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To make AI in the workplace succeed, tap into these human skills

Par Merat Cisco U.
Par Merat
As VP of Learning and Certifications at Cisco U., Par Merat oversees Cisco U.’s mission to make it easy for every person, from any background, to be part of the future of work–by empowering them to navigate their learning environment, improve their skills and advance their careers in a world that’s increasingly driven by digitization, automation and data science.

For the first time in a while, we are witnessing a workplace revolution. The pace of innovation and digitization have skyrocketed over the past two years and now the speed and scale of innovation require more agility, adaptation and real-time readiness at every career stage.

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However, as we begin to imagine what the future of work holds, many industries have had to face layoffs stemming from economic concerns. This has made the idea of the future of work appear bleak to many, especially as digital transformation evolves with artificial intelligence and machine learning entering the workplace. In fact, many employees are now wondering if AI-related layoffs will be next as businesses seek to streamline their operations.

Although emerging technology like AI has always been a welcomed asset to many workplaces, it cannot fully replace a human workforce. With every industrial revolution, there has been a tremendous shift in the way we work and that is exactly what we are seeing now.

Despite these being uncertain times, employees and employers need to use this opportunity to think differently and reimagine development and educational initiatives to focus on honing the skills that machines cannot do. Through upskilling and a focus on human skills, we can all find a way to thrive alongside AI in the future of work.

See also: Fourth Industrial Revolution brings challenge and opportunity

The digital transformation of the workplace

AI in the workplaceChatbots and AI tools like ChatGPT have been trending topics in the news since the latter launched last year, sparking the many concerns workers are now having. With the recent news of Google launching its ChatGPT competitor, Bard, and with more competitors certainly on the way, the growing prevalence of AI is clear. These platforms appeal to many as they can quickly develop quality content, making the platform suitable for a variety of tasks especially in the workplace. However, these new tools are part of a larger shift—a digital transformation of the workplace, where technology is being leveraged to take over mundane human tasks in an effort to increase the efficiency of the workforce.

Some skills can’t be replaced by AI

While AI tools have started to replace basic tasks and take on content development, there are certain things they cannot replace, specifically human skills. These are the attributes that make us innately human, allow us to engage with others and navigate situations.

Unlike technical skills, which are often job-specific, human skills are easily transferable to other jobs. However, they are much more subjective and require human intelligence and emotions—making them non-transferable to bots and machines. The importance of human skills like listening and communication can often be overlooked but are as important as technical expertise.

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And these non-technical skills cannot be replicated or replaced by AI tools. While AI can communicate and listen, it lacks the skill set to replicate and effectively understand the eccentricities or nuances a conversation may have. The human language is complex with tone, word choice and setting all playing a role in how conversation is perceived.

See also: Loving ChatGPT for HR? Early adopters should move with caution

Industrial revolution is more than technical

As we witness the technical aspects of the industrial revolution, there’s another piece rooted in diversity, equity and inclusion. Everyone wants to feel a part of something, especially at their workplace. And while there has been a growing effort to develop DEI initiatives, more can be done, especially as AI becomes more prominent. Without human skills like creativity and empathy, DEI initiatives including unbiased hiring practices, empathetic listening, unconscious bias training and pay equity can’t be sustainable.

We must center this work around fostering psychological safety and belonging. Belonging is the foundation of being a good ally to marginalized people, and it’s the strongest driver of employee engagement. When leaders model inclusive behaviors, employees report more positive experiences of belonging. DEI has and will continue to transform the workplace and is another important component of this revolution.

Upskilling is key in the future of work

When employers meet challenges with emotional intelligence, it’s very possible to create equal opportunities, and technology can be a great enabler in that pursuit. In particular, there needs to be an emphasis on upskilling, especially for individual employees. Through continuous upskilling, organizations can keep up with the pace of innovation.

Giving back to employees should be part of every business strategy and one of the best ways to do that, which is mutually beneficial, is through investing in training programs that allow employees to upskill, reskill and continue to learn. Employees have an opportunity to develop and grow their careers in house, while companies benefit from the expanded skill sets and knowledge of their workforce.

Now more than ever, adaptability is a critical but overlooked attribute, and it can be a key byproduct of upskilling. The ability to wear multiple hats makes employees so much more valuable to any team and that can come from having an expanded skill set. A person who has had a diverse set of working experiences can work more collaboratively with others because they have a greater understanding of other roles beyond their own and can adapt to the needs of a team more easily. And as the impact of AI in the workplace continues to unfold, through upskilling, individuals can find new opportunities alongside AI.

Adapt and overcome with AI in the workplace

As the future of work inevitably changes, we must adapt to the times. When a disruptive force like AI enters a space, it’s time to reimagine work, and that is exactly what organizations need to do as they look at their approaches to hiring, training and development. As AI continues to transform work across industries, the employers that take the time to teach their workforces new skills, with a focus on innately human skills, will be better equipped to navigate an ever-changing world of work.