How artificial intelligence is influencing tech-sector layoffs and reskilling – – Training Journal

The online magazine for those involved in workplace learning, performance and development
In March, employees in the marketing and communications division at IBM were reportedly told in a staff meeting that their numbers were being culled. This news substantiated a recent pattern of layoffs in the technology sector, which have included cuts at Amazon, Apple and Meta. Combined, these reports have amounted to at least 74,000 workers being laid off by 255 tech companies in 2024 alone, according to layoffs.fyi.  
Some jobs will indeed be lost to this new technology, but other new opportunities will pop up in their place as a result of the shift to AI 
The existential ‘threat’ of technology, whether real or imagined, has been feared by the front-line worker since at least the era of the Industrial Revolution. Today’s advancements in technology, particularly including the rise in popularity of artificial intelligence (AI), are the latest iteration of this fear.   
We have been told by none other than Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk that AI may render employment a luxury item: “You can have a job if you wanted to have a job for personal satisfaction,” Musk said at an event last year, “but the AI would be able to do everything.”  
Yet we also know that corporations have shareholders to satisfy and increasingly choose to cut expenses – including jobs – to stimulate (or simulate) continuous growth.  
The motivation to not only succeed in today’s fast-paced business landscape but to stand out, intensifies substantially in a field as competitive and fickle as technology. It also makes the allure of AI’s advertised production-boosting and cost-reducing benefits almost irresistible for companies.  
In January of 2023, IBM announced that 3,900 positions would be slashed from the company’s workforce. Then, in August, the company announced it would be replacing 8,000 jobs with artificial intelligence instead.  
These updates were followed in December by CEO Arvind Krishna saying that IBM would be “massively upskilling all of our employees on AI”. Are these events related? Absolutely. Will embracing AI ultimately help IBM (and others who follow suit) become more efficient, and therefore more profitable? Possibly. So where do business leaders go from here when it comes to AI? Let’s find out.  
Predictions about the future of artificial intelligence vary wildly from expert to expert – and even among the CEOs whose job it is, in large part, to sell investors and the public on the promise of AI.  
This relatively new technology rivals Henry Ford’s factory line and the internet in terms of its potential to upend traditional business strategy and the current makeup of our overall workforce, yet it isn’t clear whether executives are taking the full measures of its implications.  
You might call AI the elephant in the corporate room, but it might be more accurate to describe it as the 800-pound gorilla in every C-suite.  
A working paper released by MIT in January found that currently only 23% of worker wages being paid for vision tasks would be attractive to automate for a business, and suggested that AI job displacement will be substantial, but also gradual.  
In its 2023 report on The State of AI at Work, Asana favoured a “human-centred AI approach” that emphasises worker participation rather than displacement. Yet Asana also found what it described as a “crisis in AI transparency”, in which only 32% of employees feel their company has been transparent about its use of AI – including fewer than half of executives.  
Other predictions are a bit more grim, such as the Chicago Booth Review noting that the path of technological progress has produced many head-on collisions between innovation and the labour market and calling for a policy and programme-heavy approach that will minimise negative outcomes for workers.  
Policies and programmes, however, come with their own host of issues. They take time to develop, demand compromise and often translate to additional costs. None of these outcomes perfectly align with the immediate interests of corporations or their leaders.  
So if AI is the future, what incentives do companies have to protect the security and earning power of workers whose roles will ultimately be usurped by machines?  
A quick scan of the most cogent research and informed predictions on artificial intelligence in the workplace reveals just one thing: there are no certainties yet. The mysteries surrounding how far AI can carry industry into the future, and how quickly it will get there, far surpasses the current research available.  
Even the most modern-thinking organisations, who may feel inspired to jump into this technological advancement and replace each employed worker with an AI bot, can foresee potential risks in drastically reshaping their workforce so quickly.  
One certainty we can clearly draw is that AI will become an increasingly valuable commodity available to companies going forward. Organisations will need to be nimble in their hiring, training and restructuring – including that necessary upskilling of workers.  
AI can indeed learn from itself, but its deep-learning models need to be fuelled (and constantly tweaked) by humans with an holistic understanding of a department’s and company’s goals.  
Some jobs will indeed be lost to this new technology, but other new opportunities will pop up in their place as a result of the shift to AI.  
In the technology sector in particular, companies must be ready to navigate economic volatility and the shifting winds of VC investment. As artificial intelligence continues to advance in every department from marketing to IT roles, organisations will need to adapt and reshape their workforce.  
There will be job cuts. But there will also be training, upskilling and the redefining of responsibilities of existing workers. Some roles may be eliminated in the face of AI, but existing workers may see a benefit in new training, upskilling and redefining of role descriptions and responsibilities.  
New types of workers will need to be hired. Companies need to be equipped with the tools, or aligned with an outsourcing partner who can empower them, to respond to all of these changes as they come.  
Carly Holm is founder and CEO of Humani  

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