Reskilling in the age of AI requires EQ

Many of your employees are likely fearful about the advancement of AI and the rapid rate of technological evolution. This is where the onus falls on you to tie the reskilling process to team members’ professional development.

With decades of artificial intelligence scaling ahead of us, technology is evolving faster than ever before. That means it’s more important than ever for people leaders to continually provide skills-based training so team members may gain comfort with the technology, giving their organizations an edge in the marketplace.

There are two key components you need to think about to successfully reskill your workforce. First, carefully consider where your organization needs to go and which technology would best aid your progress. Second, get buy-in from your teams.

Before you decide to reskill your team, let’s examine the simple yet crucial first step of considering where you want your organization to go. From there, you can determine whether you actually need to implement a new technology or process. If the answer is yes, you may then develop a plan to reskill whichever teams most need to adapt.

Leaders who take this important first step deploy strategic thinking and appreciative inquiry to where their organization needs to go and how to get it there.

Appreciative inquiry is a concept that was developed in the 1980s by David L. Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva. People leaders use appreciative inquiry for organizational improvement. Rather than focus on “problems” that need to be solved, they begin by appreciating the resources already available within the cohort. Then, they examine how these resources may be engaged for positive change.

This framework is tremendously helpful for leaders seeking to determine which technologies and human systems would best evolve their organizations. Rather than thinking “Oh no, we’ve got to change everything or we’re going to be left behind by our competitors!” appreciative inquiry invites leaders to first consider what their companies are doing right. The focus is on moving from good to better.

Leaders considering implementing organizational change with the appreciative inquiry model might ask questions along these lines: What is working well? Where do we need to go? Which services are we currently providing that are likely to be automated soon? How can we reskill the workers performing those job functions into other areas that will provide added value to the company?

This approach values everyone in your organization and celebrates the successes you and your teams have achieved, while looking ahead and imagining how the future can be even better.

The second component of reskilling your employees is getting buy-in from your teams. Any time you ask employees to change the way they operate, you open the door for significant pushback. If teams are constantly asked to change the way they do things because of the C-suite’s whims, they will grow very frustrated. Company leadership must agree on the value of the intended change so employees will have more confidence in it.

Rarely do I see companies consider reskilling as part of career development. If team members can see how what they’re being asked to learn relates to the overall trajectory of their careers and the mission of the organization, they’re more likely to perceive value in it.

The C-suite must determine how urgent the needed change is. Does the entire sales force need to be reskilled tomorrow? If the need is not extremely urgent, consider having employees opt in; you can incentivize the reskilling process as you wish. Once individuals begin to enjoy success, you can present them to your teams as case studies so that other employees are motivated to gain the new skill.

Recognize that many of your employees are likely fearful about the advancement of AI and the rapid rate of technological evolution. This is where the onus falls on you, a leader who cares directly about your employees, to tie the reskilling process to team members’ professional development.

Put yourself in your direct reports’ shoes. If someone were to tell you that you need to change the way you do your job, how would you like that information communicated? What assurances would you need?

Such questions will guide you well when you find yourself in this delicate position. There is never a reason to abandon your humanity.