Mastering GenAI: how to bridge skills gaps and boost employee confidence

The introduction of GenAI in the workplace means this skills gap is set to expandSix in ten employees will require training before 2027 according to the World Economic Forum, which estimates that the talent shortage will exceed 85 million people by 2030. The introduction of GenAI in the workplace means this skills gap is set to expand. In Udemy’s recent Global Learning & Skills Trends Report, we found that there are three key learning and skills trends for 2024. Firstly, we are seeing that companies are increasingly looking to hire based on skills rather than formal qualifications like degrees, as these hires more closely align with long-term strategic goals and are better equipped to upskill existing teams.

Secondly, it’s no secret that GenAI has taken the world and workforce by storm and has become an essential driver of successful businesses, helping to accelerate processes, eliminate repetitive tasks and deliver faster and better insights. With this, we are seeing an increase in investment in technology resilience, with a recent UK government survey actually revealing that approximately 15 percent of businesses in the UK had adopted at least one form of AI technology by January 2022.

However, as the race to adopt solutions may be gathering pace, the third, and key trend we have seen is the need for the development of strong leaders. Business leaders must ensure their staff are upskilled to work alongside new technologies, like GenAI, allowing them to both transform and future-proof their staff and businesses.


Dealing with shortcomings

Business leaders recognise the benefits of incorporating GenAI into their workplaces, with a recent KPMG survey finding that three in four (74 percent) of business leaders rank GenAI as the top emerging technology that will impact their business over the next year and a half. However, there is a very clear and substantial risk of companies sitting back and missing out on missing near-term benefits for their staff like increased productivity and a competitive advantage in the future. A recent Boston Consulting Group survey of C-suite executives found that only 6 percent have trained more than a quarter of their employees on GenAI tools to date.

It’s therefore unsurprising in our recent report, The GenAI Transformation: Perspectives on Leadership, we have found that although nearly all respondents (88 percent) agreed that effective leadership would be critical to the success of their organisation’s GenAI initiatives, only 44 percent of employees felt confident in their leadership team’s ability to mitigate the risks associated with GenAI, and only 42 percent of employees believe their management team is communicating effectively about their GenAI strategies and initiatives.

One of the main factors contributing to this lack of employee confidence is that many executives are still familiarising themselves with the technology so they can understand and communicate the positive, practical implications that GenAI may have on their organisation. However, this lack of confidence in and communication from leadership is leading to many employees feeling uneasy about the arrival of GenAI, the perceived effects it may have on their jobs, and the recognition that their leaders may also be feeling the same way. An EY survey recently identified a growing anxiety among employees when it comes to AI’s role in the workplace, with almost half (48 percent) more concerned about GenAI than they were a year ago.


A new path

A crucial first step for leaders to close the GenAI skills gap and inspire confidence is to become familiar with the technology themselves. It is not enough simply to read about GenAI. Leaders must actually spend time immersing themselves in the technology to understand how to best adapt it for their organisations.

Once leaders have a deeper understanding of GenAI, they need to clearly define their strategy and create a set of company-wide policies and practices to both mitigate risk and encourage innovation.

Finally, as almost three in five (58 percent) report that leadership is not communicating well with employees about their companies’ GenAI strategies and initiatives, the ultimate step to fully integrating GenAI within a company is with, clear, consistent and constant communication. This is absolutely crucial to inspire confidence among employees.

As the demand for skills continues to outpace supply and GenAI becomes an integral part of the workforce, leaders must address the widening skills gap and foster confidence among their teams. While many leaders recognise the potential of GenAI, there remains a significant gap in both understanding and effective communication. To bridge this divide and ensure successful integration, leaders must prioritise their own understanding of GenAI, formulate clear strategies, and establish transparent communication channels. Only through proactive leadership and investment in skills development can organisations thrive in the era of GenAI.