ESTABLISHING A STRATEGY FOR BROAD ACCESS TO AI.
Agency leaders don’t need to have all the answers right now as to how the workforce will weather these changes. But here’s what we do know: While AI is undeniably causing disruption to the workforce, if approached responsibly and incrementally, this disruption can be harnessed as an opportunity for inclusive growth and progress. By embracing the transformative power of AI, we create opportunities to expand our skills, enlighten future generations, and scale our capabilities at an unprecedented pace. AI transformation is going to challenge all of us to reimagine our roles, fostering a mindset of continuous learning and adaptability. With the right strategies and investments, organizations can navigate this disruption and position their workforce at the forefront of the AI-driven future. With commitment, we can not only weather the storm of disruption but also harness its potential to propel us toward a future of expanded possibilities and meaningful impact. Betty Thompson is Booz Allen’s chief people officer. Joe Rohner leads AI talent and delivery to clients in the western U.S. and the Pacific, including Hawaii, Japan, and Korea—and helped develop Booz Allen’s AI workforce training program. Julie McPherson leads Booz Allen’s Solutions Center business to drive adoption and reuse of the company’s technical baselines and solutions, and is a passionate leader of the firm’s DEI Council and technical experience groups. Logan Gibson is chief of staff in Booz Allen’s chief technology office and oversees the company’s technical experience groups.
a bundle of tasks” and note that when looking at the overlap between AI capabilities and specific job tasks, “it would be rare to find any occupation for which AI tools could do nearly all of the work.” Therefore, a prevailing sentiment is resonating across industries: AI will not directly replace your job, but someone using AI will. Successful bundling of newly packaged jobs assumes that those affected have a basic understanding and awareness of AI. By empowering more corners of the workforce with necessary AI skills, organizations can foster a culture of innovation and productivity, transform roles, and enable people to work in tandem with AI technologies to achieve better outcomes. Scaling AI Awareness to Curb the Digital Divide On the heels of a digital revolution, where parts of society are already experiencing disenfranchisement, the advent of AI further compounds these effects. This holds true in the workforce microcosm, as well. There is a noticeable tendency to centralize AI organizationally, but such centralization may exacerbate existing disparities. Moreover, the transformation potential of AI extends far beyond specialized roles like data scientists and machine learning engineers; it envelopes the broader workforce, as more diverse jobs start to enhance their results and outputs through human-machine teaming. Striking the right balance between centralization and access is crucial to avoid exclusive ownership of AI tools by a select few, as this could be the first sign of failure in fostering an inclusive AI-driven future. Considering the significance of AI talent in every job, at every level, and in every capacity, there is a need for new ways to unleash talent and expand the pool. Algorithmic and mathematical outputs must be enhanced and enriched by subject matter expertise, further demanding a workforce that has a broad foundation of AI literacy (or sufficient awareness) to interpret results, pursue intended objectives, and achieve a decision-making advantage. The key for leaders today lies in creating opportunities for the wider talent pool to embrace this new paradigm. Specifically, reskilling and upskilling programs ensure that individuals remain relevant in the workforce and position federal organizations to unlock the full potential of AI. According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2023, such training programs are emerging quickly: • AI and big data are the No. 3 priority in company training strategies from now until 2027 , and the No. 1 priority for companies with more than 50,000 employees. • AI and big data training programs will constitute more than 40% of technology-focused training in companies across the U.S., China, Brazil, and Indonesia over the next five years.
Of course, not every person or role needs the same kind of training. When designing or implementing a purposeful AI training program, leadership should consider different tracks to segment the diversity of user personas. For example, the general workforce may need to start with basic AI literacy, and data scientists and engineers who are hands-on with AI solutions and workflows will need advanced and applied technical education. There is much that can be done with training programs and creating broader access to AI, but this transformation doesn’t happen overnight. AI modernization is a journey.
Innovation thrives when a broad range of perspectives and experiences are involved. Achieving AI proficiency across the workforce will require a look at diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). This goes beyond ensuring DEI in AI hiring practices. It extends to creating an inclusive environment where AI isn’t walled off in an agency but is accessible to a diverse range of talent and experience. Democratizing access to AI knowledge and skills in this way will allow federal agencies to incorporate diverse perspectives in AI design and development— critical to avoiding algorithmic bias, promoting equitable outcomes, and reaching into vast pools of untapped potential talent to create solutions for citizen services and national security. For more on this topic, see page 28.
So, what does this mean for federal organizations?
Forging a Path Forward: AI as a Crucible for Progress Progress in the field of AI heralds notable shifts in military, informational, and economic supremacy, empowering new capabilities while making existing ones more accessible to a wider range of actors. We are still at the early stages of the AI evolution in government and across industry. The near-term focus needs to be on engaging and preparing those who are impacted by this transformation and critical to its future
HARNESSING PARTNERSHIPS TO AUGMENT THE WORKFORCE. Agency leaders don’t have to build an AI
trajectory: the federal workforce today. Here are three priority areas to consider:
workforce in a vacuum. If the current workforce is primarily focused on upskilling and training, federal agencies can embrace collaboration and partnerships as formidable means to augment their workforce and leverage external AI expertise. In our rapidly evolving AI landscape, no single entity possesses all the necessary skills and insights. Pursuing partnerships with academic institutions, private sector companies, and research organizations empowers agencies to tap into a rich network of AI talent, knowledge, and resources. By fostering a culture of collaboration, agencies can harness the collective intelligence of diverse stakeholders and power AI-driven initiatives that have far- reaching impacts.
INVESTING IN A CULTURE OF ADAPTABILITY. In the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2023, organizations are ranking “self-efficacy skills”—pertaining to resilience, flexibility, and adaptability—as core skills to navigate today’s workforce (ranked above technological literacy). Creating a culture of continuous learning, where employees are encouraged to upskill and reinvent themselves through training programs enables talent to adapt—and adopt AI—more quickly as job requirements evolve. Agencies can establish AI-focused training programs, mentorship initiatives, and career pathways that meet employees where they are and help them chart their own trajectories to remain competitive in the rapidly changing job market.
The transformative power of AI is reshaping the workforce, presenting both disruptions and opportunities.
AI has the potential to enhance various roles across the entire workforce through human-machine teaming, requiring a foundation of AI literacy.
Federal agencies can invest in a culture of adaptability, establish strategies for broad access to AI, and harness partnerships to augment their workforce and navigate the power of AI for inclusive growth and progress.
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