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Prepare your staff for the AI revolution by enhancing these 4 skills

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In the Industrial Revolution 4.0, it is no longer about if companies should integrate artificial intelligence (AI) into their organisation, but about when and how.

While it is natural to worry about AI replacing humans, thankfully, a recent whitepaper by Live with AI noted that jobs brought by the AI revolution won’t be only reserved to computer specialists, enhanced human roles will emerge as well.

The whitepaper noted that this is due to AI disrupting jobs task by task and not by entire job roles – something HR leaders can leverage on to disrupt disruption. Think about using tasks to better track technology impact, chart clearer pathways between jobs, and improve work prospects for people.

With human roles still being very relevant in the age of AI and automation, it is important to take into account the “human cause” in an automation journey, augmenting a task that satisfies the worker, not replacing it. This effectively places humans at the heart of the transformation process.

Focus on enhancing the innately human skills

While humans it has been established that humans will still be very relevant, that doesn’t deny the fact that a certain level of adaptation and re-skilling is needed for today’s employees to effectively work with AI.

According to the Live with AI whitepaper, skills that should be focused on are these four innately human skills – i.e. critical thinking, creativity, emotional intelligence and empathy, as well as persuasion and negotiation.

#1 Critical thinking

Critical thinking is the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment. It is about being an active learner, rather than a passive recipient of information.

As procedural tasks become more and more automated, it is crucial for employees to apply critical thinking to tasks and evaluate a situation using logical thought, rather than merely following well-defined procedures.

Improve your employees’ critical thinking skills by having them follow these steps from the TED-Ed lesson created by Samantha Agoos:

  • Recall a decision you made in the past 24 hours.
  • Recall something you were told or learned in the past 24 hours (it can be from a conversation, book, or digital media).
  • Use a pen and paper to ask yourself these questions: Who said it? What did they say? Where did they say it? When did they say it? Why did they say it? How did they say it?

#2 Creativity

Defined as “the use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness”, human creativity also extends to creative problem-solving.

With AIs increasingly optimising production lines and mass-producing standardised products, there will still be a market for customised individual products built by artisans. Computers (including AI systems) only know how to solve problems that are well-defined and follow known rules. Whereas humans can apply out-of-the-box thinking to solve problems and generate new and practical ideas.

Hence, in line with the changing consumer needs, businesses will need humans to design and invent the next generation of products and services that meet that demand.

Apart from sending employees to creative problem-solving courses, here’s a seven-step process for creative problem solving you can get employees to practise:

  • Clarify and identify the problem
  • Research the problem
  • Formulate creative challenges
  • Generate ideas
  • Combine and evaluate the ideas
  • Draw up an action plan
  • Do it! (implement the ideas)

#3 Emotional intelligence and empathy

While there is nothing new about businesses using automation instead of humans for customer service, humans are “inherently social creatures who get emotional value from seeing and interacting with one another.” Hence, the importance of emotional intelligence and empathy.

Humans prefer having people help solve our problems; less work for employees often means more work for customers. While automation can be used for transactional interactions and to augment human customer service, businesses will need to hire humans with high emotional quotient (EQ) for customer service because humans can be emotional whereas technology cannot.

One way to improve your employees’ emotional intelligence is through mindfulness meditation.

#4 Persuasion and negotiation

While AIs and computers can offer a great experience for online shopping for commodity purchases, the same doesn’t apply for purchases that are more personal and less transactional.

Persuasion and negotiation skills are closely related to emotional intelligence skills. Humans have evolved ways of deciding whether to trust another human. First impressions of trust happen as quickly as 39 milliseconds. However, this does not apply to human/computer interactions since there hasn’t been enough time for computers or humans to evolve such trust mechanisms.

For an organisation to be successful, it needs staff who are persuasive and can negotiate win-win solutions, whether that be between internal stakeholders or with external suppliers or customers.

The good news is persuasion and negotiation skills can be learned and there are many universities offering degrees in psychology and marketing that deeply cover the tools required. Alternatively, many online courses on influencing people are also available.

Improving staff wellbeing in the age of AI

Among others, the whitepaper also touched on how employee wellbeing at work can be improved in the age of AI.

With AI being able to replace the repetitive and mundane tasks, freeing up workers to do more creative and meaningful tasks; the age of AI can provide a golden opportunity to increase a worker’s engagement, job satisfaction, motivation, and reduce burnout.

This can bring about reduced attrition rates, improved performance and productivity, as well as a better reputation for the company.

Management has a key role to play in the improvement of staff well-being in the age of AI. Here are five practical tips to do so:

#1 Identify and rectify workers’ pain points
Focus on addressing repetitive and manual tasks using AI, particularly those tasks which are time consuming and can cause burnout.

#2 Adopt a bottom-up approach by empowering workers
Give your staff a voice and choice in identifying the tasks they wish to do.

#3 Moderate the frequency and intensity of empathy tasks
As lower-order repetitive and manual tasks, workers can transition to doing more empathy tasks which are perceived to be “AI-resistant” since it is difficult for technology to replace the human touch. However, excessive frequency and intensity of empathy tasks can be harmful for the worker, draining them emotionally and affecting their mental health.

#4 Help workers to effectively multitask
As AI systems replace repetitive and manual tasks, workers can transition to more advanced tasks. However, if not handled properly, the worker can become overloaded, leading to burnout. Counter this by having policies which allow workers to have sufficient time to focus and prioritise on a singular task when needed, and adequately pacing out their tasks.

#5 Define transparency and fairness in the algorithms that staff work with
Algorithms in the AI systems that employees work with can profoundly impact how workers carry out tasks and may unintentionally cause discrimination. Hence, it is crucial to ensure the use of such algorithms, the decision-making process in deriving the algorithms, and the impact on workers’ tasks are discussed with all stakeholders to ensure transparency and fairness at all levels.

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HR Masterclass Series: High-level HR strategy training workshops
with topics ranging from Analytics, to HR Business Partnering, Coaching, Leadership, Agile Talent and more.
Review the 2019 masterclasses here »

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