Article: HR Day 2024 Special: India reskills for the AI era

Strategic HR

HR Day 2024 Special: India reskills for the AI era

As the wave of artificial intelligence disruption intensifies, leading companies are taking bold steps to prepare their workforce for the algorithmic age. On this International HR Day 2024, we delve into the ongoing journeys of 10 Indian companies.
HR Day 2024 Special: India reskills for the AI era

The looming tsunami of automation fueled by AI demands a bold response. With 800 million jobs globally at risk by 2030, as predicted by the McKinsey Global Institute, the stakes are undeniably high. Upskilling and reskilling employees with the right skillset to thrive alongside intelligent machines becomes an imperative, not a choice. This new skillset transcends mere technical expertise. It equips them with critical thinking, problem-solving abilities, and the agility to navigate a rapidly evolving work landscape.

In the face of this digital deluge, India, with its young and energetic workforce, stands at a critical juncture. Organisations here are not standing idly by. They are proactively equipping their teams with the skills needed to thrive in the AI era. At the forefront of this massive transformation are HR leaders, guiding their workforces to not only survive the onslaught of AI but emerge stronger and more adaptable.

On this International HR Day 2024, we delve into the innovative strategies Indian companies are deploying for AI reskilling, and the challenges they face in this crucial journey.

Top AI Initiatives in India

Building AI Literacy:  The foundation for an AI-ready workforce starts with strong AI literacy. Leading companies like Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), LTI Mindtree, and SAP are prioritising this by implementing training programmes and fostering a culture of continuous learning. "A strong foundation in AI is crucial for our employees' future success," emphasises Janardhan Santhanam, VP & Chief Learning Officer at TCS.

Developing AI Skills: Companies are investing in programmes to equip their workforce with technical expertise. Tata Projects, for instance, is offering specialised training in machine learning and data science, targeting engineers and project managers. "The future workforce must leverage AI's full potential," said CHRO Ritesh Pratap Singh.

Happiest Minds Technologies has achieved good results with its AI skills development programme. Over 85% of their employees have gained basic awareness of AI and fundamental development skills. Rajesh Chandran Sogasu, Senior Vice President at Happiest Minds Technologies, emphasises, "A future-ready workforce is key to our success."

AB InBev GCC India is prioritising fostering a culture of lifelong learning among their employees. "Skills in problem-solving, communication, and innovation are indispensable as they enable individuals to harness AI's full potential," said Runa Dhawan, People Director, GHQ India, AB InBev.

Future-Proofing Human Capital: Pegasystems and Godrej Properties are actively revamping their learning and development programmes to foster crucial cognitive skills such as critical thinking, and data analysis.  "Our focus is on equipping our employees with the cognitive skills needed to navigate the complexities of the AI economy, such as critical thinking and problem-solving,” said Megha Goel, Chief Human Resources Officer, at Godrej Properties.

AI-powered Learning Platforms:  Tech giant LTIMindtree is leveraging AI-powered platforms to personalise learning journeys, identify skill gaps through analyses, and recommend relevant courses for their employees. "We are actively exploring this technology and its potential to revolutionise the way our employees learn and develop," asserts Ritu Chakrabarty, Global Head - Learning and Development (Shoshin School), LTIMindtree.


Automating Manual Tasks: AI is transforming HR by automating repetitive tasks, freeing up employee time for more strategic work. Companies like Tata Projects and Orion Innovation are deploying AI for this purpose. Ritesh Pratap of Tata Projects, emphasises, "However, we are committed to carefully evaluating the impact of automation on employee roles and ensuring a smooth transition." This might involve reskilling initiatives or redeployment opportunities for impacted employees.

Key challenges in AI integration and reskilling

The journey towards an AI-ready workforce is fraught with challenges. Here are the top hurdles in AI integration and reskilling as shared by the leaders:

Data Quality and Accessibility: Ensuring high-quality, accessible, and up-to-date data is a critical challenge in leveraging AI effectively for decision-making and workforce development. As Amit Sahoo, Global HR Head and CHRO at Narwal, mentioned, "Data Quality and Accessibility: Ensuring high-quality and accessible data to support accurate AI-driven insights and decision-making" is a top priority.

Security and Intellectual Property Concerns: Addressing security, privacy, and intellectual property concerns while using AI, particularly with sensitive employee and business data, is a significant hurdle. Janardhan Santhanam, VP & Chief Learning Officer at TCS, highlighted this challenge: "The first major hurdle lies in establishing clear guidelines to effectively address privacy, security, and intellectual property concerns."

Change Management and Cultural Shift: Overcoming resistance and fostering a cultural shift is a common challenge. Ritesh, emphasised, "The biggest challenge is the limited use of advanced technologies in the EPC sector. This sector continues to be labour-intensive with a low degree of automation, technology, and analytics. The challenge continues to remain the acceptance and the comfort of using technology for many. It causes for a mindset change to understand and leverage the benefits of technology."

Talent Acquisition and Skills Gap: Recruiting and retaining skilled AI professionals, such as machine learning engineers, data scientists, and prompt engineers, is a major challenge due to the competitive landscape and shortage of specialised talent. As Ritesh noted, "Another key challenge we faced was bridging the skills gap and acquiring talent with expertise in AI-related domains."

Ethical Considerations: Ensuring ethical standards and effective communication of complex AI concepts to non-technical users is a priority for companies like Pega. Smriti Mathur, VP --People India & Global Talent Advisory at Pega stated, "Our top challenge in integrating AI into workforce development has been ensuring effective communication of complex ideas to non-technical users and maintaining compliance with ethical standards in our offerings."

Cost and ROI Assessment: Evaluating the long-term cost implications and projecting the return on investment (RoI) for enterprise-wide AI implementation is a challenging task, as noted by TCS. Janardhan Santhanam stated, "Secondly, GenAI as an industry is extremely dynamic, making it hard to assess cost implications associated with implementation at the enterprise level and project RoI from a long-term perspective."

Industry-specific Challenges: Certain industries, like the EPC sector mentioned by Tata Projects, face challenges due to the labour-intensive nature of operations and the relatively low adoption of advanced technologies and automation.  

Future AI integration plans

While navigating the challenges, companies are actively charting their paths to further leverage AI capabilities. Their future plans span a wide array of initiatives:

Predictive Analytics and Workforce Planning: Amit highlighted, "Moving forward, Narwal plans to further leverage AI by enhancing predictive analytics to anticipate workforce trends, optimise resource planning, and inform strategic decisions."

Enhancing AI-powered Knowledge Bases and Information Retrieval: Ritesh emphasised, "AI-powered knowledge bases have revolutionised the way we access and retrieve information within our organisation. By leveraging AI algorithms, we've created intelligent systems that can quickly search through vast amounts of data to find relevant information, best practices, and lessons learned from previous projects."

Expanding AI Integration across More Business Functions: As Arun Paul, stated, "As AI capabilities evolve, our organisation aims to expand the use of automation across more business functions to increase efficiency and empower employees."

Investing in Generative AI for Production Processes and Client Offerings: Smriti Mathur from Pega mentioned, "Looking ahead, our organisation plans to further leverage AI by continuing to invest in Generative AI in our production processes, impacting both our developers and clients positively."

Fostering Global AI Developer Communities and Partner Ecosystems: Pega will also "focus on cultivating a global community of developers through initiatives like Pega Academy, benefiting our partner ecosystem."

Intensifying Reskilling Efforts to Bridge Future Skills Gaps: Shraddha Naik from SAP emphasised, "The rise of Business AI has an impact on the skills we need going forward, so we will intensify our reskilling efforts so that as many employees as possible adopt the skills needed for future growth."

While data quality and integration challenges persist, a wave of strategic AI initiatives is gaining momentum. Companies are actively investing in upskilling programmes and fostering a culture of continuous learning to equip their employees for the evolving AI landscape.

As Janardhan Santhanam, VP & Chief Learning Officer at TCS, aptly summarised, "Adoption of GenAI requires the right capabilities and more importantly, a mindset change to start using AI to assist, augment, and transform entire business processes along with technologies like IoT, Cloud, Blockchain, etc."

Happy International HR Day 2024!

With inputs from Mastufa Ahmed!

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Topics: Strategic HR, #HRCommunity, #InternationalHRDay, #HRTech

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