Why human skills are critical in the era of AI

Active listening, empathy, decision-making – all of these are skills can't be replicated by AI

Why human skills are critical in the era of AI

This article was produced in partnership with LHH

LHH advises clients on how to succeed in the evolving world of work. Through their leading career transition, career development, leadership development and assessment solutions they help organisations increase talent retention and capability and help individuals build better, brighter futures. LHH is a part of the Adecco Group, the world’s leading talent advisory and solutions company.

AI is increasingly making its way into the toolkit of HR departments across the world. According to the latest Global Workforce of the Future research done by LHH’s parent company, The Adecco Group, Australian employees are largely seeing this as advantageous  – however in this environment, the need to develop strong human skills has never been more critical.

The 2024 Global Workforce of the Future research surveyed 30,000 workers across 23 countries, 2000 of whom were based in Australia. The results showed that employees are feeling a lot more positive about a digital future this year compared to 2023, with 81% of Australian workers feeling that digitisation will have a positive impact on their job.

17% were more pessimistic, and were primarily worried about losing their jobs and not understanding what kinds of skills they’d require in the future. The knock-on effect for social interaction was also a concern. Still, LHH Solutions Director, Leadership Development, ANZ, Nithya Ramaswamy notes that the positive figure for Australia is much higher than the global average of 65%.

"That shows that we are receptive to the benefits of a digital future and taking things in our stride” Ramaswamy tells HRD.

“It’s worth noting that most Australian employees (56%) expect their organisation to help them make sense of the changing nature of work, and to help them keep their skills relevant. The global average is 42%, so once again Australia is coming out ahead.”

Navigating uncertainty requires uniquely human skills

While employees are starting to embrace the potential of AI, there is still an undercurrent of anxiety and uncertainty. Ramaswamy points to the BANI framework (Brittle, Anxious, Nonlinear and Incomprehensible) for helping us understand the complexities that we currently face as part of the current landscape of digital-driven change, which to many goes against the grain of being human.

Brittle refers to our environment falling under stress, and navigating AI requires experimentation, testing and learning. Anxiousness refers to the fear of stepping into the unknown, feeling a lack of control, and having a sense of uneasiness about the future. Nonlinear means a lack of predictability, and integrating AI involves a lot of detours, dead ends and unexpected outcomes, and Incomprehensible means we don’t know what we don’t know. AI is still evolving and navigating it, along with other existing complexities, brings us into a world of unknowns.

All of this means that the importance of human skills – active listening, communicating, leaning into the perspectives of others and adopting a growth mindset – has never been greater.

The global  research identified eight top skills that organisations should focus on: trust, empathy, being an advocate and career champion, prioritising mental health, reliability, inclusivity, future focus and ethical decision making.

“Factors like empathy highly correlate with engagement and performance. For example, we know that highly engaged teams show performance improvement of around 27%,” Ramaswamy says.

“Leaders need to be really present for their people, advocate for them and have meaningful conversations around their careers. In this world of BANI, it’s also important for employees to have a sense of consistency, trust and reliability. Employees need to have a safe space to have meaningful conversations with their leaders on what lies ahead, what the market trends are, where the organisation is going and what skills are going to be needed.”

Letting humans do what they do best

Ramaswamy notes that organisations who have already been successful in their AI adoption journey have been very intentional about how they implement it.

By integrating AI to become the company’s administrative expert, HR leaders can free up time, create efficiencies and focus on building quality relationships with their people. AI can be leveraged for tasks like generating documents and job descriptions or taking minutes in meetings. It can also be used to gather insight for the purpose of summarising research, and to  capture sentiment analysis and trends from employee engagement surveys and performance reviews.

This allows HR leaders to step more into the role of an employee champion or strategic partner, rather than being an admin expert.

For companies at the beginning of their AI journey, Ramaswamy says the key goal should be to tap on AI to augment roles. With the administrative tasks alleviated or simplified, she says strengthening leaders’ human skills should be the top priority.

“Agile decision making is seen as the biggest area for development in leaders of organisations – and that’s not just about making decisions at speed, it’s also about being able to slow down to speed up,” she explains. “That means slowing down and reflecting, listening to input and acting with humility and curiosity. That’s an area we definitely need to pay attention to.”

“Finally, embed a values-based leadership approach,” Ramaswamy concludes.

“We’re in the early stages of AI adoption and experimentation, and responsible AI use requires leaders to lead with values. Remember what your values are as a company, address the ethical implications and prioritise the wellbeing of your people.”

Nithya Ramaswamy is Solutions Director within the LHH Leadership Development practice, for Australia and New Zealand. Nithya brings over twenty years of experience in providing insights, consultancy, client engagement, leadership development design and delivery to leaders across a range of client organisations globally. Having led complex projects that span multiple levels of leadership and across various markets and functional areas, Nithya has a proven track record in partnering with stakeholders to co-create learning architectures and bring to life robust leadership development experiences. 

Having a career background as both industry leader and consultant, Nithya is a credible and commercial learning professional who brings insightful, practical and innovative approaches in her work. Nithya has diverse global and industry experience spanning banking and financial services, insurance, infrastructure, agribusiness, professional services, telecommunications, public sector, education, and pharmaceuticals. 

Recent articles & video

2 in 3 Australians OK with date change for Australia Day

Former security services firm fined for failing to act on Compliance Notice

Independent contractor or not: Worker asserts oral contract

Worker hired through labour hire company challenges employment status

Most Read Articles

1 in 8 new hires leaving during probation: report

FWC finds early notice of end to fixed-term contract amounts to dismissal

Spotless entities plead guilty to long service leave underpayments