Who is responsible for AI training — companies or employees?

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Déjà Leonard is a copywriter and freelance journalist based in Calgary.

Consulting firm McKinsey estimates “generative AI’s impact on productivity could add trillions of dollars in value to the global economy,” but getting there will require significant training. Which begs the question: Who is responsible for getting employees trained on artificial intelligence – companies or the people that work for them?

Almost half (49 per cent) of Canadians plan to pursue their own AI training, while 57 per cent anticipate getting additional training at work, according to data from ServiceNow’s recent World of Work study.

Employees are anxiously taking action

Amy Regan Morehouse, senior vice-president of global education and RiseUp at ServiceNow, a firm that helps companies manage digital workflows, says one of the reasons employees may be taking AI training into their own hands is because they are anxious about how it will affect their jobs, as many companies haven’t shared in-depth details yet.

“It’s really early days for some organizations in their thinking about how they’re going to use AI,” she says.

She says employees are also looking to “future-proof” their skills, because they know that understanding how to use AI can help them progress their careers, or at a minimum help them stay on top of the technology when their company introduces more AI at work.

Ms. Regan Morehouse says there could be risks associated with having employees lead their own AI learning journey.

She says that depending on the employee and their role, they could be learning AI tools or tactics that won’t be relevant in your workplace.

“In that regard, it might just be a loss of productive time for that employee,” she says.

Along with that, there could be issues around privacy, security and ethics that employees might not be learning about outside of a company setting.

However, Ms. Regan Morehouse says there is a place for both employees and companies in AI training.

“I think it’s on all of us. Employers certainly have their part to play on how they’re going to use AI, how they’re going to make sure that they communicate how they’re going to use AI for their teams and identifying the skills they’re going to need and provide that training,” she says. “But, I think as humans, and as AI develops so quickly, we also want to be constantly seeking out other information on it.”

Training on AI, responsibly

Krish Banerjee, managing director and Canada lead in data and AI at consulting company Accenture, says companies that are looking to partner with other organizations to provide AI training should look to work with a team that takes the time to understand your business needs and objectives.

Training can look different across companies and even across teams within a business, he says.

“It’s equally important that the training is developed and delivered with an ethical framework,” says Mr. Banerjee, who leads a team of AI practitioners who help companies develop tailored AI training solutions for employees.

For example, you want to be conscious of where any company data you’re using is coming from, how it will be used and how to do so safely.

Mr. Banerjee says using AI in business comes with risk, but training people appropriately can help mitigate it.

He also says companies need to help employees stay on top of advancements in AI and ensure they are using it responsibly.

As for the future of AI training and how it’s prioritized, “You will see that businesses and companies will need to invest as much in evolving operations and training people as they are in AI technology,” he says.

According to Accenture’s recent Pulse of Change survey, 65 per cent of the Canadian C-suite plan to hire more workers and reskill current workers for AI roles.

“We need a skilled work force, and that’s not just one organization or one industry – it’s important for the Canadian community and society as a whole,” Mr. Banerjee says.

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