Employees across the industrial spectrum are keen to upgrade their skills, to keep up the demands of the new AI era. That appetite for training is particularly high in the professional services sector, where more than four-in-five workers see relevant learning opportunities as a leading reason to stay with their current firm.
At the turn of the year, GetApp spoke to more than 1,000 UK-based employees about the impact AI would have on their role. A 79% majority concluded that to avoid being left behind by AI developments, they must develop their skillset, especially analytical and programming skills.
This also saw seven-in-ten professionals tell GetApp that they saw training relating to AI as a top criteria when thinking about staying with their current employer. Amid a reported ‘war for talent’ at firms looking to accrue digitally-capable labour, this makes offering AI-related courses a crucial element of their retention strategies.
According to David Jani, GetApp’s content analyst, that is even more important in the professional services and consulting sector. He notes that workers in professional services companies “appear to have a higher impetus to develop their skills than their peers across other industries”, citing GetApp’s discovery that 88% in the sector – compared with 79% in the overall national sample – felt the need to develop new skills to stay valuable to their employer in the long term. More specifically, they felt that one particular off-shoot of the AI renaissance was of note.
Jani adds, “Three-quarters of staff in the professional services sector – compared with just 60% of the entire sample – agree that the current developments in generative AI (GenAI) have driven them to develop new skills. As a result, there is great interest amongst this group in developing data analytical skills, programming skills, and skills for working with GenAI tools themselves.”
Proponents of the technology suggest that generative AI enables users to quickly generate ‘new’ content – though originators of the art, text and music which the AI is ‘trained’ with in order to churn out variants of dispute this – based on a variety of inputs. Inputs and outputs to these models can include text, images, sounds, animation, 3D models, or other types of data, and research from McKinsey & Company suggests that by the end of the decade, generative AI could roughly be creating between $2.5 trillion and $4.4 trillion annually.
As with the digital transformation boom of the last decade, however, realising the alleged potential of GenAI is easier said than done – and consulting firms are already positioning themselves to become perceived partners of choice in its implementation. Recent firms to have arrived on the bandwagon include KPMG, Elixirr, and Bain & Company, among others, which have partnered with AI firms to help their clients make the most of the technology. This means staff in that sector will need to drastically ramp up their AI-knowhow in the months ahead – and firms which offer training to that front will seem increasingly attractive to employees.
Jani continues, “There is also a greater push in the professional services industry to work in companies that offer learning opportunities than in our overall sample. 81% of respondents who work in professional services agree such opportunities encourage them to stay with their firm compared with 70% when all sectors were factored in. More significantly, 53% of staff in professional services companies said they would definitely make sure to apply for positions with companies that offer learning and development through online courses when changing jobs.”
So, what exactly does GetApp’s study mean when considering offering learning courses for staff members in the professional services industry? First and foremost, consulting and professional services firms need to address a ‘restlessness’ in their incumbent staff, if they are to avoid taking a step back in their recruitment ambitions in the coming months.
“It seems, as we saw in our main study, the trends of an increase in desire to learn new skills and a view that gaining new abilities was integral to their career prospects are also true here,” Jani concludes. “Nevertheless, there appears to be more restlessness in the sample of answers exclusively from professional services employees than in the general sample, as well as a greater drive to learn skills relevant to the use of GenAI.”