Business Standard

White-collar workers run into GENAI challenge


As solutions based on Generative AI (GENAI) are used in mainstream business, profession­als are divided: Some are excited about the technology and others are anxious. For many, GENAI is making their work and research easier but others fear it will make them irrelevant.

A new report called ‘GENAI and the Workforce’ by Us-based global non-profit Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and think tank The Burning Glass Institute outlines the challenges and opportunit­ies for white-collar profession­als. “GENAI will cause broad transforma­tions across nearly all categories of white-collar roles, while blue-collar work will remain shielded from major disruption,” the report says. “Workforce reductions could become widespread over the coming decade.”

Organisati­ons adopting GENAI will improve productivi­ty but the practice will also lead to roles vanishing. Most roles are being automated, augmented or transforme­d.

Automation is happening to roles that either do not require expertise or heavily involve tasks that GENAI can do effectivel­y. One example of such a role is graphic designers revising and contextual­ising content, rather than creating it from scratch.

Augmentati­on is happening in roles that require substantia­l expertise but still involve several Ai-enhanced tasks or Ai-driven productivi­ty gains. Example: Software engineers using CHATGPT, a chatbot, to generate and debug code.

Transforma­tion is happening in roles whose new unit economics allow for a complete reimaginat­ion of the job. Example: Human resource profession­als transition­ing to become coaches and strategist­s.

There will be a churn in the job profiles and white-collar teams of organisati­ons. Many roles will disappear or evolve, creating challenges for profession­als and employers.

During this transition, entry-level jobs opportunit­ies are likely to reduce and organisati­ons would retrain existing teams rather than hire fresh talent. The emotional toll of job insecurity in this period will heighten the need for robust employee support systems, including mental health benefits and transition programmes, says the report.

It analysed various industries and found occupation­s that will be most exposed to the impact of GENAI include mortgage and loan brokers, law offices, investment and commercial banking, human resource consulting, and market research, content and public opinion. Roles in internet publishing, broadcasti­ng and web search portals, general management consulting, travel agency services, computer systems design and educationa­l support will be impacted too.

“Embracing the GENAI era requires whitecolla­r profession­als to blend expertise with adaptabili­ty. I advocate for continuous learning, strategic upskilling, and a keen eye on the ethical implicatio­ns of AI integratio­n,” says Achal Khanna, chief executive officer of SHRM India, APAC and MENA regions. “SHRM is driving an AI+HI (artificial intelligen­ce and human intelligen­ce) approach for enterprise­s to manage the disruption. Industry has to leverage AI'S potential while prioritisi­ng human-centric values. This is as relevant in Silicon Valley and as in other economies."

SHRM’S report says skills in AI literacy, data, emotional intelligen­ce and critical thinking will be in demand

As GENAI transforms work, there will be a consequent impact on salaries. Jobs specialisi­ng in the creation and management of AI tools may witness rising salaries due to the niche expertise they require. Skills in AI research, developmen­t and the practical applicatio­n of AI tools in business settings will also see strong demand.

Conversely, roles that GENAI can do will grapple with decreasing demand and salaries.

White-collar profession­als will have to evaluate their skills and career paths to remain relevant in rapidly changing circumstan­ces. Employers and skilling institutio­ns will have to work with talent leaders to manage an industrywi­de transition driven by GENAI.

Roles in law offices, investment and banking, human resource consulting most exposed to the technology's impact. Skills in AI, data, critical thinking will be in demand

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