‘The genie is out of the bottle and AI is going to create a skills gap’: Workday CEO

If you think technology has rapidly changed the workplace, you haven’t seen anything yet, according to data analytics expert Aneel Bhusri, Workday co-founder and CEO. The advent of artificial intelligence and machine learning is creating a paradigm shift that will affect workers in every sector.

Speaking with CNBC’s Squawk Box at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday, Bhusri had a powerful message for employers everywhere: “The genie is out of the bottle. AI technology is in play and companies are going to use it, or else they won’t remain competitive. But it’s going to create a skills gap. Companies need to be prepared for the massive retraining that lies ahead.”

He compares the trend to what happened when America’s agrarian economy radically shifted during the Industrial Revolution. “During that period it didn’t go well for a generation of farmers, nor unskilled workers.”

Bhusri should know. Workday is an on-demand financial and human-management software company with clients in a wide variety of industries. He has an insider’s view of how AI is transforming HR policies at companies across the country.

As the war for talent heats up, he notes that companies are using predictive analysis to look at top performers and the odds they may be looking for opportunities outside the company. A whole series of data points — including how competitive the job position is in the marketplace and how many times a star employee has connected on LinkedIn — gives an employer a score to gauge what is going on.

On the issue of privacy, Bhusri notes that as data collection and predictive analytics become more the norm, it’s crucial companies are transparent and don’t cross the line.

“Companies must be transparent with employees on how they use their data. I am a big believer that every company using AI and data analysis needs an ethics manager to lay the ground rules on privacy.”

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