Will thousands of professions no longer be needed? Or should I consider signing up for a course to protect myself and my future employment prospects?
What impact is artificial intelligence (AI) having on the world of work?
We sat down with Jana Jutzi, Managing Director of personnel consulting firm Careerplus, to find out more.
Ms. Jutzi, everyone is talking about AI at the moment. AI is surely playing a crucial role when it comes to personnel consulting and recruitment, isn't it?
AI is obviously a major topic for us. In the past three weeks alone, I've attended two full-day meetings focusing exclusively on that. One thing that's become clear is that everyone interprets AI differently, so we should really start by clarifying where digitalization and technologization stop and AI starts.
How have personnel managers and recruiters responded to the advent of AI?
What we've seen internally is that the response has primarily come from younger employees. In most companies, it's unusual for the next generation to be the ones bringing something new to the attention of management; that's more likely to be done by more experienced employees who pick up and address new topics and then pass them down the traditional hierarchy. AI has turned that on its head, so we need to move away from hierarchy and experience if companies are to genuinely benefit from this development. We can then reframe the topic as a significant opportunity.
Has there been any response from companies and people looking for jobs?
To be honest, things have been pretty quiet on the client and applicant front; AI hasn't yet been closely linked to looking for jobs. Where we are already seeing an impact is on application letters. People are already using ChatGPT and other AI tools to write them; that's something we've noticed. So the next step has to be to discuss how much importance we actually attach to application letters in these circumstances. Some personnel managers are already asking for brief introduction videos instead.
The fear is that AI could make large swathes of jobs redundant. How likely do you think that is?
I don't think large swathes of jobs will become redundant. Although it is clear that digitalization and technologization are making and will continue to make many processes more efficient, which could mean that fewer people are needed to handle them. These efficiency boosts will be particularly evident in admin, which is more likely to involve repetitive tasks, and in industry. Other areas, however, will not be affected at all. If employees are skilled at using AI, this interplay between humans and technology can increase efficiency and generate added value, boosting output. On the other hand, we're seeing a real shift away from pure profit seeking and toward purpose and value; in other words, meaningful work. Companies with a strong corporate culture that is properly communicated and embraced will need employees to maintain this philosophy.
Some employees fear AI while others view it as an opportunity. Does how people view it depend on their individual outlook?
Fear narrows your perspective; that's a fact. I'm convinced that AI is creating new opportunities and changing job profiles in an exciting way. Although many job titles will remain, they will require a different skill set because we have to learn how to use these new technologies in the desired and required way. There are different types of AI and a range of tools, but they are all operated and applied by humans. Fundamentally, I believe that many existing jobs will be enhanced with new and fascinating aspects, so we need to be open to that – and open to learning new skills.
Are there also some people looking for jobs, possibly older people, who don't necessarily need to get on board with this shift right away?
The point is that we can't all become technology specialists overnight, and that isn't necessary anyway. It's the employers who are responsible for introducing new technologies into companies, not the employees. Of course it's wonderful if employees show an interest and want to engage with AI, but it's not their job to drive this topic forward. They will, however, inevitably come into contact with AI in certain areas of responsibility and be required to handle certain processes differently. That's why I'm not suggesting that older employees now have to spend all of their free time getting to grips with AI. On the other hand, being prepared to learn and participate is definitely both necessary and meaningful.
In a world that is moving faster all the time, further training is an essential requirement in all professions. Do you agree?
No, I don't. It makes sense to have a thorough education and to undertake occasional further training, of course, but that mainly depends on the career path you want to take. How your job progresses and develops. If your job profile changes drastically or you yourself develop in your job, you are able to learn new things, then further training isn't essential. But obviously, if you don't do any further training at all in let's say 20 years, then that raises some critical questions and you need to be able to answer them properly if you're looking for a job. And the question is whether you'll actually get that opportunity.
How important do you think further training is when it comes to being able to compete with AI?
It depends on which technology you're actually talking about. I wouldn't claim to understand all the elements of the technology that goes into AI. Further training focusing on AI only makes sense for a small proportion of employees, to say nothing of the fact that the number of courses available is also small. But when it comes to using these tools, then it's definitely important to try and stay abreast of developments and undertake further training. I believe employers are responsible for supporting and training their employees – and that the focus should be tailored as closely as possible to specific company needs. Employees often find it hard to assess what AI training can help them with in their everyday tasks.
If someone says, despite all that, I still want to invest in it and I also want to future proof my professional prospects, does it make more sense to undertake further training in the area of AI, or would it be smarter given the advent of AI to invest in further training in a different area, such as social skills? Focusing on human rather than artificial intelligence, you might say?
Ultimately, it depends on the job. It's all about balance; there are very few jobs where you'll survive in the long term if you only work on one specific aspect. It's also important to emphasize that you need to evaluate your main strengths and work on them and/or look for relevant further training. Eliminating weaknesses is much harder than working on your strengths. If you have an outgoing personality with strong communication skills, you should focus on this and, in addition, you should make an effort to keep up with technology and acquire the most important elements.
So you should actually focus on your strengths. In other words, rather than absolutely having to compensate for a lack of knowledge about technology, you should concentrate on skills that you already possess and can continue to strengthen.
That certainly makes sense, yes.
But many people tend to do something different. They try to compensate so that they can keep up to some degree on all fronts.
That's right. The question that employees should ask themselves is: Do I want to be average in everything I do, or do I want to be a specialist in one topic that I enjoy. Let's take performance reviews as an example. Most companies still just go through a questionnaire with boxes to check. A to E. What can you do, what can't you. The responses are evaluated and weighted to decide whether you get a salary increase or not. It would be much more meaningful to work with employees to find out things like: What can this person do well? How would they like to develop themselves in an area where they are strong? And what are the obstacles to that?
How do you expect AI will change the process of looking for a job in the future?
I hope that AI will enable as many employees as possible to focus more on their strengths and then use them more widely. I've experienced a lot of hype over the past 18 years in this industry and AI is definitely not hype – although certain tools may well be. Tools will come and go, but AI is here to stay and will continue to evolve. There's no question that we will work more closely with artificial intelligence on a daily basis in the future than we could ever imagine right now. Hopefully this will free up time for us to carry out meaningful activities that AI is not yet able to handle. And for us to focus much more on interpersonal human relationships, so that we can in turn reclaim more energy from our work. When you look at how high stress levels have become for many people, I hope that this eases the burden and creates a beneficial combination involving both a human focus and artificial intelligence.
Jana Jutzi is the Managing Director of Careerplus, a personnel consulting company for qualified specialists and managers in the fields of finance, HR, sales, manufacturing, IT, and healthcare. The Swiss company was founded in 1995 and currently employs 150 people at 14 locations.