55% of leaders say they’re concered about having enough talent to fill roles in the year ahead as AI skills become more relevant than ever before, new study finds.

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Today’s winners are learning how to leverage artificial intelligence to stay competitive and relevant — employees and businesses alike.

“AI is not going to replace you. You’re going to be replaced by someone who uses AI to outperform you,” said Laurence Liew, director for AI Innovation at AI Singapore, during a panel discussion at Salesforce’s World Tour Essentials event in Singapore.

While a lot of professionals (45%) worry AI will replace their job, the majority (55%) of leaders are concerned about a lack of talent to fill roles, according to the 2024 Microsoft Work Trends Index.

71% [of leaders] say they’d rather hire a less experienced candidate with AI skills than a more experienced candidate without them.

2024 Microsoft Work Trends Index

There is a dearth of talent, and consequently a huge opportunity for people who can learn AI skills, with as many 71% of corporate leaders saying they’d prefer a less experienced candidate with AI skills over a more experienced one without them, according to the report.

While AI has been the talk of the town ever since the launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in November 2022, big companies have been slow to integrate the technology and help upskill their talent pools.

There is a gap in the modern workplace between what appears necessary and what is seemingly feasible.

While 79% of executives believe their company should adopt AI to stay competitive, the pressure to generate immediate returns on investment has slowed AI transition, according to the Microsoft study.

As a result, employees around the world are taking matters into their own hands, learning to use AI tools on their own. While upskilling on AI at home can lead to a competitive edge, it also poses a few problems.

The risks of self-learning AI

Experts say one of the biggest issues with upskilling on AI at home is that many people don’t know how to do it safely and effectively.

To the naked eye, there are many “free” AI resources online such as ChatGPT and other tools using large language models (LLMs), but experts say these tools aren’t actually free. LLMs are algorithms that can identify, summarize, translate, forecast, and produce information by employing huge datasets.

“There’s nothing free in this world. Your data is the commodity that you are trading,” Liew said. “You should not be using your company data or any of your own personal data [when using free online AI tools].”

Doing so can put sensitive personal or company data at risk. Part of upskilling on AI tools is learning how to do so safely and effectively.

The must-have AI skill

The top skill to learn today is communicating effectively with existing AI-powered LLMs, according to Liew. Open AI’s ChatGPT, Microsoft’s Copilot and Google’s Gemini employ LLMs.

You have to give the AI a lot of context — treat AI like a very hardworking intern that will make mistakes occasionally.

Laurence Liew

Director for AI Innovation at AI Singapore

“People use ChatGPT wrongly — because it looks exactly like Google search,” Liew told CNBC Make It.

When working with an LLM, the key is to be specific in your prompts.

“You have to give the AI a lot of context — treat AI like a very hardworking intern that will make mistakes occasionally … If you think about it, if you’re [asking] an intern to do something, it won’t be one sentence. The intern would probably be scratching their head on what to do,” he said.

The best way to upskill on AI tools at home is to use them, according to Liew. Through practice, you can learn how to feed the LLM more descriptive prompts that will help generate your desired outcome.

“You still need to know [your domain] very well [but] the mundane part of looking through 20 files is now done by the AI system — imagine when you can turn around [work] at that kind of speed — the type of transformation that can happen,” Liew said.

Although AI tools may still seem foreign, by next year, “it will be like knowing how to use your spell-checker in Microsoft Word,” Liew said.

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