The Focus – Reskill, not upskill

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I suspect it is similar to other sports around the world. Whereas one player is selected/signed for one position on the team, then the team decides they want them to be at another position. The problem though is that the person has never played that position before.

What happens then? Well, the player agrees to it. They start to learn a new skill and at the same time are reskilled, due to this new position. It takes time. It takes dedication, and while there is no guarantee that the person will ever achieve success, yet they still go for it, because the other option is being released, not making the team – thus getting cut.

The only option is to be reskilled due to the conditions that present itself.

Granted this isn’t a perfect analogy to what your employees will face, due to generative AI coming into the workplace (the probability though is high at some point in the next two years); rather it is more around reality, even if today, there isn’t any generative AI rumbling into your company.

As an industry – in this regards, L&D and Training, the focus and thus of learning systems as a direct result is all about upskill, upskill, upskill. Sounds great, the premise. Upskill here, and you have a good opportunity to land this job within the company. Upskill there, and the opportunity to land this new gig within the company, say project manager for an upcoming project, is stronger than before.

Sounds great, in theory. But what it doesn’t factor in, are certain variables such as

  • One manager doesn’t like the other manager, so even with upskilling, you won’t get the gig or job
  • The other gig gets eliminated or held off, after the person spends all that time, upskilling – now, what do they do?
  • They are offered training, repeated learning, to attain those skills, never achieve it, and thus there are only two options left, stay where you are (but are unhappy, after all, why were you looking for another opportunity within the company in the first place?), or job elimination.
  • A new technology comes out of nowhere, that changes the playing field, and the company in earnest uses it, and all that content they consumed, and learned (ideally), is no longer relevant at that company for you soon to dream job opportunity

None of these scenarios are ideal. All in fact, stink. Yet, the workplace isn’t all daisies and sunshine. Your company, business, entity, association for example, goal is to generate revenue, and when the market hits a downturn, “tighten the belt” – which means job elimination OR if they believe the person has the talent to do so, reskill them (a preferable outcome). The issue today though is way too many companies ignore the reskill angle, and just go to elimination. It is far easier, and cheaper – in their eyes – then invest in reskilling the person for some other role that isn’t being eliminated and will be in demand. If you think, “Well, I am at a university, and this scenario will never happen,” think again. Why pay someone a full-time salary and thus benefits, when I can scale back, drop them to adjunct (and thus half-time), and eliminate benefits? Non-Profits cut back quite a bit. There isn’t any business type, as far as I am aware, that doesn’t scale back, cut, or terminate job roles.

And overall, reskill someone, who they see has the talent or business IQ to switch to another position and thus job, that requires such reskilling.

Generative AI is going to change all that. If you are unaware – and a lot of people are – understandably, thinking “It won’t happen at my place,” or “I have heard of it, but my job is safe,” or “Zero impact to me,” is the majority of cases, you will be wrong. Sure, a face-to-face job role – that is a necessity, is safe. Working out in field or doing construction is safe (robotics likely will change – but that is a long way off), having to go on-site at a power plant or on-site whereas a human is a necessity to fix, update, etc. is safe. Being a professor or teacher is safe (although one article said, lesson plans would be a task not needed to be done by a teacher. I guess they forgot about verifying the info is correct). Yet there are a lot of roles that will be impacted by Generative AI in the next few years. I should note that way too writers just reference ChatGPT (as though it is the only Gen-AI and thus LLM out there – it is not).

Others state machine learning and deep learning. Machine Learning (ML) is a subset of AI; Deep Learning (DL) is a subset of ML. (Curious to know the difference – great read here) Albeit as the article notes, you are likely already using ML.

AI agents will play a bigger role, with Gen-AI than most people realize. To get a feel of an AI Agent, I recommend trying out Godmode. Once you use it, it is easy to see, why ChatGPT is in the dated mode. Once workers find out, how to tap into AI Agents, and companies too, expect additional job roles and thus tasks involved to be switched out. Jobs could be eliminated. Reskilling, again, could change that – creating a new role, for that Indvidual or individuals.

Data Points showing the impact of Gen-AI in the workplace

  • Close to 4,000 people lost their job in May due to AI (Challenger, Gray and Christmas Report)
  • “IBM is planning to pause on roles it believes could be better performed by AI,” (Bloomberg, May 2023)
  • Projections that due to Sales AI tools (which means Gen-AI) the number of salespeople will likely no longer be needed (Morgan Stanley)
  • BT Group will replace around 10,000 workers in the next several years, due to a chatbot – named Amy, that can “answer many user questions, and improve over time,” (Business Insider)
  • 16% of business leaders said AI (again, this means Gen-AI) will reduce headcount (Microsoft Study)
  • 79% of workers fear that AI will result in a reduction of pay (Checkr – 3,000 survey) – Survey also found that of that percentage, those most worried were Millennials -82%
  • Around 23% of jobs, will change by 2027 (World Economic Forum)

The List (as of what folks are projecting now)

  • Executive Assistant (or some companies and countries still refer to as Secretary)
  • Customer support/service whereas a person isn’t a need, the Gen-AI can answer the calls, respond to e-mails, chat support, even assistant support – which you already see
  • Clerk
  • Content marketers or those who write content for web sites – so some roles in Marketing will be impacted
  • Various tech-infrastructure roles where automation can replace them (Gen-AI is tied to this automation)
  • Coders, Programmers, Data Analysts
  • Content marketers – why have them, when Gen-AI can write the content?
  • Web designers
  • Copywriters and technical writers
  • Paralegals
  • Market Researchers

To Upskill or Reskill?

Read any article around Gen-AI (many use the term AI), and CEOs, and others refer to upskilling people to attain skills around AI – as the core. That is partially true – but the upskill is more around the elimination of day-to-day tasks or redundancy that Gen-AI will replace. And yes, the focus or premise is that by eliminating such items, will make a worker more productive and thus happy (questionable, everyone is different).

Yet, they all ignore the job cuts – the job roles being eliminated due to Gen-AI. Rarely did I find an article stating the importance of reskilling these workers (whose job and job role, will be eliminated). Why?

If a person is talented, why not reskill them around a new job role that will be needed? Prompt Engineers will be needed – and tech or engineering backgrounds are not a necessity for that role, because it isn’t about getting into the system, per se. Chat specialists – very relevant. People to maintain, update, and ensure ongoing success with the Gen-AI system – these folks could be former programmers, coders and alike. Chat specialists – why not your former copywriter, technical writer, content marketer, writer, exec assistant, and so on?

The newest role that will be needed at a company? CAiO – Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer.

I wrote the other day on LinkedIn, that a “job coach or leadership coach and similar ilk,” could be replaced by Gen-AI at some point. While hybrid as one commentor mentioned would be a necessity (and I am paraphrasing here), others mentioned the importance of having a human coach work in conjuction with Gen-AI. Yet one study, found that an AI coach (You can find the study in the Learning Library), was as effective as the human coach. (Terblanche N, Molyn J, de Haan E, Nilsson VO (2022) Comparing artificial intelligence and human coaching goal attainment efficacy. PLoS ONE 17(6): e0270255.

People in the Workforce already using Gen-AI

Overwhelmingly folks are using Chat-GPT (I have yet to find an article that they are using a different LLM – granted some are using Bard or Bing) to do daily tasks – including writing reports. The problem here is that they are taking and submitting whatever, without checking it first to make sure it is 100% accurate. They do not know that hallucinations exist. And that is a huge problem. Some researchers believe that Hallucinations will never be fixed, others disagree. However, as of today, and to be honest, I think for the next few years, they are here. A Hallucination means the Gen-AI (again, some just say AI) produces fake or false information. There are already cases where it just makes up stuff.

In a recent case, a district court in Texas banned the usage of Gen-AI in the writing of court filings, without a human revieing it, to make sure it is accurate. A key factor? Gen-AI makes things up. Here is proof in the pudding as they say, direct quote.

“A Manhattan Lawyer, Steven A. Schwartz used ChatGPT to write a 10-page brief that citied multiple cases that were made up by the chatbot, such as Martinez v. Delta Air Lines, and Varghese v. China Southern Airlines. After he submitted the brief (paraphrasing here), no one could find the decisions or quotations included.” He later admitted that he used ChatGPT to do the legal research. (Vice, June 1, 2023)

How to resolve this? Well, reskill someone to review any article, legal brief, HR agreements and anything else key to the company that could get the company or in this case, the lawyer – maybe a firm, in trouble. The role doesn’t exist now, but why not create one? Someone who is very detailed, excellent at reviewing information and doesn’t just zing something off without validation – would be a great fit. I suspect that person already exists at your company, and if they are in the “no longer needed” due to their current job role – and thus on the elimination block, a fix is here.

L&D, Training and HR folks will not be immune to Gen-AI and will need to learn how to tap into it, but will need, and this is HUGE need to check before letting it role. Companies when it comes to restructuring, always hit L&D, Training, HR and Marketing first. Very talented people are here (granted not everyone), why cut them loose, when a new role tying into Gen-AI could be created or is needed? Reskill them on how to do it. Your A-Star Talent will succeed – IMO, after all, A-Star talent, is uh, A-Star talent.

Bottom Line

Way too many companies are pushing the narrative of upskilling first and foremost for workers around AI. Great. Others state that anyone who wants to work at a company needs to have some AI skills – many tap around ChatGPT – again, ignoring that there are others in Gen-AI – and that ChatGPT with AI Agents will be dated. They also fail to realize that GPT models, such as GPT-4 is far better, and thus, the worker will need to learn some basics there – or as they note it – upskill.

It sounds wonderful, but it ignores reality. People will lose their jobs. People will be seen as redundant, and depending on the AI they – the company plans to use (ignoring that OpenAI models such as GPT-4 isn’t free), those who are talented enough, could be reskilled, rather than sent to the unemployment line.

Reskilling is not something, you can wait on, to come.

As a person in L&D or Training you must implement a reskilling approach and process.

And for learning system vendors, learning technology vendors, even content providers – you must change your messaging. Yes, develop new skills, but reskill your employees.

Create content not only on how to build Gen-AI or LLMs, but how to use Gen-AI in the workplace, understand the importance of human intervention, and present the new job roles and jobs that can be established, as noted earlier.

Learning systems, learning technology go hand in hand here.

Ignore the idea that learning is no longer needed (I saw this in an article), and embrace the idea that not only learning and training is needed, but essential for those workers who need to be reskilled.

Upskill sounds great.

It just isn’t



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