Employees can use AI to boost career choices, says HR expert

Kate Killeen, people lead at software engineering services firm EPAM Ireland, says AI represents an opportunity for employees to progress in their careers.

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Employees may be worried about the threat that Artificial Intelligence (AI) presents to their job security, but it also offers people significant opportunities, says one HR leader.

One key question on the minds of business leaders in Ireland is the role that Artificial Intelligence will play in the future running of their company. In this Q&A interview with Kate Killeen, people lead at EPAM Systems Inc in Ireland (EPAM Ireland), Kate offers insights into how AI is currently progressing in the Irish work context.

EPAM specialises in software engineering services, digital platform engineering, and digital product design. Founded in Newtown, Pennsylvania, USA, the company also has an office in Blackrock, Dublin. EPAM has partnered 150+ of the world’s most innovative software and technology companies to help drive next-gen solutions to support today’s largest technological challenges.

EPAM is ideally placed to help bring clarity to people’s thoughts on AI’s role in the future of HR.

With AI, should workers worry about their job safety?

It is only natural for employees to feel some uncertainty around job security, but I think the key focus for individuals and organisations is to work together on managing any changes so that employees feel informed and are not left feeling worried about the unknown.

There is no doubt that the technology can create efficiencies across a range of processes. My advice is that individuals and teams take a step back to map out where these efficiencies may come in and how they will shape roles and ways of working in the short, medium and longer term.

We have witnessed over decades how roles have transformed and in many cases it brought with it great opportunities (e.g. cloud-native architecture development and modernisation). Some roles and processes will evolve as AI develops, but this gives employees a chance to adapt with it and to explore ways of expanding their current role. Employees that are informed, adaptive, and solution-orientated will be in a good position to navigate any potential changes.

While there will inevitably be some obstacles for organisations to overcome, it also presents opportunities to have open and transparent conversations around career planning, skills expansion, knowledge sharing, and overall professional development. Employees can also be proactive in this regard by initiating conversations internally on the topic. They should openly discuss their concerns, but also voice any opportunities that they see for future expansion of their role which has only been made possible by AI.”

Should employers worry about falling behind?

We have all witnessed the pace of change with AI, which of course poses opportunities and challenges for organisations. Some organisations are leveraging a first-mover advantage in the space, which can work well if the environment is agile and adaptive enough to keep pace with this approach. It will be important for these organisations to try and ensure sustained and long-term effectiveness.

Many organisations are at different phases, with plenty still in the very early stages of AI adoption. Regardless of the approach an organisation chooses to take, the key thing is to find the right balance within the context of your environment and your people. Like anything, what works well in one organisation may not work as well in another, as it is based on a multitude of variables.

It often comes back to the culture and current ways of working within an organisation. If a company is largely quite agile and adaptive, with fluid ways of working and strong collaboration, then the pace of AI adoption will be faster and more effective. On the other hand, organisations that typically have lower levels of change readiness, and fixed ways of working, may find it more challenging in terms of AI implementation and overall adoption.

I think it is important for organisations not to consider themselves as ‘falling behind’, but to instead focus on how effectively the changes and associated impact are being mapped out and managed internally. It is key to be realistic about what would work well in a specific organisation. For many organisations, AI is and will be the catalyst for significant change, but this needs to be planned and measured effectively.

There is a lot of opportunity out there to learn from what early adopters have done. This will help others to understand and avoid any pitfalls or challenges that these first movers may have experienced. In doing so, organisations may save time and resources.

How will HR teams manage the way that AI shapes new ways of working, interactions, processes, culture etc?

In order for me to add strategic value as a People Lead, I need to have a decent understanding of the ways in which AI is being used, both in terms of functionality and its general application at an organisational level across all functions. The more informed you are, the better placed you are to add credible input and advice when it comes to considering ways of working, interactions, processes, and culture.

If you have detailed knowledge already, that is great, but I believe that once you have a general understanding of it, this will be enough for you to start engaging with your organisation on the topic. The important thing is not to shy away from discussions on it, because the more you discuss it, the more you will find out.

My main advice on this would be to engage with people in your organisation across various teams so that you can better understand how they feel AI might shape their work. There will be people around you that have very specific and detailed experience when it comes to AI, so I would get their perspectives to see if it matches your own, or whether it gives you some new insights or even new avenues to explore. The key thing to remember is that everyone will be at a different stage with it and have a different perspective.

It is also hugely beneficial to initiate conversations outside of your organisation, for example with other HR professionals within your network. Being proactive and having these discussions will help you to understand how other organisations are leveraging AI, and what challenges they might be facing. For example, I recently co-hosted a roundtable event with a group of HR leaders from a range of companies and sectors. We had a very open and transparent conversation around the stages of AI adoption, along with the associated risks and opportunities from a people and organisational perspective. The insights were hugely informative, but it was also a valuable opportunity to create a network of HR professionals who may be interested in continuing conversations around AI as it evolves.



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