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Mastercard, Moderna expect AI to improve jobs, productivity

The HR chiefs at Mastercard and Moderna see much potential in AI's future and ability to help their organizations. That includes helping them shape upskilling programs.

AI's future has several narratives, some of them grim, like taking jobs or destroying the planet. But two firms adopting AI technologies, Mastercard and Moderna, see positive roles for AI. 

When Mastercard, for instance, put automation tools in its customer service centers, "we did not lay people off," said Michael Fraccaro, chief people officer at Mastercard, during Irresistible 2023, an HR conference held in Los Angeles this week. 

Instead the AI tools removed some of the drudgeries of employees' jobs and helped workers have deeper and more meaningful conversations with clients, Fraccaro said. 

Fraccaro believes most firms that adopt AI tools will tell employees this: "It's going to make your life on the day-to-day job even better, and we're going to invest in your training and development." 

There's still much to learn about AI's future in the workforce. Macroeconomic forces that will help drive its adoption include low unemployment and a fertility rate in the U.S. below the replacement rate, Bersin said at a press forum at the conference. 

The fertility rate in the U.S. in 2020 was 1.7 children per woman. But a fertility rate of 2.1 is needed to keep the population stable without increased immigration. 

"AI is here to give us the productivity we need in an economy that will have a scarcity of labor going forward," Bersin said. He said AI may double per-person productivity in 15 years. 

AI tools, including generative AI, will aid in reskilling workers, said Tracey Franklin, chief human resources officer at pharmaceutical firm Moderna. 

Franklin said AI tools allow them "to know a lot more about the individuals who work for us," improving upskilling. 

As they collect more data about employees and the organization, Franklin said HR will be able to match where the organization is going and develop the skills an employee may need. 

"We will be at an advantage to upskill faster," Franklin said. 

AI's future is about upskilling

The need for upskilling will also affect recruitment, Franklin said. "Learning and curiosity will be a key component" of a candidate's job skills. 

Both firms are exploring generative AI tools but have guidelines for using the technology. 

We will be at an advantage to upskill faster.
Tracey FranklinChief HR officer, Moderna

At Moderna, employees can't access public ChatGPT from their work computers because of security concerns. But Moderna has its own version of a generative AI tool and trains employees on writing prompts, said Franklin. 

Mastercard's Fraccaro said they have some small generative AI pilots in HR, including job description writing. The AI tool produces 50% to 75% of what's needed "depending on how you frame the question up front."

Even though generative AI will improve, the recruiter and hiring manager "are accountable for what goes out there to the market," Fraccaro said.

Bersin said most people in HR use AI-based tools for "pragmatic purposes" to scale a process, pull information together and give people better training. 

The risks of AI are being "overplayed," Bersin said. He believes it will be a "very utilitarian, useful set of technologies." 

Patrick Thibodeau covers HCM and ERP technologies for TechTarget Editorial. He's worked for more than two decades as an enterprise IT reporter.

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