Navigating Generative AI: Why CDOs and CHROs Must Collaborate for the Future Workforce

Navigating Generative AI: Why CDOs and CHROs Must Collaborate for the Future Workforce

The onset of generative AI has marked a transformative moment in the data landscape. According to McKinsey’s The State of AI in 2023, 60 percent of organizations with reported AI adoption are already using generative AI. What’s more, three-quarters of all respondents expect generative AI to cause significant or disruptive change in the nature of their industry’s competition in the next three years.

As these systems, with their capability to produce in new and exciting ways, have surged to the forefront for most businesses both domestically and internationally, they bring a mix of vast potential and intricate challenges. 

One underlying imperative we cannot ignore is the need for a workforce equipped to unlock this technology's promises. This is where a partnership between Chief Data Officers (CDOs) and Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs) becomes indispensable. Such collaboration ensures strategic workforce planning and skills development, allowing organizations to stay agile and relevant in this AI-dominated era.

Decoding the generative AI skillset

Generative AI demands a unique blend of skills. Nearly four in ten McKinsey respondents reporting AI adoption expect more than 20 percent of their companies’ workforces will be reskilled. Collaborating with HR allows CDOs to pinpoint these competencies, ensuring our teams have both the foundational and specialized knowledge to navigate this innovative terrain.

Cultivating a data-literate culture

Current research suggests that nearly 330 million terabytes of data are created every day – and thus, data literacy has become non-negotiable. In 2022, CDO Magazine published an article I wrote titled “Data as a Second Language: The Skill Missing in Successful Talent Acquisition”.  The article emphasizes the critical role of data literacy in organizations, especially as they adopt generative AI.

Data literacy ensures quality and informed decision-making, allowing employees to understand and effectively use generative AI outputs. It bridges the gap between executive expectations and workforce capabilities, fostering a data-driven culture essential for navigating the complexities of AI technologies and ensuring ethical, effective applications. In this AI-driven age, CDOs and CHROs can champion initiatives that promote data literacy across all organizational tiers, ensuring everyone speaks the language of data and is poised to leverage AI's full potential.

Personalized skills enhancement

By understanding the nuances of generative AI, HR can design bespoke training programs. Delving into AI ethics, interpreting AI-generated content, or refining data visualization techniques, such focused development ensures our workforce remains ahead of the curve.  

However, in an ever-evolving technological landscape, it's not just the current skills that matter but the ability to rapidly acquire new ones. Learning agility—the capacity to learn, unlearn, and relearn—becomes paramount. By emphasizing this trait, CDOs and CHROs can together identify and nurture individuals who not only excel in their current roles but can seamlessly transition into new areas as the technology and business landscapes shift.

Such agile learners become invaluable assets, driving innovation, and ensuring that the organization remains resilient and adaptive in the face of constant change.

Strategic Workforce Blueprinting

Generative AI projects are intricate and often necessitate specialized roles. According to McKinsey Global Institute research, Generative AI and the future of work in America, 30% of hours worked today could be automated by 2030. Through close collaboration, data leaders and HR can preemptively address the shift in roles and future talent needs, and streamline the journey from ideation to fruition.

Too, given the allure of generative AI expertise in the market, retaining top talent is paramount. A cohesive CDO-CHRO strategy can discover innovative avenues to boost employee engagement, ensuring our AI maestros remain committed and aligned with our organizational vision.

While a robust partnership between CDOs and CHROs is essential, it doesn’t stop there. Engaging business function leaders - including legal, compliance, security, and IT - across the organization is crucial to implementing a cohesive strategy.

Together, they can understand department-specific needs and tailor reskilling initiatives accordingly.  By aligning the insights and expertise of CDOs and CHROs with the operational knowledge of business leaders, organizations can ensure their generative AI strategies are effectively integrated, implemented, and aligned with the organizational vision.

A Scenario

Consider the role of generative AI in content creation.  Platforms like ChatGPT and DALL-E have the capacity to produce written content and visual arts. These new tools are incredible – all ethical considerations aside – but they could create an impending displacement for a large section of this skilled workforce.

Imagine a retail company using generative AI to compose promotional emails. Instead of sending generic content created by marketing teams, the AI will analyze user behavior, individual customer purchase histories and preferences, and generate personalized recommendations and messages.

While the base content might be generated by AI, the final output is uniquely tailored to each customer, making them feel valued and understood. It’s a synergy of efficiency and personalization, where AI handles the heavy lifting, but the human touch differentiates the customer experience. 

The CDO, recognizing the transformative power of these new systems, can approach the CHRO with data projections on how AI will redefine roles within the company over the next few years.  The data will highlight certain manual roles diminishing, but a surge in demand for positions that manage, maintain, or interpret results from these automated systems. 

The CHRO, in collaboration with the CDO, can design a strategic reskilling initiative. Employees can be assessed for their adaptability, interests, data literacy, and foundational skills. Based on the assessment, using generative AI, customized training programs can be rolled out, turning content creators into AI-system supervisors, prompt engineers, quality assurance testers, and even data analysts.

This example illustrates how the foresight of the CDO, when combined with the people-centric strategies of the CHRO, can lead to sustainable solutions that benefit both the organization and its employees. 

The generative AI landscape emphasizes the profound need for a harmonized CDO-CHRO alliance. As we navigate the intricacies of this technology, our focus must also encompass fostering a workforce that is not just skilled but agile in its learning approach.

With a holistic, data-literate, and learning-agile team, the possibilities for our organizations are boundless. Schedule the meeting, it’s time to join hands to confidently lead, together, into this dynamic new era.

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