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It’s not like IBM has a shortage of experts to talk about technology and its impact on the workforce, so the choice of Diane Gherson as a spokeswoman for one of its recent research projects is telling.
Last week, the firm’s Institute of Business Value issued a report titled The Enterprise Guide to Closing the Skills Gap, which found, among other things, that more than 120 million workers in the world’s 12 largest economies may need to be retrained/reskilled in the next 3 years as a result of intelligent/AI-enabled automation.
When it came time to promote the study, however, the person appearing in a video interview on Yahoo Finance’s YFi AM program was not one of the four co-authors but Gherson: IBM’s CHRO.
In my experience, HR execs have traditionally remained almost mysteriously behind the scenes, particularly when an organization may be considering layoffs. Gherson, on the other land, not only looked perfectly poised on camera but spoke as articulately as any of her C-suite peers, particularly when she mentioned how the survey showed only 40 per cent of CEOs said they had a pant to deal with a talent gap.
“It’s low. It’s scarily low. They need to get going now,” she said. “You need to not only think about jobs but about how work gets done.”
As with almost everyone who talks about AI and the job market, Gherson insisted the technology will largely “make our jobs more interesting,” but what I loved about the interview is how she spoke like an authentic HR leader. She gave the example of Big Blue’s payroll organization in how to begin making the shift.
“We decided to train all the guys in payroll in what digital process automation is all about. They designed the work,” she said. “We knew we always had a little bit of attrition, so those (jobs) wouldn’t be backfilled.”
Translation: there will absolutely be some jobs going away, but not necessarily through layoffs or downsizing.
The report also showed that the time it takes to close a skills gap through traditional training has increased by more than 10 times in the past four years, jumping from three days to 36 days. Gherson didn’t explicitly call out her fellow HR leaders, but her message was clear that the best way forward is to be inclusive and empowering as employee experiences are refined.
“If you’re involved in it, you get into it,” she said. True enough. And that’s not a bad rule of thumb for how CHROs should think about most of the changes coming to their department in the years ahead.
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