Innovation changes work. AI, machine learning, robots – they’re here. Yes, technology eliminates jobs or aspects of roles. But it creates new work too. While industries, processes, and entire career paths will continue to be disrupted at greater speed, one thing will remain the same – the need for skills that only a human being can deliver. One could argue that as machines and technology devalue specific technical skills, the value of uniquely human skills increases.
So if you’re looking to play the career-long game, consider developing your soft skill set and hiring managers agree. When we polled those in the position to hire a few years back, the overwhelming majority saw soft skills as increasingly important in a technology-driven workplace. They also admitted that they would be more likely to hire someone with soft skills over functional skills. Functional skills can be taught. Soft skills rely on deft human interaction and the human touch – these are native seeds to be nurtured if one is to survive the future of work. Here are just three sought-after soft skills unlikely to be replaced by even the most affable cyborg.
In fast-moving, disruptive environments, social capital skills are more critical than ever. Employees with the ability to build consensus, negotiate and unify cross-functional teams to navigate challenges are in high-demand. Collaboration relies on a collection of soft skills including empathy, intuition, persuasion, and leadership. While technical and job function experience may open the first employment opportunity door at a company, finely-tuned people skills are what will keep new doors opening in the career corridor.
Creativity is perhaps the antithesis of machine thinking. Creativity flows from the flexibility of thought, the openness to new ideas and approaches, the pursuit of innovation, the courage to push boundaries, and the pursuit of solutions outside the realm of current possibility. Human creativity draws on and connects the human condition, the human experience, and human emotion – something that machines do not possess.
While new technology platforms and tools can process tons of data and spit out information and predictive analytics, they can’t replicate human intuition and gut instinct. Critical thinkers can consider information, apply it, continually analyze results through a social prism, and pivot as needed to meet the future as it comes. Critical thinkers persistently contemplate why things are done the way they are, what the impact of those actions may be, anticipate change, and create and adjust strategies to improve outcomes. Anyone who can demonstrate their talent for channeling experience, harnessing new data and embracing paradigm shifts for strategic problem-solving will always be a hot commodity. Yes, the pressure to stay relevant and employable in the face of relentless, rapid change can be overwhelming. But sleep easy in this truth: artificial intelligence will never be a substitute for emotional intelligence. Soft skills are the hard currency of the future. Start banking on it.