Mind the AI skills gap: Only 1 in 10 global workers have key AI skills A shortage of artificial intelligence skills is widening the gap between what employers need and what employees can offer. What can businesses do? Written by Fernanda Alvarez Pineiro Updated on 27 April 2023 Our experts We are a team of writers, experimenters and researchers providing you with the best advice with zero bias or partiality. Written and reviewed by: Fernanda Alvarez Pineiro Only one in ten global workers have in-demand artificial intelligence skills, according to new research by Salesforce.This is despite of one quarter of global workers ranking AI proficiency in the top three most important digital skills to have, right now.As a result, both employers and employees are struggling to find their footing as the AI continues to transform the workplace.Whilst workplaces are in a constant state of flux, what makes this gap malign is the hefty cost it’s incurring on firms. According to Virgin Media O2 research, the digital skills gap is costing the UK economy £12.8bn.Falling into the gap: what does the digital skills shortage mean for businesses?Although AI skills are the newest tech buzz phrase, in practice, the skills are rarely used outside of tech. A Salesforce survey of over 11,000 employees found that a mere 14% of respondents say their role involves other related digital skills like encryption and cybersecurity. The number decreases to 13% when it comes to coding and app development.However, many employers believe that prioritising employees’ digital skills development will have positive impacts on wider business performance. 47% believe it will boost productivity, 43% better team performance, and 40% improved problem-solving capabilities.What’s more, UK businesses’ search for AI experts increased by 1,000%, suggesting employers are keen on working with professionals who are well-versed in the new technology.According to research by AND Digital, 20% of workers did not apply for a job and 26% did not seek or achieve a promotion because of their lack of digital skills.Virgin Media’s data suggests a similar pattern. 21% of respondents say they need digital skills so they can get a job with a higher salary because of the cost of living crisis. 31% believe they have been passed over for a promotion or pay rise because of a lack of digital skills.Paramjit Uppal, founder of AND Digital, says, “UK organisations are still failing to sufficiently upskill employees, and it is directly impacting business and wider economic growth.”“This is because we have not come to a shared understanding of what the skills gap is or what digital skills means.”Bridging the gapThe lack of upskilling opportunities appears to be a hurdle to overcoming the disconnect. Nine in 10 businesses believe they should prioritise digital skills development for their employees. However, 58% of knowledge workers have never received digital upskilling from their employer.Furthermore, the recent economic climate has had a significant impact with workers forced to prioritise paying rising bills over self-funded training.Claire Bacall, Chief for People Evolution at AND Digital, explains, “People who feel disenfranchised or ill-equipped for the pace of change to the extent that they see their career prospects being limited is unhealthy for organisations.”In the first seven months of 2022, there were over two million digital skills related vacancies posted out of a total of 8.5 million vacancies.Demand at this level suggests organisations need to consider other mechanisms beyond recruiting to address their skills deficits.“Organisations need to create an environment for people to feel that they can fully participate in the digital economy, evolve their knowledge and skills to capitalise on change and continue to feel engaged and relevant,” summarises Bacall.Up the upskillingAs running costs recruitment freezes rise, businesses need to seriously consider in-house upskilling.83% of business leaders agree that their organisations need to be fit for our digital present and future. However, 82% of people leaders believe skills-based experience is most important when evaluating candidates.Externalising the cost of upskilling to employees is not the solution, particularly because conducting upskilling in-house can enhance employee retention and satisfaction.Both businesses and employees need to be ready with an arsenal of skills that will help them navigate the new digital workplace.Read more:Over half of SME owners understand AI but are hesitant to adopt itThe King’s Speech: what can businesses expect from the Autumn Statement? Share this post facebook twitter linkedin Tags News and Features Written by: Fernanda Alvarez Pineiro Fernanda is a Mexican-born Startups Writer. Specialising in the Marketing & Finding Customers pillar, she’s always on the lookout for how startups can leverage tools, software, and insights to help solidify their brand, retain clients, and find new areas for growth. Having grown up in Mexico City and Abu Dhabi, Fernanda is passionate about how businesses can adapt to new challenges in different economic environments to grow and find creative ways to engage with new and existing customers. With a background in journalism, politics, and international relations, Fernanda has written for a multitude of online magazines about topics ranging from Latin American politics to how businesses can retain staff during a recession. She is currently strengthening her journalistic muscle by studying for a part-time multimedia journalism degree from the National Council of Training for Journalists (NCTJ).