Using AI to fill the gap: CEO Chris Jardine builds the bridge between high tech and low skills


The keynote speaker for the CHRO Skills Summit shared how advancements in AI can address the ever-growing skills gap.

“While business is becoming highly tech forward and is ready to take on any technological changes, organisations are also facing a staggering skills crunch. We find ourselves in an interesting situation of very, very high tech and very, very low skills.”

This is what Tsebo Solutions Group CEO Chris Jardine said to a room filled with South Africa’s leading HR executives during his keynote address at the CHRO Skills Summit in Johannesburg on 21 February.

According to Chris, the most topical challenge facing modern business is how businesses can implement disruptive AI technologies in a responsible manner, while simultaneously addressing the staggering skills crunch.

“In most of our work we find sales people who don't necessarily have numeracy skills. You might also find accountants without communication skills. You might be a good practitioner who doesn't have the skills to use the massive potential of technology to make your job easier. But this is not a big problem if we embrace technology and the opportunities that come with it," he explained.

This is exactly what Tsebo Solutions did. Instead of being daunted by the inevitable changes tools like ChatGPT, the integrated workplace management solutions provider developed its own AI policy that could be implemented in different streams and trained employees on how to work with tech.

Personalising AI

Chris explained that creating personalised AI to support employees and complement their existing skills base can create a workplace on steroids.

He stressed that adopting AI doesn't mean that everybody will be replaced by disruptive technology, "What it does mean is that your job will change and the way you do your job will change," he said. “What we are aiming to do is to give people the necessary tools. We take away all the mundane stuff so they can focus on the priority stuff. If you take away all the drudgery, you make it easier to start promising employees a more balanced life.”

Chris acknowledged that people are scared of the disruptive nature of AI, stressing the importance of making people comfortable with the technology by changing the language around it and most importantly, leading with empathy.

"AI obviously has huge and rich potential to change all aspects of business. The sheer scale of the change actually requires us to raise all the implications it will have for the workforce and to have empathy and to be as supportive as we possibly can," he advised.

Chris called on the HR leaders in the room to lead the charge in adopting AI to address the skills gap, adding that their appreciation for what’s good for business and people puts them in a unique position to become AI evangelists.

"The integration of AI and advanced technologies into our work and way of work is part of what we deem the journey to transform the workforce and hopefully by doing that we will start to address some of the problems we see in terms of skills gaps," he said.

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