The impact of AI on skills: ‘enhanced’ employees?

HR departments will have to anticipate the need for digital skills and review their talent management.

The revolution in the workplace currently underway is directly linked to the digitization of the economy and the impact of artificial intelligence on jobs and skills. According to a study by the strategy firm McKinsey, published in 2018, “The Future of the Workforce” (1), the need for technological skills will increase 75% between 2016 and 2030!

This is a problem for HR departments that will be facing severe labor shortages and that will have to anticipate their needs for technological skills in the short and medium term. The study also talks about the emergence of ‘new collars’ (beyond the traditional white and blue collars), as it stresses that almost all active workers (93%) will require training because their jobs will inevitably be evolving. Virtually no jobs will be able to escape robotics and AI, except perhaps some requiring very specific expertise.

Anticipating the rise in technological skills

In the report, McKinsey also notes that the need for advanced computer or programming skills will increase by 90% from 2016 to 2030, while, conversely, physical or manual skills will decline dramatically.

However, ‘human’ skills will continue to be sought after, especially those related to well-being, i.e. ‘soft skills’. Conceptual or interpersonal skills will be needed to better understand technology and adapt to complex environments. Many companies are already focusing on simple or complex social and emotional cognitive skills when recruiting. All industries are currently examining their jobs and skills needs for the next few years. In particular, new so-called ‘digital’ skills need to be identified, evaluated and integrated.

The 3rd ACSEL “Growth – Digital 2019” survey (2) reveals that in order to ensure their digital transformation, companies are still faced with a lack of time (for 54% of the companies surveyed), cost (49%), difficulty implementing (39%) and a lack of training (36%). And while 73% have a team dedicated to digital transformation, only 33% interact with other departments in the company.

From digital literacy to the ‘enhanced employee’

Before they schedule training for their employees internally, companies will first have to communicate about new issues and the impact of digital technology and artificial intelligence on their business. Though 88% of the French are connected, they do not have an-depth knowledge of digital technology. According to the “Etat des lieux des compétences digitales des salariés en France” study (“Report on the digital skills of employees in France”), carried out by the OpinionWay institute and the consulting firm SBT Human(s) Matter and based on a representative panel, French employees obtained a low score of 291 on average out of 1000 points to questions on eight topics (web culture, data, e-commerce, computer security, web design, work environment, web communication and digital business).

The study also shows that the younger generations, the Millennials, who have grown up with digital technology, do not have more theoretical knowledge than their elders in the field, though they do have a very intuitive command of the tools available. We observe that 70% do not know what Big Data is and 45% do not know what a chatbot is. Also, few are familiar with the new jobs: for example, 69% of those surveyed do not know the difference between a data scientist and a statistician.

Artificial intelligence has begun to profoundly change the way people work and is gradually turning employees into ‘enhanced employees’, through the tools they use or by automating certain routine tasks. The focus is on continuously optimizing data management to reduce the workload of daily routine tasks and improve productivity.

Transformation of skills, a prerequisite for the transformation of businesses

The transformation of companies is based on the transformation of skills. Employees and companies will have to acquire new knowledge or skills on a regular basis. Employees must continually acquire new knowledge to ensure sustainability and performance. The ability to constantly adapt to the changes in the professional world and its complexity, by developing the ability to learn from an organization and its employees, is now essential. The transformation of companies depends on people and their ability to develop their skills.



(1) McKinsey Global Institute – 2018 survey: “Skill shift: Automation and the Future of the Workforce”

(2) IPSOS survey for ACSEL – 2019 – “Croissance & digital en 2019 en France” 

(3) OpinionWay and SBT Human(s) Matter 2018 survey : “Etat des lieux des compétences digitales des salariés en France”