the University of Connecticut. More than a dozen graduates are working at Synchrony full-time.

There are very few roles that remain unchanged for years on end, and in technology, there are increasing demands on learning as the half-life of job skills get shorter and shorter. In addition to harnessing the technology side of the AI revolution, make sure you’re harnessing your employees and developing them into the leaders for the next gen jobs that follow the AI revolution.