Half of the UK’s tech leaders are considering using generative AI technologies to plug digital skills gaps, according to new research.

Tech leaders are however grappling with ethical concerns about replacing employees as well as implementing AI safely and securely in the workplace.

The findings come from a survey commissioned by Glasgow-based AI talent platform Gigged.AI, and carried out by Sapio Research.

Of 250 senior leaders interviewed, the survey found that 51 per cent would consider deploying generative AI to plug a skills gap, but 44 per cent had ethical concerns in doing so.

The apparent conundrum has dominated workplace discussions in the last 12 months, since the widespread availability of platforms such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard.

The research, carried out during the second half of 2023, found 91 per cent are experiencing a tech skills shortage, with 57 per cent saying the situation has worsened compared to 2022.  

It found 34 per cent of organisations sampled cited the inability to find qualified candidates as the primary cause, with 32 per cent of respondents blaming budget constraints.

To address this, 16 per cent are implementing ‘quiet hiring’ – a term coined to explain a workplace trend where the focus is on up-skilling existing staff rather than hiring new employees.

With 58 per cent of interviewees experiencing a hiring freeze in 2023, 24 per cent of tech leaders said they were planning to use generative AI to up-skill their existing workforce.

While 72 per cent of organisations are progressing digital transformation this year, 45 per cent expect delays due to tech skills shortages.  

And 37 per cent said that software development and cybersecurity skills are being most affected within their organisations by the tech skills shortage, followed by digital marketing (36 per cent), and data engineering (27 per cent).

Rich Wilson, CEO of Gigged.AI, said: “The findings of our survey show how prominent generative AI has become for tech leaders in a relatively short space of time. And in the face of the growing tech skills shortage, businesses not only need, they are already planning innovative strategies to tackle the industry-wide challenge. At the same time, ethical concerns are a factor, so that’s a conundrum for companies in 2024.” 

He added: “Tech leaders are under pressure across the board, but there are developing blueprints to support them, including around generative AI and quiet hiring, when that’s done in the right way, and that’s something we’re actively engaged with across our client base.”