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How companies are selling their workers on learning AI

Companies are getting creative to show workers the ropes of using AI — even if some employees just don't want to learn.

Since OpenAI launched ChatGPT in November 2022, businesses have been trying to figure out how to get their employees to use generative AI tools to boost productivity, save time, and make more money.

But some of their workers just don't know how. A Deloitte survey found that only 47% of business leaders reported feeling like their companies are doing enough to teach their employees how to use generative AI.

It could be why Big Tech firms are offering salaries of up to seven-figures to attract top AI expertise. "There is undoubtedly a shortage in AI talent," Alex Libre, the cofounder and principal recruiter of Einstellen Talent, a service that matches job candidates with generative AI startups, told BI.

Upskilling programs can help fill that gap. Some companies have set up initiatives to teach employees the latest AI tools and how to use them to do their jobs better.

"We all need to be an AI person," Kian Katanforoosh, the CEO of Workera, a platform that creates personalized learning courses for employees, told BI. "If you're not, you may not be able to maximize your potential."

AI training efforts look different across firms


Employers have designed unique programs to teach workers how to use AI, hopefully leading to more productivity. Hyland, an enterprise software company, is exploring an AI curriculum specifically for its IT team and wants at least 50% of its staff to take the course this year.

So far, the software firm says it's offering training content that introduces employees to the concept of AI. That includes three to four hours worth of videos from vendors like Microsoft and Amazon Web Services on the basics of AI, the history of the technology, and how to come up with the best prompts.

"I think AI is a big inflection point," Stephen Watt, the senior vice president and chief information officer of Hyland told BI. "If somebody is going to be successful in the next 10 to 15 years of their career, this has to be a toolset that they're very comfortable with."

Other companies are turning to third-party experts to help build their upskilling efforts. Ensono, an IT services provider, says that it hired an outside consultant well-versed in AI to figure out how its marketing team can use tools like ChatGPT, image generators like DALL-E and Midjourney, and even custom AI bots for tasks like content creation and image development. After that, the consultant created a 30-day help desk where marketers could call in to ask for advice on how to use the tools for things like SEO analysis and competitive research faster. Now, Ensono encourages employees to ask each other for help and share advice with one another.

"We've arrived at a place now where the marketing team has developed, I would say, some pretty strong acumen across those dozen use cases, and we're still looking for more," Jonathan Bumba, the chief marketing officer at Ensono, told BI.

However, not all companies created their AI education programs from scratch. Booz Allen Hamilton, a management consulting firm with 34,000 employees, says it added a 9-minute module on everything you need to know about generative AI to its 3-hour AI literacy course it created before ChatGPT came out. On top of that, the government contractor created AI skills development curriculums personalized for its engineers who work on machine learning and consultants who advise clients on their AI strategy. "It's been a deliberate journey for a decade," Joe Rohner, the VP of AI at Booz Allen Hamilton told BI, adding that it has been exploring data science and coding applications since the early 2010s. "There's a need for AI talent that is not gonna be satisfied in the current job market or university system."

Employees are open to using AI despite some skepticism Despite some initial resistance to adopting the technology, companies told BI that most employees now embrace AI with open arms.

Since launching its skills training initiative and convincing workers that AI could make their jobs easier, Bumba says most of his staff on Ensono's marketing team are using AI.

"I think everybody is feeling overworked," Ensono's CMO says. "The productivity gains are the only way you're going to be able to manage your workload and achieve work-life balance." Watt says Hyland uses more than just positive messaging to nudge its employees to adopt AI. The company also allows its IT team to take classes during work hours as part of their career development. Those who do the program are "celebrated" and encouraged to discuss what they're learning with their teammates. The company is even considering offering prizes and other incentives to get more people to enroll.

"People that don't figure this out are probably putting their own usefulness in jeopardy," Watt says.

Even some of the most skeptical employees came around to using AI. Bumba says Ensono's head writer of the firm's quarterly reports was "terrified" of deploying tools like ChatGPT at work out of fear that they posed a risk to her job security. But the CMO says that quickly changed after leaders reassured her that her job was "quite safe and secure."

"She's probably our biggest power user now," Bumba says.

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