AI is poised to disrupt a wide variety of industries, ranging from finance to healthcare. And even high-demand technical skills may be replaced or reduced in demand by the rise of AI. Some skills — like programming with focus on machine learning — will obviously become more and more valuable. But the average employee isn’t a rock-star coder. Companies must help improve employee skills.
Here are 5 tips you can use to boost employee skills in an age of AI disruption.
1. Emphasise soft skills
Workers who only develop hard skills can be more easily replaced by artificial intelligence. And soft skills are more important than ever. 92% of talent professionals say that soft skills matter just as much, or even more, than hard skills.
AI isn’t able to replace the human touch, especially the empathy and creativity that workers with soft skills bring to the table. And qualities like leadership and collaboration are valuable in any position. Asking the right questions is always going to be a core component of designing technology. Soft skills are, for the foreseeable future, the skills that can’t be replaced by AI.
Even as automation disrupts the customer service industry — self-checkouts have by now become permanent fixtures in most big box stores, and may soon arrive in fast food chains around the country — it’s not clear that AI will devalue soft skills in the workplace.
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Google and Apple both have massive marketing and design departments that complement their STEM-focused engineers. When it comes to selling a product, and designing the user experience for that product, AI may help, but it won’t replace people.
Instead, employers should emphasise the development of soft skills and take advantage of employees with backgrounds in fields like history and philosophy. As more and more employees become tech-savvy, backgrounds that give employees perspective — historical, global or otherwise — will become increasingly valuable. A skilled workforce is in demand now across the country and will be in the future. When employees with strong soft skills come along, don’t squander their talents.
2. Build data literacy
There’s no good AI without good data.
Anyone who works with AI should be, in some capacity, a data scientist — great at cleaning data, finding patterns, and identifying which data sets would be useful for AI training. We know that AI is prone to bias if the data sets models draw from are also biased. Employees with strong data literacy can recognise these patterns of bias and provide solutions that result in better AI.
Even if an employee doesn’t work directly with AI, giving them the opportunity to build data literacy skills will help them identify possible problem areas.
3. Train fusion skills
Fusion skills are the intelligent combination of hard skills and soft skills. Employees with fusion skills are engineers, programmers and data scientists, but they’re also ethicists, designers and teachers. These employees have the skills to ground technology and automated processes in real-life situations by imagining how humans will interact with them.
Employees trained in fusion skills are trained in using technology like AI while also having a background and depth of knowledge in the area they’re studying.
These employees know how to answer a question with AI, but they also know just what question to ask, how their data sets may be limited and how to apply what they learn. Designers with a technical background and strong emotional intelligence — a “both, and” skill set — will always be needed to make sure that technology is built with people in mind.
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And even employees in non-technical roles can have their day-to-day workflow made more efficient with AI training. Some employees may be nervous about the idea. But employees can be trained to treat AI not as a possible replacement for their job, but instead as a tool they can use to become more efficient.
4. Invest in re-skilling
Some employers don’t consider soft skills something that is trained or learned on the job. They expect their employees to already be skilled in leadership and collaboration. Some even mistakenly assume those skills will never develop. As employees with strong hard skills transition into roles where AI has taken some of the pressure off of their technical abilities, they may need help developing the people-centric skills they need. It’s easier to improve your EQ — how emotionally intelligent you are — than your IQ. This makes soft skills training especially effective.
5. Give your employees room to grow
Take advantage of the downtime and increases in efficiency provided by AI to do more than just produce. Give employees time and incentives to improve their own skills. We live in an age of accessible information — this should mean that employees have the opportunity to upskill when they feel like their current skills aren’t quite up to the task.
Your employees know and are invested in their own situations. Give them the opportunity to learn the knowledge they need to be successful in an AI-dominated workplace.
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Hard and soft skills in the age of AI
There’s no telling how AI will affect most hard skill workers. But soft skills are increasingly in demand, and there’s evidence that workers with these skills won’t be hit as hard by AI.
In the future, as more and more processes become automated, customers will become especially sensitive to the human element of interactions and products. AI may make processes more efficient, but it can’t replace the empathy and creativity that workers with strong soft skills bring to the table.