HR pros need to build competencies that machines can't master
Many are struggling to keep up with all the claims and counter-claims about the impact of artificial intelligence on our daily lives. Commentators about the potential positives and negatives of AI trade punches in an almost never-ending cycle.
One thing that commentators and analysts universally agree is that AI will change the future of work, displacing some jobs while also creating many new jobs.
Against this background, many are looking to future-proof their careers in an AI world. The answer is found in building competencies in areas that machines will be unlikely to tackle effectively, such as complex problem-solving. Creativity will be a cornerstone of success.
Richard Baldwin is one of the world’s leading globalisation experts. He argues that the inhuman speed of the AI transformation threatens to overwhelm our capacity to adapt. He offers three-part advice in his book The Globotics Upheaval: Globalization, Robotics, and the Future of Work:
- Avoid competing with AI in the sense that you can’t compete in terms of what they do best – that is processing information at scale
- Build skills in things that only humans can do, in person
- Realise that humanity is a competitive edge, not a handicap
This advice is reinforced by Marty Neumeier, branding expert and author of Metaskills: Five Talents for the Robotic Age. He highlights five profoundly human abilities as the best safeguards against business or career obsolescence:
- Feeling: empathy and intuition
- Seeing: how the parts fit the whole picture (a.k.a. systems thinking)
- Dreaming: applied imagination, to think of something new
- Making: creativity, design, prototyping and testing
- Learning: learning how to learn
So how does this translate into identifying the skills that will make a person employable in the upcoming AI world?
So-called ‘soft skills’ would seem to be the most important foundation to build upon. These include things like the ability to communicate and work well with others, solve problems, and think outside of the box. A snapshot of such skills would include:
- Critical thinking. Questioning the status-quo, reviewing existing ways of doing things, checking facts and commonly held assumptions, and checking whether an AI is behaving reasonably.
- Complex problem-solving. The ability to see relationships between different issues and create solutions to problems that may be over the horizon. Creating insightful interpretations from data drawn from complex fields such as computer science, biology or engineering.
- People management and co-ordinating with peers. These are likely to be essential skills across countless industry sectors. Leadership, management skills, communication, and team collaboration, are human, rather than robotic attributes.
- Creativity. The ability to build something out of ideas will remain an essential human skill in tomorrow’s world. Humans can apply out-of-the-box thinking to solve problems when standard procedures fail.
- Negotiation and empathy. Negotiating with either individuals or organisations and delivering a win-win outcome will remain an indispensable skill. Employees want to see a friendly human face when an issue is emotional or confusing.
- Service orientation. Not to be overlooked. Offering value to business partners in the form of service or assistance and delivering solutions to the benefit of society will be a prized skill.
Most of the universities and private colleges in Australia are now offering short courses, online or on campus, to develop these critical skills. Courses include critical thinking and problem solving, negotiation and interpersonal skills, and effective communication.
We can’t predict what all the job roles will be in the 21st century, but we do know that human skills will be in demand. Now is the time to invest in developing these skills to future-proof your career and ensure you are well-positioned for the new and exciting opportunities that will emerge.
Colin Priest is vice president of AI strategy for DataRobot, an automated machine learning platform