As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to advance and reshape various industries, it is crucial to recognise the profound impact it has on the importance of soft skills in the modern workplace. While AI technology automates routine tasks and enhances productivity, the human element becomes increasingly valuable.
Consider a situation where a customer calls to express dissatisfaction with a delay in the delivery of a product they had ordered for their child’s birthday. Due to this delay, the product will not arrive in time for the special occasion. While a chatbot may offer limited assistance and provide basic information, it is the customer service representative’s soft skills that truly shine in this situation.
The customer service representative engages with empathy, understanding the customer’s urgency and disappointment. They genuinely apologise for the inconvenience caused by the delay and actively listen to the customer’s concerns. By employing effective communication skills, they assure the customer that their feedback is valued and that they will do their best to resolve the issue promptly.
In this scenario, the soft skills demonstrated by the customer service representative play a pivotal role in enhancing the overall customer experience. While AI technology can provide essential information, it is the representative’s ability to empathise, actively listen, and communicate effectively that builds trust and fosters customer loyalty. By leveraging their soft skills, the representative has the power to transform what could have been a negative experience into a positive one, leaving the customer satisfied and more inclined to maintain a long-term relationship with the company.
By recognising the unique needs and emotions of customers, the customer service representative demonstrates the importance of soft skills in establishing strong customer relations.
Chandrasekhar Mukherjee, CHRO, Bhilosa Industries, shares that in this digital environment, where much of our communication occurs online, the need for soft skills becomes paramount. It is through soft skills that managers, employees, and individuals can establish connections and foster relationships. For instance, the feeling of receiving a heartfelt note from a loved one holds more significance than a simple text message or email. Similarly, in professional settings, maintaining touch and feel through effective communication is crucial. The absence of physical proximity in online interactions makes it challenging to identify employees’ well-being and address issues that may arise.
“AI technology alone cannot provide insights into an individual’s mental health or behavioural patterns. Recognising signs of dissatisfaction, stress, or personal problems among employees requires the human touch”
Chandrasekhar Mukherjee, CHRO, Bhilosa Industries
The integration of AI technology has revolutionised the workplace by automating repetitive tasks, analysing vast amounts of data, and providing insights for decision-making. This automation has allowed employees to focus on more complex and creative endeavours. Consequently, the demand for soft skills-intangible attributes that emphasise human interaction and emotional intelligence-has escalated.
While AI technology is adept at processing and analysing data, it often lacks the nuanced understanding and emotional intelligence that humans possess. This necessitates a collaborative relationship between humans and AI, where soft skills play a vital role. Soft skills allow individuals to effectively communicate, collaborate, and lead in an environment where AI is a complementary tool rather than a replacement.
“AI technology alone cannot provide insights into an individual’s mental health or behavioural patterns. Recognising signs of dissatisfaction, stress, or personal problems among employees requires the human touch,” says Mukherjee.
He says soft skills play a pivotal role in observing non-verbal cues, such as body language or facial expressions, that may indicate underlying concerns that employees may not express explicitly. These observations enable managers to proactively address potential issues and provide the necessary support.
Critical soft skills in the age of AI:
The sustenance of soft skills in the age of AI is of extreme importance. While some may hold the view that AI could potentially replace human beings entirely, Ramesh Shankar S, chief joy officer, Hrishti.com, believes that AI should be seen as an enabler rather than a complete substitute. There are certain soft skills that AI cannot replicate, and sustaining these skills becomes crucial.
Decision-making: According to Shankar, one of the key soft skills that should be sustained is the ability to make judgements and decisions based on contextual understanding.
“AI may provide data and insights, but it lacks the human touch required to assess complex situations and apply emotional intelligence,” says Shankar.
“AI may provide data and insights, but it lacks the human touch required to assess complex situations and apply emotional intelligence”
Ramesh Shankar S, chief joy officer, Hrishti.com
Emotional Intelligence: Emotional intelligence encompasses the ability to recognise and manage one’s emotions and understand the emotions of others. It enables individuals to build rapport, empathise, and make informed decisions, which are crucial when collaborating with AI systems and addressing complex workplace challenges.
Creativity and innovation: AI excels at data analysis and pattern recognition, but it often lacks the ability to think creatively and generate novel ideas. Individuals who possess creative thinking skills can leverage AI insights and use them as a springboard to develop innovative solutions, thereby maximising the potential of both human and machine intelligence.
Adaptability: The rapid evolution of AI technology demands a workforce that is adaptable and open to continuous learning. Soft skills such as flexibility, resilience, and a growth mindset enable individuals to embrace change, acquire new skills, and navigate the evolving AI landscape with confidence.
Problem-Solving: AI systems provide data-driven insights, but it is the responsibility of humans to interpret and apply these insights effectively. Soft skills such as critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and problem-solving are essential for identifying complex challenges, evaluating multiple perspectives, and making informed decisions that balance AI capabilities with human judgement.
Communication and collaboration: Effective communication and collaboration skills are paramount in a workplace that relies on AI. The ability to articulate ideas, actively listen, and collaborate with diverse teams ensures seamless integration of AI technology into various processes. Clear and concise communication also helps to bridge the gap between technical AI concepts and non-technical stakeholders.
“By nurturing these soft skills alongside AI advancements, organisations can create a harmonious environment where humans and technology work together, driving innovation, productivity, and overall success”
Mukul Harish Chopra, CHRO, ConveGenius
Mukul Harish Chopra, CHRO, ConveGenius, also agrees and says valuing human connection, fostering continuous learning and adaptability, promoting two-way communication and engagement, prioritising employee connectivity and well-being, and empowering employees are key aspects that contribute to a successful workplace.
He suggests that by nurturing these soft skills alongside AI advancements, organisations can create a harmonious environment where humans and technology work together, driving innovation, productivity, and overall success.
Shankar explains, “While AI can handle routine and repetitive tasks efficiently, soft skills such as empathy, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence cannot be replaced. These skills enable individuals to connect with others on a deeper level, understand their emotions and needs, and make informed decisions based on human judgement. Soft skills, like opening a door for someone or showing genuine care and concern, require a level of understanding and emotional response that AI lacks.”
As AI technology continues to advance and permeate various aspects of the workplace, the importance of soft skills becomes increasingly evident. While AI brings automation and efficiency, it is the distinct capabilities of humans’ emotional intelligence, creativity, adaptability, critical thinking, and communication, that drive innovation and enable meaningful collaboration with AI systems.