Research Reveals Businesses Need to Prioritize Skills as Much as Technology to Maximize Value From AI

90.5% of the most mature AI businesses were actively hiring skilled workers or had plans to, to complement their internal skilling programs. And 76.7% were increasing skills investments.

Microsoft Corp. today announced new international research revealing that companies see the biggest business benefit from artificial intelligence (AI) when they combine deployment of AI with skilling initiatives that focus on both tech and soft skills. Surveying approximately 12,000 employees and leaders within larger enterprises across 20 markets globally 12-30 March, the research looks at the skills needed to thrive as AI becomes increasingly adopted by businesses, as well as the key learnings from early AI adopters.

“This is an unprecedented moment for all companies – regardless of size, sector or geography. The months and years ahead will be pivotal for most businesses as we look to adapt in the wake of the pandemic. AI is at the heart of digital transformation, which has accelerated at an extraordinary pace, and we believe AI will continue to play critical role in helping businesses be more agile and competitive during this time. The path to unlocking the full potential of AI, however, is using the technology to complement human ingenuity – so a continued focus on both skilling and smart tech deployment will be important,” said Kalin Dimchev, Country Manager of Microsoft Bulgaria, and Country Manager Lead for the CEE Multi-Country region which includes 24 countries.

Higher growth companies are combining skilling with AI deployment

Among the companies that are the most mature in terms of AI adoption, the majority of their senior leaders (93%) say they are actively building the skills of their workers or have plans to. Further, almost two-thirds (64%) of employees at these mature AI businesses say they have already benefitted from reskilling programs; when looking at employees at companies that are at the beginning of their AI journey, this falls to approximately one-third (37.8%).

The combination of skilling and AI deployment is helping businesses succeed: 84.4% of senior executives from mature AI businesses say they are already seeing business value from AI deployment, compared with 58.9% of leaders at companies that are at earlier stages of AI usage.

The research shows that AI-leading firms are focused on ensuring AI is complementing the talents of their people. These businesses are cultivating employee skills across every category – ranging from advanced data analysis and critical thinking to communications and creativity.

Azeem Azhar, AI industry expert and founder of the Exponential View commented: “In this new environment, companies will need human ingenuity to help restart their businesses. In the context of new rules for engaging with customers, partners and stakeholders, innovative and adaptable organizations will do better. This research identifies that AI-leading firms are better positioned because they are investing more in a wide range of skills and are more focused on how new technology can augment their workers.”

AI is creating company cultures more focused on innovation and learning

Almost all workers (92%) are keen take part in AI reskilling initiatives. The majority (70.2%) of those working within an organizations using more AI say their organization is actively preparing them for an AI world; this drops to 42.4% among employees at companies where less AI has been deployed to date – highlighting an opportunity for companies getting started on their AI journeys.

“We’re seeing a virtuous circle emerge among the companies seeing the greatest value from AI. These leaders have seen that having the right skills enables them to unlock more value from AI, which encourages them to extend their use of AI and, in turn, continue in up-levelling skills in their organization“, says Kalin Dimchev.

For an overview of key research findings please visit here


KRC Research conducted a random online sample of approximately 12,000 people working with enterprise companies (more than 250 employees) were surveyed between 12-30 March. Within in each market the sample was comprised of at least 500 workers and 100 leaders (director / senior executive level and above). Markets represented include: Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia (combined), Hungary, Australia, Brazil, Israel, Turkey, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, the United States of America, India, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden.