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  • Writer's pictureStephen Plimmer

Is it time employees had a personal Tech and AI strategy?

Updated: Apr 21, 2023

The pace at which IT and digital technology have advanced over recent decades is astounding. There is no immediate prospect of this letting up. However, the inspiring and interesting work opportunities that are being created by technological advancements should increasingly motivate many to build their skills and knowhow strategically, Here we lay out the argument that a personal Technology Strategy (akin to a Career Plan) might benefit many, particularly highlighting the value to mid- and later-career professionals given a generational gap in IT capability, as well as the benefits to organisations.

Technology pace continues Even if it forms nothing more than a cloudy sense of destiny and direction, most people have the notion of their career strategy or plan these days. They are probably aware that they are doing a job for experience, money, lifestyle, or interest - and where it is going to lead them next. They know the skills they have, they know the skills they want and need.

Outside of dedicated IT professionals, however, few will have something akin to a personal "Technology Strategy".

However, perhaps, with the rise of Generational AI applications bringing matters to a head in 2023, they should now consider it.....

The pace that IT has advanced over recent decades is already astounding: Global internet traffic increased six-fold between 2010 and 2020. There is no immediate prospect of this letting up either: global spending on IT programmes that are enabling organisations to become digital-first reached c£5 trillion this year, growing at 17% CAGR (IDC). Investment is particularly notable in industries such as healthcare, finance, and manufacturing, where technology is increasingly running operations. However, no sector is unaffected, from the arts sector, where Artificial Intelligence is being used to create new art exhibitions (The Art Newspaper), to law where it automates many costly contract-management tasks (The Law Society), and education, where it is seen as a contributor to tackling education inequalities (UNESCO). This speaks of a continuing trend where we will all need to build and maintain IT skills, with a nod to recognising the potential for AI augmenting our roles.

This is more than just about "brushing-up skills" to remain usefully employable: The range of new inspiring, and interesting organisations and projects that are being created by technological advancements should be motivation for many to start planning, as such skills are going to be critical for career fulfillment.

Time for a personal Technology Strategy?

The reasons for suggesting a personal Technology Strategy now (akin to a career strategy or plan) are analogous to the reasons 1) we might have a personal career strategy/plan and 2) a business has an IT and Digital strategy.

Whereas not so long ago, it might have been sufficient for most employees to get by on a staple diet of IT skills that included proficiency across Microsoft Office tools - and some esoteric received-wisdom that allowed them to wrestle with the prehistoric legacy HR system to book their holiday - that is not going to be the case going forward.

While there is much talk at the moment of Artificial Intelligence (AI) replacing human work wholesale (Elon Musk being a particular proponent of that position) wider consensus suggests that’s not likely to happen at scale for decades (By this time human beings might have invented new types of work anyhow!). However, it is definitely the case that in 2023, we have seen a surge in AI applications that are increasingly able to augment human work and replace some jobs. As the dominant example of this that we've now all come across, it's possible for practically anyone to now use “ChatGBT”, which is causing a surge of excitement, intrigue, and speculation across the web: Type it questions in a simple letterbox-shaped entry box, and it provides nuanced, accurate answers across a bewildering array of topics - in a writing-style and length of your choosing - that help make research, referencing, marketing and writing jobs many times faster and easier than they might be otherwise.

Wordpress suggested that we might spend an average of 25% of our working lives writing, so the potential contribution to productivity is sizeable from this alone.

ChatGBT got its first 1m users in a week.

Soon ChatGBT will offer a public API and to connect to various other applications, and then the fun begins as organisations start to pipe data into their organisations.

Growth in ChatGBT web searches March 2021-23

However, the bigger trend story is arguably the speed at which an entire category of AI applications has emerged into the mainstream very quickly over the last 1-2 years, geared to improving productivity at work. This really started to hot up in the venture-capital arena in the later 2010s and Generative AI saw a 425% increase in VC investments between 2020 and 2022. (Yahoo Finance)

Such tools include the likes of Grammarly for improving writing, for marketing-content creation, the AI capabilities within Microsoft Teams, that allow it to interface with chatbots and automate repeated processes, for presentations, Stable Diffusion for image creation and Salesforce Einstein that helps sales teams to automate their administrative tasks. There are now literally hundreds of tools to use.

There are still advantages too in many professions of being able to use computer languages, to solve problems, crunch data, build web applications and automate jobs. Javascript, Java and Python remain in strong demand as the leading global computer languages (GitHub).

So, as an employee, where do you start, where do you focus, and to what ends, with all of this technology?

Technology skills are about more than basic employability

Perhaps through the 2010s, it became a recognisable perspective that a business digital strategy and business strategy were becoming integral to each other - reflecting how important choices made in IT and Digital transformation programmes were to wider business strategy in the era of Cloud computing.

Similarly, the analogy would be that having IT skills is becoming increasingly important for employees to pursue their own broader career strategies: If people want to work with passions, interests, and in ways to reflect their values, technology is creating opportunities and demands across practically all sectors and job families in the economy.

Employees can therefore choose to align IT skill development topics with personal motivations. Depending on the application, technology skills can build new capabilities for those that love the pursuits of research and insight, strategic thinking, creating structure, conservation or creativity, or many more things. IT skills offer the means to reduce the effort of work, improve quality and creativity, and thereby increase job satisfaction. For some, the IT field is proving a great option for the career change that many pursue in mid and later careers too: Employer research in the UK consistently highlights in-demand IT skills including cybersecurity, analytics, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence. The recruitment and HR company Hays found that almost 95% of employers looking for technology skills have encountered a skills shortage over the past year: In a survey of 13,000 employers and workers in the UK, 1,400 of which were in technology fields, 94% faced a lack of talent, up from 89% the year before.

Employers stand to benefit from helping their staff to build their skills and transition into roles that are more technically demanding, rather than simply trying to recruit these skills. But, even if it's not a new career path, benefits include job security and satisfaction, both from the outcome and the learning process. Studies have also pointed to IT skills lifting salary too: Tech Nation found UK digital workers earn £10k more per year than non-digital counterparts.

The competitive incentive The good and bad news is that learning IT is not as daunting as it was. User-friendly interfaces to software, plentiful video tutorials, beginner courses, and online communities offer technical and moral support. YouTube has particularly become awash with good beginners and introduction tutorials too. The days of being stuck with an opaque 400-page manual to learn a computer language are now, largely, gone.

However, this isn't all good news for employees either. It merely means that the barriers to accessing better skills, more knowledge, higher capacity, and collaborating with more people and networks have lowered for everyone, including those that they might compete with for the most desirable jobs.

So, there is a competitive argument for a personal Technology Strategy too: If you want to be a highly successful marketer, artist, shop-owner, or accountant, you'll need to be some combination of better, faster, cheaper or more personalised than the competition. How can technology help make that possible?

Q. So what could a personal technology strategy look like? A. As with all strategies, it is an articulation of the link between a vision or mission, and the actions to achieve it. It reflects an exercise of focus and prioritisation to select the right options out of countless alternatives......

Summary The IT skills of today are gradually becoming as fundamental as communicating, writing, and numeracy skills in times past. It’s worth every professional (but particularly mid-career and later-career professionals) asking what they might need to freshen their skillset.

When the answer comes back as a bewildering blizzard of answers, then it's time to strategize: Starting with career goals, identify the technologies and technical skills that would allow one to succeed, excel and also make contributions to the world they are moved to make. Separately ask what technologies minimize the daily repeatable tasks to free up their time and mental energy. There might then be a job to prioritize, plan and find projects for practice. The answers could, at worst, lead to ways to reduce monotonous tasks, and at best seed a new career chapter. So, perhaps it's time, like the organisations they work for, employees all had their own personal Technology strategy too.

Sources and further reading Link to Chat GBT - AARP. (2017). Staying Ahead of the Curve 2017: The AARP Work and Career Study. Retrieved from Bridge. (2019). The Generational Training Gap. Retrieved from Finkelstein, L. M., & Burke, M. J. (2018). Age discrimination in training and development: The role of implicit bias and stereotypes. Journal of Applied Psychology, 103(6), 605–618. doi: 10.1037/apl0000296

Tam, T., & Shanahan, M. (2019). Ageism and training and development practices: A mixed methods study. Journal of Aging and Social Policy, 31(1), 22–41. doi: 10.1080/08959420.2018.1487821 UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. (2019). Skills, employment and earnings in the digital sector. Retrieved from

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