Soft Skills in the Age of AI

Artificial intelligence vs. humans.

All of us have launched into this debate at one point or the other. We think: everything we do, AI can do better. So, do we even have a role in the corporate environment, given that AI has taken over almost every aspect of it?

The answer to that question is yes. What you have as a human is irreplaceable, and in fact, is the same source that powers AI. In simpler words, it is your soft skills that make AI what it is, and therefore they remain as vital as they were, say, a decade ago, if not more.

This article will take a look at AI, soft skills, and the relation between the two. So, if you’re interested, what are you waiting for? Let’s dive right in.

The Age of AI

Before we get into the fun and meaty part of this article, it is crucial to set some context and get in touch with AI’s reality.

The fact is that artificial intelligence is an integral, indispensable part of the modern workplace is not unknown to any of us. The convenience that AI provides us with has dramatically transformed the way corporations operate, from fraud monitoring to talent acquisition to hiring — almost every aspect of work-life in the 21st century is heavily influenced by AI’s existence.

One of the biggest reasons why AI is so powerful is the rapid development of machine learning algorithms that go into its making. Machine learning is what teaches our computers to complete “human-like” tasks such as recognizing a face! Through constant testing, computers learn to mimic human tasks and become a useful component of our daily lives.

And the best part? Machine learning is evolving every day to make AI even better! For this reason, AI is becoming an even more prominent part of the workplace. You’ll find AI in almost everything that you do at your office: customer service chatbots, voice assistants, biometric identification, and facial recognition are all forms of AI that make our life easier every single day.

Source: Statista

Not only that, but it is also found in self-driving cars, healthcare diagnostics tools, advanced photo and video editing software, and gadgets that make interactions with even space possible! This reality reflects that we are way more dependent on AI than one might realize initially and that it is not likely to change any time soon.

Source: Statista

So yes, AI makes life convenient for us. But let’s be real, it’s not all sunshine when it comes to AI — like everything, there is a downside to it as well.

While AI is an excellent tool for increasing workplace efficiency, it also has the power to cause disruptions — one of them being job loss. Yes, what you heard is true: AI can result in unemployment for a lot of people! According to current estimates, up to 30% of existing job roles could be at the risk of automation by the mid-2030s! The robots are out to take our jobs.

Before you freak out, hear us out! According to the World Economic Forum, there is no need to worry because automation will ultimately produce a positive impact on job growth — while 75 million jobs would be eliminated by 2022, at least 133 million new roles may come to light. However, it still is true that those jobs involving routine tasks stand at the risk of being eliminated by automation.

But, here’s the thing — the jobs involving soft skills are suspected to be the least at risk when mass automation does come about. Is it true? Could the development of soft skills be our ultimate solution to fool-proofing ourselves against an AI takeover? Let’s have a look.

The Indispensable Role of Soft Skills

We already know that soft skills are an essential component of human intelligence, and no AI can mimic them with perfection as of now. Not only that, soft skills are considered to be a valuable corporate asset. As per a West Monroe Partners study, 98% of HR leaders believe soft skills to be necessary for candidates when looking for a technology job. Moreover, 67% of these leaders reported having withheld a position from a candidate who failed to demonstrate such skills.

Despite this, many individuals fail to focus on their soft skills and, in doing so, seriously deprive themselves of one of the most significant things employers look for. A 2018 Bloomberg study revealed that over one-third of companies believed that the new hires lacked necessary soft skills!

Moreover, even companies themselves fail to develop soft skills as much attention as required. In the same study mentioned above, 40% of employers revealed that they did not provide their employees with training pertinent to soft-skills practice.

But wait, aren’t we getting a little ahead of ourselves? What exactly are soft skills, and what makes them so important?

As dramatic as it sounds, soft skills are what defines us as humans. Our creativity, interpersonal relationships, ability to solve problems, and work things out with empathy are soft skills that give us the upper hand over AI.

We use these skills daily, and since they are hard to define and quantify, machines can’t pick up on them. They are evergreen, which means they are bound to remain superior regardless of the workplace’s technological landscape. Remember: our soft skills are innate, and humans have most of them naturally.

Technically speaking, soft skills fall into three categories:

1) Communication skills

2) Creativity

3) Analytical skills

Now, coming back to the lack of soft skills in today’s workplace. Why is it problematic? Well, mainly because the implementation of soft skills in your work is the way to success. According to data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers in the United States, soft skills are significant to employers. The survey showed that 83% of respondents would look for problem-solving skills in new hires, 80% would look for communication skills, 73% would look for leadership, and 68% would look for a strong work ethic. All of these fall under the umbrella of soft skills, and hence we know that they are essential to employers and corporations in general.

In the age of AI, the role of soft skills is even more amplified. Employers increasingly require their employees to have both hard and soft skills training to eradicate any possible skills gap, but working on soft skills is even more important, as observed in the discussion above.

Although soft skills are still critical to employers, this is likely to become more prominent in upcoming years. What is the reason behind this? It’s because as automation increases and takes hold of almost all aspects of our life, and we realize that there are some things that even Ai can’t do — only humans can do that.

Increasingly, employers are realizing this fact and thereby giving more importance to soft skills! It would be useful to remember that soft skills are necessary for all industries, and developing them is a worthwhile investment that will help you in the future.

A Collaborative Solution

The entire discussion above serves as a reminder that although AI is one of the most integral elements of the workplace today, it wouldn’t do much to focus our resources in that direction entirely. If you neglect soft skills in the wake of the AI revolution, you are essentially depriving your organization of a future-proof workforce!

The right thing would be to have resources in place to nourish and develop the soft skills in your employees. It wouldn’t do much to just look for employees that show creativity or use problem-solving skills — you have to help them hone these skills.

What you need to understand is that your employees will end up being the backbone of your company. Because of this, you need to focus on giving them access to just the right tools and opportunities that will aid and accelerate their efficiency. These tools can be AI, but they should also be pertinent to the development of their soft skills — because contrary to what we have been taught, being human matters the most.

And voila, you’re good to go!

Originally published at lurnii on February 8, 2021.

Actionable insights that will transform how your organization identifies employee skills, expertise, and talent development opportunities.

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