Salesforce has released data from its surveyof 1,001 workers in Singapore, which shows a gap in AI skills, despite a growing recognition of its importance.
Only 15% of Singapore respondents say they possess AI skills – even though 57% identified AI as among today’s most in-demand digital skills. There is more excitement about generative AI. While 51% are worried about job replacement, the larger majority (72%) are still excited about using it.
This underscores the need for companies to raise understanding levels of AI and how it can supercharge human capabilities instead of replacing them.
Employees want businesses to prioritise AI and automation skilling
Despite the skills gap, 63% of respondents say that their company is considering ways to use generative AI. At least 7 out of 10 are already aware of how generative AI will impact their work.
Unsurprisingly, 98% of respondents say they want businesses to prioritise AI skills in their employee development strategy.
Overall, workers in Singapore ranked data security skills (60%), ethical AI and automation skills (57%), and programming skills (57%) as today’s fastest growing and in-demand skills.
AI skills application vary across industries; positive adoption of other digital skills
In Singapore, the manufacturing industry currently ranks top for AI skills application – 21% say they use AI skills within their role, compared to the average 15%. In the public sector, 8% say they use AI skills in their day-to-day role, and in the healthcare industry, only 7% say they do.
Still, today’s most commonly used digital skills amongst workers in Singapore include collaboration technology, digital administration, and digital project management, with 8 in 10 (87%) using these in their day-to-day work.
16% say their role involves other related digital skills like encryption and cyber security, and only 14% claim to be using coding and app development skills.
Growing appetite nationwide toward skills-based hiring
The Salesforce study also reveals a shift towards skills-based hiring. 85% of workers in Singapore consider skills-based experience more important than a degree or industry-specific qualification when trying to land a job in today’s market.
Workers want to expand their limited set of digital skills, and 9 in 10 believe that businesses should prioritise digital skills development for their employees. Based on this, workers are likely to favour companies that seek to boost emerging technology skills and focus on skills-based hiring.
In the same vein, most (82%) people leaders worldwide said that skills are the most important attribute when evaluating candidates. Only 18% said that relevant degree/industry-specific qualifications are the most important.
The majority of leaders in Singapore (97%) believe that the practice of skills-based hiring provides business benefits such as improved talent retention. Singapore workers similarly believe in the benefits of this practice, with 62% of respondents from the retail industry reporting ‘knowledge sharing’ a benefit, while those in Healthcare report ‘increased diversity’ as the top benefit (65%).
Sharpening skills through community activation
Sales professionals are also struggling to keep up with digital transformation trends and the advent of new technology, such as AI. Nearly 70% of sales professionals globally report that selling is harder than ever.
“Excitement for AI and generative AI solutions is at an all-time high within the Singapore workforce. As more companies adapt AI and automation to boost efficiency in their operations, the need to train their employees to leverage these tools will become even greater,” said Sujith Abraham, Senior Vice President and General Manager for Salesforce ASEAN.
“It is critical for business leaders to introduce effective skills development programmes to address the talent mismatch. Only then will businesses in Singapore be able to realise the full potential of these technologies, which is especially critical to build resilience in the face of today’s headwinds,” he continued.
“AI can shape our digital future and will affect many tech and non-tech jobs across the economy. This presents opportunities for workers and companies. To harness these opportunities, IMDA’s Jobs Transformation Map recommends upskilling and reskilling our workforce to ensure they stay agile,” said Terence Chia, Cluster Director, Digital Industry and Talent Group, Infocomm & Media Development Authority (IMDA).
“To complement these efforts, we will need tech employers to focus more on skills-based hiring, and less on traditional qualifications. This mindset shift will be key in ensuring our workers and companies remain competitive, and able to reap AI’s benefits,” he continued.
Adding on how Singapore’s workforce can be ‘AI-ready’, Chia identified three broad areas. “First, we need to know how to use AI, in a general sense. This could require skills like prompt engineering – enabling us to ask the right questions of AI.
“Second, we need to be able to apply AI to sectoral use-cases. This may require industry-specific digital skills for areas like healthcare, financing, manufacturing, and others. Third, we need to ensure we leverage AI to complement what our people can do. We should focus less on what AI is going to take over from us and more on how it will generate new opportunities for us.”
Adding on, Assoc. Prof. Damien Joseph, Associate Dean (Undergraduate Education), Nanyang Business School, Nanyang Technological University elaborated on what are “AI skills”: “I see two types of AI skills: skills in using AI as a tool, and skills in working with AI as a collaborator or a team member. Workers should realise and accept that some current skill set will become less used, if not obsolete. We see that with every wave of technology. In a past wave, the adoption of wordprocessors as a tool led to the erosion of penmanship skills”
“With collaborative AI, we may lose the skill of writing the very first draft of a report from scratch. In some other implementations of collaborative AI, we may lose some decision-making abilities. Workers should not fear the latter because the antidote to skills loss is upskilling to higher order abilities and toward expertise.”