Bay Area executives are well aware of the impact that AI and automation are having on their organizations and workforce, and that the combined forces of human + machine worker is already leading to better business outcomes. The challenge, however, lies in scaling up these new capabilities and to hire and develop the right talent in an environment where unemployment is at an all-time low and the hiring market is extremely competitive. New research from Accenture and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce shows that business leaders see more change coming and highlights a growing sense that they need to address both a skills gap and feelings of uncertainty about the future of jobs in their workforces.

Our report, which surveyed 250 Bay Area based executives from large, medium and small organizations spanning multiple industries, reinforced the notion that most organizations are already leveraging automation, AI, or augmented intelligence. In fact, over ninety percent of businesses are using these technologies for business processes in areas such as product development, sales, marketing, supply chain, finance, distribution, and customer service. However, hiring the right talent continues to be a challenge that 70 percent of them say they currently face. To overcome the talent shortage and build a better, stronger and more capable workforce these organizations must work on redefining the roles, the skills, and the type of talent they are seeking and developing. And finally, as with any change to the business, it’s imperative for these organizations to successfully manage the overall cultural change that will happen because of this workforce shift.

The changing workforce

One of the biggest opportunities for San Francisco business leaders lies in their willingness to invest in their employees’ skillsets via continuous learning and trainings. This isn’t mere goodwill: companies are recognizing that jobs will require different skillsets as AI and automation take over simple or repetitive tasks, in turn freeing up workers’ time for higher functioning, more creative tasks. Nearly half of business leaders surveyed anticipate a change in 26-50 percent of jobs in their workforce due to technology, and over 90 percent have a designated employee group responsible for understanding and applying these new technologies to their business.

It is in this context that organizations need to redefine the roles of human workers. As this technology evolves and permeates businesses at an increasing pace, business leaders are aware that the nature of work is rapidly shifting, too. And those workers whose jobs are being replaced will need to be reskilled or upskilled. The importance of training people on new skills or developing their existing skills showed up in several ways as a focus area for business leaders looking to address the talent shortage: Sixty-four percent say hiring workers with adjacent skills and training them will help address the shortage, and 56 percent say reskilling and upskilling will help.

Reskilling will be key to ensuring that workers who interact with AI and automated technologies understand how these capabilities and devices augment their skills and where they can add the most value. This in turn will create new efficiencies, especially as the technologies continues to evolve and employees adapt to an increasingly dynamic workplace. Bay Area leaders are recognizing that offering training to upskill or re-skill talent is not only beneficial for the business, but also helping to attract and retain employees in a very competitive job market. But while 64 percent of business leaders believe they are somewhat prepared for these kinds of coming changes brought by AI at work, only 23 percent feel well prepared.

Just as importantly, businesses need to understand that with this shift, we are also talking about a huge cultural transformation for their organizations. To handle this effectively, Bay Area leaders will need to lay the groundwork for a successful workforce by focusing on developing cultures that embrace the human experience, even as technology trends bring more automation. This includes championing a growth mindset, infusing meaning into everyday tasks and processes, and empowering employees in new ways. Emerging HR technologies that marry behavioral science with AI will play a pivotal role in helping organizations prepare for—and navigate—this transition to the workforce of the future.

Tapping into the local ecosystem to build a stronger workforce

The good news for our Bay Area workforce—and one of the reasons it pays for them to stay here—is that the region is home to some of the world’s leading institutions and companies that are focused on driving this workforce shift. Our survey found that many organizations are attracting talent by offering to pay for skills training, flexible working hours, and more money.

Working with Bay Area businesses to address this transformation is a huge priority for the San Francisco Chamber. The Chamber works with local businesses to navigate this shift, offering resources, leadership and valuable assistance, as organizations explore new ways to support, coordinate and lead reskilling, workforce development, and post-secondary education efforts. Furthermore, local businesses can work hand-in-hand with the Chamber to harness the Bay Area’s ecosystem of innovation and education, creating work environments in which both workers and companies can adapt and thrive in the age of AI.

Looking ahead, nearly all (96 percent) of the business leaders surveyed feel an apprenticeship model will address the talent shortage in San Francisco. Bringing on apprentices can also help a larger pool of people obtain the training and hands-on experience to become ready for jobs, according to 65 percent of business leaders. An apprenticeship model could also lead to a more diverse workforce, opening up new and exciting job opportunities for very diverse residents who call the Bay Area their home.

All told, businesses in the Bay Area are well-poised to pivot away from outdated organizational practices of the past. Rather than limiting their powerful workforces to only the skills they need today, companies to invest in learning platforms and strategies that better prepare workers for tomorrow. There is also an expectation that the workforce—no matter what industry—will be more tech savvy, agile and have an appetite for continuous learning and development. In other words, it isn’t enough to adopt these technologies: both companies and workers need to re-orient themselves for the workforce of the future.

In conclusion

We covered a lot here, but all of this is critical to the workforce transformation that we are all experiencing, and will continue to see. To summarize, it is imperative for Bay Area organizations to:

  • Redefine the roles for your organization
  • Understand where automation can be applied, and can be more effective
  • Understand where retraining and reskilling can be applied
  • Plan for the cultural change that is expected from this workforce shift
  • Look at nontraditional sources for hiring a diverse talent base
  • Partner with local institutions like the Chamber, who are connected to the business community and provide you with the right guidance and resources

Also, our latest whitepaper provides in-depth analysis and insights from business and academic leaders on how companies can tackle the talent shortage and take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead.

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