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Skills training in a post-AI work environment

As the rise of artificial intelligence transforms our workplace structures and processes, the skills our people will need are also changing. 

14th Oct 2019
Founder Career Compass Club
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A whopping 120 million people will need retraining in the next three years, but where should companies start?

Whether you call it artificial intelligence, machine learning or automation, new media articles appear on the subject daily to spread fear about workers losing jobs as ‘robots take over’.

There’s no doubt that the world of work is changing fast, but what it really indicates is our need to adapt to yet another industrial revolution — the fourth one.

In a hyper-technical world, having a high EQ will be more important than ever.

A new study published recently by IBM claims more AI in the workplace means that 120 million workers throughout the world will need to be retrained in the next three years.

If this is the case, then the upskilling of workers needs to start today, as it’s a tedious process to teach people the skills they will need before 2022.

At the same time, the study claims that workers today need more training than ever to learn a new skill: 36 days compared to three days in 2014.

Faced with this challenge, how do companies that are strapped for time go about upskilling their workforce?

In my view, there are three areas that are most pressing for employees to focus on. Together, these three focus areas will equip companies to being able to handle more AI in the world of work.

Growth mindset and continuous learning  

With the rise of AI and automation, the workplace of the future will need humans to work together to create an empathetic culture that sees employees being committed to continuous learning and willing to adapt to change.

An earlier report by McKinsey Global Institute on AI’s relationship with the future of work said that while the demand for technological skills such as programming grows rapidly, social, emotional, and higher cognitive skills will be just as important.

Employees who perform at their peak have a growth mindset, which is also the fuel workers need to take on the challenging times. What makes these types of employees stand out is their view that talent and ability aren’t fixed, but rather are part of a continuous learning curve.

It’s the perfect mindset to have for the current climate of change we are in and the good news is that people can be trained to cultivate a growth mindset.

This means encouraging your workforce to enter uncharted territories by giving them the freedom to experiment without the fear of being heavily penalised for failures and mistakes.  

For years, organisations like Microsoft have invested copiously in ensuring its leaders have a growth, rather than fixed, mindset.

With AI becoming a part of our everyday working lives, however, we need to encourage every employee to follow suit rather than just leaders at the top.

Emotional intelligence in the workplace

In a hyper-technical world, having a high EQ will be more important than ever.

In his book Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kaheman describes two ways in which humans think: either fast and intuitive or slow, deliberate and logical.

The first is more commonplace, but it’s worth learning to interrupt this automatic way of thinking to slow down and avoid making decisions that are based on assumptions or biases.

When it comes to automation, change is inevitable. There will be jobs that disappear and in their place there will be new jobs that we have not imagined yet.

As part of our psychological make-up, emotional intelligence is what makes us who we are along with our IQ and personality.

While the latter two don’t tend to change much throughout our adult lives, emotional intelligence is an area of our psyche that we can control.

Workforces with high levels of EQ are those that have had training on things like self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship development.

Resilience to cope with changes

Resilient teams are able to cope with challenges and adapt to change more efficiently, so it always surprises me that resilience is not higher on the list for organisations.

When it is on the list, it’s often miscategorised as an employee’s ability to plod along for maximum productivity.

In reality, resilience could not be further removed from this ‘getting on with things’ mentality.

With performative workaholism and burnout on the rise, what we need is more teams that understand when they need to take a break for their own wellbeing.

Real resilience and grit is brought to life by an employee who has taken time to focus on rest and recovery.

Employers should therefore be defining set working hours and make sure their workforce switches off after work.  

When it comes to automation, change is inevitable. There will be jobs that disappear and in their place there will be new jobs that we have not imagined yet.

While it’s too early to make any huge workforce changes because of AI, organisations can start urging their employees to remain flexible.

This can be achieved with training programmes that encompass emotional intelligence, growth mindsets and resilience.

Interested in this topic? Read Why emotional intelligence is essential in the age of artificial intelligence.

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