Should all companies invest in grooming their own AI talent? Source: Shutterstock

Should all companies invest in grooming their own AI talent? Source: Shutterstock

With salaries for AI talent soaring, Daikin invests in upskilling staff

GOING DIGITAL is a priority today and artificial intelligence (AI) is critical to that objective. Unfortunately, AI talent is in short supply, and therefore, quite difficult to hire and retain.

Companies often find experienced AI professionals command a high salary, and therefore, are hard to budget for and hire — given the short supply in the market, these professionals are also quite susceptible to poaching from within and outside the industry.

Although regulators across the APAC are aware of the problem and are mobilizing resources and crafting strategies to create the AI talent that can support companies with their digital transformation goals, experts believe that a supply gap will still exist.

In order to avoid the challenges posed by the AI talent gap, companies are therefore often advised to upskill existing staff by offering to train them on emerging technologies — including artificial intelligence. That’s exactly what Daikin is doing.

Daikin believes that AI is going to help transform its business model in the future, transforming it into a company that possibly offers air-as-a-service, much like automakers plan on providing cars-as-a-service.

Obviously, without sufficient AI talent, the company will be unable to reach its goals in time.

To overcome any challenges, therefore, the company has decided to train up to 1,000 employees with no background in AI and turn them into skilled AI professionals.

To retain the talent once trained, Daikin intends to offer them better compensation — perhaps a reward for their commitment to learning.

According to Reuters, the first batch of 100 graduate students hired last year were trained by Osaka University professors for the first six months and then broken up into groups to work with data in order to hone their skills for the next six months.

This year, the bath has been bedded into various departments at Daikin and are getting on the job AI-training.

Although Daikin declined to comment on the cost of the program, for a company their size and scale, the upskilling program seems like a great idea especially at a time when salaries for skilled AI talent are soaring and those recruited might be hard to retain to support the long-term growth of the company through its many stages.

Daikin’s move to address its talent shortage isn’t groundbreaking, but it is definitely something other companies should learn from. According to a recent McKinsey study, after all, retraining existing talent is an essential part of the solution to plug the skills gap.

For companies looking to start their own upskilling program to groom their own AI talent, here are a few key things to keep in mind:

# 1 | Provide the right incentives to staff

People typically want to grow in their careers, so it is likely that members of staff will welcome programs that offer to upskill them and help them prepare for new opportunities and roles within the company.

However, this training has to be provided in a way that incentivizes their commitment to the program and to going beyond their comfort zone to explore things that are new.

Further, it is important for companies offering to upskill staff to guarantee that their failure to learn (provided they’re committed to the program) will not be used against them. It might seem unconventional but it’s a huge incentive for staff, especially those thriving in an existing role, to take on something new.

# 2 | Assess attitude and aptitude

Employees might be keen on being upskilled but it is up to the companies to find the right candidates for the program — and the process is similar to finding the right candidate for a job or role.

Companies need to assess applicants to the program for both, their willingness and ability to learn (their attitude and aptitude). That’s quite important.

Failure to do this can not only negatively impact the company’s upskilling program but also cause employee morale to spiral downwards when they see colleagues putting in the effort but struggling to learn and grow.

# 3 | Bridge the gap between classroom and shop-floor

Companies need to bridge the gap between classroom training and shop-floor realities.

That’s the most impressive detail of Daikin’s program — providing plenty of time for candidates to practice what they learned in the classroom and then allowing them to go to work on real-world problems in the company.

Theoretical learning is fundamental to acquiring a new skill but employers that help staff polish their skills through various projects across the business will truly groom the talent pool and accelerate their digital journey to the top.