Which skills do organisations need for emerging tech?


Written by Zoe Amar, FCIM, Director, Zoe Amar Digital

Is it just me, or is everyone talking about Chat GPT? Several months on from its launch, momentum is still growing. People are either using it already or asking questions about how to try it out. It’s emerging tech but, unlike driverless cars, it’s open to everyone. A technologically advanced future suddenly feels within reach. 

I’m simultaneously excited by the possibilities and nervous about the consequences of new technologies. PWC predicts that 30% of jobs could be at risk of automation by the mid 2030s. Goldman Sachs estimates that a quarter of all jobs could be done by artificial intelligence. 

Chat GPT itself isn’t always accurate, and can ‘hallucinate’ facts. Yet something has clearly shifted when everyone from journalists to scientists and charity fundraisers are asking how to use Chat GPT in their roles. 

How organisations like yours can make the most of emerging tech, such as Chat GPT, is on my mind. We’re asking charities and social sector organisations to share their views on this as part of the survey to build this year’s Charity Digital Skills Report, which tracks digital adoption, skills and support needs. We all need to develop the skills to make the most of emerging technologies. So which ones should we  grow? 

Tools such as Chat GPT offer huge opportunities because of their capacity to take on manual, repetitive tasks. This should free staff up to focus on the work that makes the biggest difference. Duncan Roberts, Senior Manager at Cognizant Research, counsels employees to look at where they can add value through creative problem solving or providing enhanced customer service. “For this reason, employees should focus on developing not their technical skills, but their soft skills, such as communication and emotional intelligence. In doing so, they’ll find the skills they develop complement the processing power brought by generative AI and other emerging technology,” explains Roberts. 


Which skills do you need?

The exciting thing about these tools is that they are within reach for organisations of all sectors and sizes. Over at veterinary charity PDSA, Gordon Miller, its Head of Digital, and his team are focusing on building skills in data literacy, familiarity with relevant programming languages, tools, and platforms, prompt engineering (ie the ability to craft effective prompts which get effective results from tools like Chat GPT) and horizon scanning so that new trends can be evaluated and prioritised. 

Manchester based relationships charity TLC: Talk, Listen, Change is  taking a holistic approach to emerging tech skills development for its staff. Staff are learning about the basic principles and ethical implications of AI, as well as coding. They’re also growing their soft skills, such as problem solving. These tools can feel like a big change, even to those of us who are confident with digital. To that end Michelle Hill, TLC: Talk, Listen, Change’s CEO says that she is, “focused on developing people’s comfort with taking risks and experimenting with new technologies.” 

This shows how changing people’s mindsets is as important as growing their skills. Technical skills are one thing, but the ‘soft’ skill of being comfortable with change is critical for digital progress. 


How are people learning about these skills?

Whilst most of the organisations I spoke to were offering staff training, they were also exploring different learning methods. 

At the PDSA Miller and his team, “have established a mentorship programme to foster knowledge-sharing and collaboration within our organisation.” In addition they have , “also had the benefit of working with some of the world’s leading developers in this space, such as Microsoft, who are helping us to hone our skills and utilise this technology in new and unique ways.” Ask your tech suppliers if they can offer you support with capacity building. If you’re a charity, why not ask tech companies if they’d be willing to volunteer to help build your skills? 


How can these skills be embedded?

Every digital skills programme also needs to be a change programme, and even more so when emerging technologies are involved. 

During a cost of living crisis it is really tempting to slash training budgets. However the organisations I spoke to were prioritising skills and learning. 

Miller told me , “we’ve learned that a continuous learning mindset is crucial for success in a rapidly evolving technological landscape. Investing in the professional development of our staff and building relationships with large corporations that can support our team to grow has not only improved their technical skills but also boosted their morale and job satisfaction.” This is good advice for any organisation looking to improve staff retention. 

TLC: Talk, Listen, Change’s CEO is passionate about giving staff time to learn and innovate together. “80% of our biggest technology innovations and applications have come from the free project time we have provided to our Business Intelligence team,” says Hill. “They developed something small scale to show to the rest of the team just because it’s a cool process or applications that sometimes work or don’t and from this it creates new ideas or bigger solutions.”

Staff need space to learn emerging tech skills and put them into practice. 


What are the pitfalls?

Emerging technology is exciting, but it’s important to build in guardrails. John Fitzgerald, Digital Evolution Manager at SCVO, points out that one of the risks with tools like Chat GPT is its accessibility. “It’s really important to understand its limitations and the ethical issues it can throw up,” he advises. This includes the inaccurate information that Chat GPT sometimes generates. “So an understanding of the importance and limitations of data, and digital ethics are really important,” concludes Fitzgerald. 

This speaks to good practice in any form of digital skills development. Skills should never be seen as a discreet, transactional product.If we want staff to learn new skills we need to give them the tools for long term change.And that means our organisations need to change too.  

In the case of emerging tech skills this might mean an organisational digital ethics policy and factoring emerging tech into your board’s scenario planning. Above all we need to empower everyone to think critically about why, and how, we are using these tools. 

Emerging technologies offer huge opportunities for organisations of all sizes to develop new products and ways of working that create efficiencies and offer creative ways to help more people. The rapid rise of Chat GPT is a sign that the pace of technological development is quickening. Our organisations need to be prepared and skilled up for the future.

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