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Survey reveals that AI is driving more UK employees to upskill

Published on 04/12/2023 by David Jani

Artificial intelligence (AI) could be driving a change in priorities for both employers and employees. New tools are emerging, and jobs may shift and change with these trends. Considering these developments, how are employees looking to adapt to AI via learning?

Two employees intently study a learning program on a giant pencil.

AI has the potential to cause a lot of consternation amongst workers. This has been made clear since the emergence of generative AI tools such as Chat GPT, Google Bard, or Bing Chatbot, with companies such as BT cutting thousands of human jobs and replacing them with AI applications. The tech overall is likely to permanently change some industries, with the possibility of many jobs disappearing. Yet, Garner predicts that by 2033, AI solutions will also create half a billion net new human jobs, suggesting more of an upside than sometimes imagined of AI tools.

Whatever the outcome, the emergence of new artificial intelligence tools is likely to get employees thinking about adapting their skills to adjust to this evolution. GetApp investigated these intentions by surveying 1,014 UK employees with access to online courses to learn more about how AI could affect learning needs. We also discuss how learning management software can be used to deliver learning and may fit with new developments such as generative AI.

For our full methodology, scroll to the bottom of the page.

Interest in new skills is accelerating thanks to AI’s impact

Learning new skills can prove interesting to employees during normal circumstances, however, the overhanging threat of AI may have accelerated this interest. Adaptations such as generative AI and large language models (LLMs) are likely to have an effect on the types of courses that employers and employees complete to adapt to changing workplaces.

In our survey group, the topic of generative AI seems to have driven a push to develop new skills among employees. This was demonstrated by 60% of our sample saying they strongly felt a need to develop their skills due to the current development of generative AI.

Furthermore, as expected, generative AI has had an effect on the types of skills that employees want to learn. When we asked the respondents who had answered a clear yes or no to our question on whether they felt a need to develop their skills due to Generative AI, 60% expressed a desire to learn different skills than they otherwise would have had the technology not been implemented in workplaces.   

Did you know?

In GetApp’s 2023 Employee Exit Experience Survey we discovered that 20% of UK companies use AI technology within their HR departments. This rose to 33% in companies in London. This demonstrates that learning skills to work with AI tools may be becoming increasingly relevant in some sectors.

We observed some clear favourite topics when looking at the skills generative AI was prompting employees to learn. As the graph below shows, data analysis and research skills as well as programming skills were the overall leaders.

Graph showing the skills employees want to learn to adapt to AI

From these findings, it can be concluded that generative AI is already driving a desire amongst UK respondents to upskill. Not only that, but it is affecting the type of skills that employees are most interested in learning. Skills in the field of data science, computer science, and prompt engineering seem especially relevant in this sense.

This is important for employers to note when the subject of learning for career development is suggested in the workplace. The types of skills to be developed need to be considered with AI applications in mind as does tailoring the use of tools such as training software and learning management systems. Acting on these considerations should ease the growth of AI in the workplace for employees and help futureproof skillsets.

Did you know?

Education was one of the key priorities discussed during the AI Safety Summit 2023 hosted by the UK Government. The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, commented during the summit that reskilling efforts and adjustments to the education system were key ways to enhance complementary skills for managing AI and avoid jobs being lost as business demands change.

Over 50% want to try AI-based courses

Another element of artificial intelligence technology’s influence on learning and skills acquisition is what it can do to enhance learning. Courses that use artificial intelligence features could potentially offer a learning experience that is better personalised and more adjusted to different learning styles.

How do AI-based courses work, and what’s the benefit? 

Artificial intelligence tools are increasingly something that may be found within a training platform or LMS software. Some of the ways this may work in practice, as demonstrated in an expert advice article published on LinkedIn, are examples like the following:

  • Adaptive courses - algorithms can adjust difficulty levels and instructional pace to suit a learner better.
  • Intelligent tutoring - AI tools can enhance the tuition element of courses by adding more conversational elements —as well as natural language processing and speech recognition— to make the experience of online tutoring feel more natural and responsive.
  • Virtual assistance - Virtual assistants can help with tuition elements and resolving doubts. However, another element where they can play a helpful role is with the scheduling and time management of courses as well as offering support to students

The prospect of AI-driven courses seemed to appeal to our sample. More than half (54%) said they would want their companies to implement AI-based courses compared with a quarter who had no opinion, and over a fifth (21%) who were firmly against the concept.

However, the real advantage AI-powered tools could bring is that they can help courses be more personalised better for learners. This bespoke approach is an influential factor for our sample with most (91%) regarding it as important.

The importance employees put in personalised online courses

It appears that the idea of AI-powered learning for employees using online courses is overall a positive one. Many people in our sample seem interested in the prospect of personalised courses and in trying AI-based courses. It is possible that a rise in artificial intelligence processes used in courses may be the factor that drives growth in these kinds of learning experiences.

Deepfake it until you make it?

AI tech doesn’t always have the best reputation. This is particularly true when it comes to deepfake technology. Quickly summarised, a deepfake item is a video, audio recording, or image that has been digitally manipulated using AI tools to create a highly convincing impersonation.

Yet, deepfakes could potentially have a positive use case in education. A recent study from the University of Bath demonstrated that using instructional videos featuring a deepfake version of a student performing skills being taught on a course proficiently could potentially help them learn faster and more effectively

However, being a relatively new area of study and the obvious ethical considerations that arise from using deepfake technology, it may be a while before this method becomes commonplace.

Skills are now seen as even more crucial for career prospects 

Learning skills can be beneficial to improve motivation and self-esteem or enhance an employee’s ability to do a specific job. However, it's vital not to forget the importance of skills when it comes to getting hired in the first place.

It has always been true that having the skills employers want is key to success in the job market. Given that AI technology is currently shaking up the established order, especially in the technology industry, how do surveyed employees regard the importance of studying courses in terms of safeguarding their career prospects?

Rather unsurprisingly, we saw that a very high percentage of our sample saw skills development as vital to their career prospects. 79% of our respondents said they felt the need to grow their skillset to remain valuable to their employer in the long term.   

Tips for SMEs

AI processes need to be managed effectively for them to be implemented so they have a positive, productive impact on a workplace. This requires a number of important abilities.

The British Council highlights some of the most important skills that employers may need staff to utilise to prepare their organisations for AI-based technology. These include the following:

  • Adaptability - being able to quickly learn how to use new tools and processes can prove valuable for the adoption of AI tech at work.
  • Creativity and critical thinking skills - AI and machine learning can automate a lot of mundane tasks but these processes lack some of the complexity of human thinking. This is the area where human employees can make a big difference and fostering these skills could prove effective in an AI project.
  • Delegation - deciding what can be delegated to AI and what should be overseen by employees is a big decision. Therefore, knowing how to divide workloads in this way can help avoid wasting AI uptime on unnecessary efforts.
  • Digital literacy - as we saw in our findings, skills in analysis and data-driven decision-making are popular with learners. These are among the skills that staff can develop to help complement an AI system in their company.
  • Ethical awareness - the way AI systems are programmed can have a bigger impact than may be realised. It is important to oversee automated tasks involving data protection and privacy with the correct ethical judgment to ensure that AI tools are used responsibly. 

In addition, using tools such as career management software can help assess the skill sets and career development prospects within an organisation to this end. This can help businesses zero in on where gaps in ability need to be filled and where strengths already exist.

This focus on learning skills also extends to career prospects when changing jobs. New skills were seen as important to staying competitive in the job market by a combined 96% of those surveyed in our study. This includes well over half of all respondents regarding it as very important. The full results can be seen in the graph below:

How important employees regard learning new skills is to be competitive in the job market

Whilst generative AI technology is a relatively new feature of the workplace, developing skills for career enhancement is much more established. In fact, the data shows that the desire to earn new skills for career progression and even to improve long-term value at a current job is notably high amongst our sample of respondents who use online courses. 

This is likely to have been influenced by AI technology, which has many employees considering where they may have to adapt their skill set to adjust to the new realities this might bring. However, it is worth reflecting that our sample is sourced from learners who use online courses made available to them, which therefore could suggest their motivation for career-development learning may be higher.

Adapting to the rise of AI with career development courses

As was the case in part one of GetApp’s focus on career-driven learning we have seen significant levels of enthusiasm for training in general. However, in this report, the effects of AI on this trend can be clearly seen. 

From our data we discovered that:

  • 60% were looking to upskill to adapt to the realities of generative AI in the workplace
  • 54% want their companies to implement AI-enhanced learning 
  • 55% say new skills are very important to stay competitive in the job market

Learning is a lifelong process, yet AI seems to have made it a greater priority for the UK workforce. Whilst there are many fears that come from the rise of artificial intelligence, it also presents great opportunities not only to encourage new skills but also to affect the learning process itself. 

[Looking for learning management systems? Check out our catalogue.]


Methodology


The data for GetApp’s 2023 Career Driven Learnings Survey was collected between August 11th and 21st and comprises answers from 1,014 respondents. We selected our survey sample based on the following criteria:

  • UK resident
  • Aged between 18-65 years-old
  • Full-time or part-time employee
  • Works for a company with more than one employee
  • Has access to online courses at work and use them at least sometimes


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About the author

David is a Content Analyst for the UK, providing key insights into tech, software and business trends for SMEs. Cardiff University graduate. He loves traveling, cooking and F1.

David is a Content Analyst for the UK, providing key insights into tech, software and business trends for SMEs. Cardiff University graduate. He loves traveling, cooking and F1.