As business owners grapple with the current explosion of AI, keeping pace with this rapidly changing technology is a bit like trying to catch a boulder as it’s rolling down a hill. As you try to sort out how this disruptive technology affects you, there is one clear focus you should start with: AI is having profound effects on the way we work. Rather than trying to slow down the speeding AI boulder, you should use this disruptive transformation technology as a catalyst to reshape your workforce.

There are many factors that make AI more disruptive than almost any other technology advancement in history. The unknown factor of what it will bring, the speed with which it’s evolving, and the high degree of compliance, security, data, and privacy issues that go along with it. But the most jarring is the expected impact on the workforce. According to the World Economic Forum, some 23 percent of jobs will be disrupted in the next five years, due largely to the rise of AI. (See CNBC story)

In the wake of this, there are three things to consider doing to evolve your workforce and make the most of the AI opportunity. The first is reskilling your current employees to give them the tools they need to continue to be effective and valuable team members.  Next, add flexible capacity with expertise that can help you quickly tap into new AI technology and build a roadmap. And finally, consider infusing your staff with some new college hires who can add a fresh perspective and energy to your team.

The combination of these three tactics creates a very powerful strategy in reshaping your workforce to embrace the accelerating AI changes hurtling your way. Let’s take a closer look at each one.

Reskill your current team

Undoubtedly AI is going to change the nature of some people’s day-to-day work, so reskilling is a strategic imperative. Organizations need to think differently about how they enable their workforce, and they will likely need to invest more in reskilling their people than they have historically. Many organizations are already making reskilling employees a strategic initiative so that they are not displaced as the new technology emerges.

Not only is retraining your existing employees cheaper than replacing them, it also helps you avoid a potential resource drain. Failing to reskill your current employees could cost you the loss of experienced professionals with years of internal knowledge.

Retraining workers, on the other hand, gives team members a sense of empowerment, increases employee engagement, and improves your ability to retain valued team members.  If you have employees whose jobs can be somewhat repetitive or consist of manual tasks, they can leverage new technology skills for higher-value, more engaging work.

Overall, you want to avoid getting to a point where a portion of your workforce doesn’t have the right skills to continue to be effective. That means creating and investing in on-the-job retraining plans. Start by looking at your employee base and complete skills assessments to determine what skill gaps you have overall in your workforce so that you can build plans to address them.

Once you identify your reskilling needs, you can work with a training partner or use one of an array of online platforms that offer programs and certifications.

Leverage flexible capacity to jumpstart AI

It’s going to take time to reskill your workforce, but AI technology won’t wait. Consider bringing on some flexible capacity to help you work on strategic AI initiatives right away while you are retraining your team.  Think of it as turbocharging the AI innovation bus. The benefits of that flex capacity are really to drive innovation, agility, and speed. Contractors and consultants with AI expertise can help your business size up priorities and let you experiment with possible technology solutions. Combined, this can help you get started with building the foundation for an AI delivery organization.

You can also use that flexible capacity to sort out your governance strategy, since AI is cross-functional and requires processes and policies to manage risks before you start implementing it. It can also help you coordinate the demand management of AI efforts across different groups so you don’t waste money on redundant initiatives.

After all, in the current AI era, most industries will be able to leverage AI in some way, shape or form to increase productivity and speed, and reduce time to market.  When life is moving at this speed, bringing in AI expertise will help you determine what the best opportunities are for your business rather than responding in a panic to the buzz about AI and implementing something that isn’t a strategic choice.

Inject your workforce with fresh talent

The third leg of the stool for reshaping the workforce is adding some young, entry-level team members to your workforce. The AI climate creates a good argument for something I am passionate about—giving opportunities to new college graduates who are fresh out of technology programs.

Because AI is all new technology and everybody’s climbing the learning curve together, it’s a prime time for bringing in some junior, energetic folks that you can train in the new technologies or who are fresh out of school where they may have already had AI courses as part of their college programs.

The talent pool is rich with smart, eager college graduates that are struggling to find their first opportunity in a climate where a lot of companies aren’t hiring at the college level because they don’t have substantial experience.

However, in this case, even technical employees who have been on the job 10 years don’t have experience in AI. So why not go after a portion of that population that is fresh out of school? They’re excited to learn, salary ranges are lower, and you can create the next-generation workforce for your organization. In roles where I have been involved with college hire programs, we often found that mixing new grads into an experienced workforce can also infuse a new energy and a sense of rejuvenation into the existing team.

A huge workforce opportunity

While some are fretting about what AI might do to the workforce, it actually poses a major opportunity for both employers and employees. The key is to start thinking differently about your workforce and taking steps so you are not left behind.

If you need help with the transition, Vizionara can assess your workforce strategy with you, recommend reskilling options, provide flexible capacity, or share tips on setting up college hire programs.

The bottom line is the workforce you have today is not going to be the workforce that you need in five years, or even three years, so it’s imperative to start reshaping it now.

Barbara DeLoureiro