- A record number of open job positions in the economy reflects an unprecedented reevaluation of work and life during Covid.
- Workers are quitting in large numbers.
- As employees seek new opportunities and skills, AI is becoming a popular source of professional advice, and companies including Oracle and IBM are betting it will be a key to employee management and retention.
For workers reconsidering their jobs amid the Great Resignation triggered by the pandemic, there is a new trusted source of career advice: artificial intelligence.
Though economists are hard-pressed to quantify it, a population-wide career crisis has played a role in the current labor shortage, and that is reflected in a new survey of workers from Oracle. It finds 93% of individuals saying they took the last year to reflect on what is important; and 88% thinking about what success means to them.
"For many of them that definition has changed," said Yvette Cameron, senior vice president, Oracle Cloud Human Capital Management.
Further, Oracle found 75% of workers saying they feel stuck personally and professionally and there is growing reliance on technology to make career decisions.
The majority (85%) of people taking the Oracle survey said they want technology to help define their future — to identify the skills they need, ways to learn those new skills, and next steps forward in their careers. More specifically, the Oracle study found that 82% of employees believe AI can support their careers better than humans.
The Oracle AI at Work survey was conducted among 14,600 C-level executives, HR leaders, managers and full-time employees from 13 countries, including the U.S., during the summer.
Employees are demanding more flexibility and control over their work/life balance, and workers are motivated to gain new skills to succeed in careers. But in uncertain times, employees have reported they often don't know where to turn to learn those new skills. "And what do you do when you don't understand the future," Cameron said. "You turn to technology."
She cited the ability for tech to spot skills gaps, identify skills that should be developed and offer learning, and the ability to connect people automatically to career ambassadors as applications that help individuals and organizations make decisions that improve career paths and employee retention.
"People are trying to really find what they're good at, or what they want to spend their time doing," said Andrew Challenger, senior vice president at staffing firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "Especially in the times we're living in."
Over the last decade, AI technology has advanced dramatically, and so has its use in human resources. Tech vendors including Oracle and IBM have software products making the case for AI as a core HR technology, and use it within their own workforces as well.
"We see this across our service sector, and it is something that is very important to our employees," said Anshul Sheopuri, vice president and chief technology officer, data & AI for IBM HR.
IBM claims it has developed AI that can predict if a worker is likely to quit with a high degree of accuracy.
Experts say as business transformation through digitization has taken off, the conversation has extended to technology and employees and the convenience of accessing everything from the palm of one's hands in personal life has translated to the world of work. "We see it in the way we hail a cab or watch a movie," Sheopuri said. "They are looking for the same level of ease when they're growing their skills."
Growing use of AI in the workplace is a phenomenon that Oracle has studied in previous annual surveys. It has taken on new importance as employers are facing a tough hiring market and difficulty retaining workers. AI offers employees the chance to grow skill sets and apply those skills efficiently to work that is in demand. Within IBM, the company uses AI software to direct its employees to projects best suited for them, and connects them to other jobs opportunities within the company.
Live chatbots are one example of AI that can provides workers with unbiased views and recommendations, said Dan Schawbel, managing partner of Workplace Intelligence, partner on the Oracle survey. It also allows employees to get answers whenever they prefer. "If you pick up your phone at three or four in the morning and have a chatbot that can answer your questions, that is beneficial," Schawbel said.
"There are so many options, yet it is hard to know what to do when," he said. "And I think that is a reason why people are turning to [AI] over humans, when it comes to thinking about their career path and their next steps."
This doesn't mean qualitative data from people including mentors and peers is no longer valuable. But the technology combined with other inputs will help employees make more informed decisions, "regardless of where [they] are in their career," Schawbel added.
Almost all (98%) of IBM's employees access the company's AI learning platform every quarter in an attempt by the company to drive high adoption with the goal of greater skills acquisition. Sheopuri said the AI directs the employees to recommended learning services that are relevant to their job and connects them with other experts in the same space.
"The question becomes much more important, not just for the company in the way we look at our skills, but also from the employee lens," Sheopuri said.
AI also supports employees at the managerial level. By feeding the data collected from lower-level workers to managers in a consumable way, Sheopuri said it helps business leaders "make more informed decisions around what to invest in, in order to support business plans."
Adoption of AI and collection of user data has stirred up controversy. But AI 's role seems poised to continue growing as workers seek new ways to make progress in their careers.
"It comes down to thinking about how to use technology to identify what the next opportunity is for [employees], and not just to identify it, but to point to the right courses and skills that they are going to need to make that transition," Schawbel said.
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