Five ways to leverage your employees’ soft skills in the age of AI

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Written by Gori Yahaya, Founder & CEO - UpSkill Digital

Over the last two decades, we’ve seen unprecedented change in the way we operate at work. Rapid innovation in new technology, such as AI and robots, has completely changed the employment landscape.

It’s now everywhere we look, from self-checkout machines to self-driving vehicles; more and more jobs are becoming fully automated. Some of the greatest Hollywood movies predicted the rise of AI, but no-one expected it to affect our jobs this soon.

And the impact of AI on the workforce could get even worse in the future if it continues to evolve this rapidly. Research from McKinsey Global Institute in 2017 shows that up to 800 million global workers will lose their jobs by 2030 and be replaced by robotic automation.

From this, it is clear that a large number of jobs that will be affected by AI in the next few years. While the fear surrounding AI is understandable, there is one area where AI currently lacks the skills to disrupt. It’s the one thing that sets us apart from machines, it’s the one thing that they can’t do, and it’s what protects us from a dystopian future where everything is controlled by AI.

That “one thing” is, none other than, our ability to interact effectively with one another. These human traits are the so-called “soft skills” that we rely on to create a healthy work environment.

So, how can we, as humans, prevent AI from taking our jobs in the years to come? To stay relevant and competitive, employees will need to develop their soft skills to succeed in a future that’s driven by AI.

So, what makes are these soft skills that are so important in the digital age?

For those who are unaware, soft skills are innate qualities to your personal characteristics. Qualities like communication, leadership, problem-solving, critical thinking and empathy are all good examples of soft skills. Some of these skills may be innate, but that doesn’t mean we can’t improve on them. It takes a lot of time to hone and develop these skills, but they can be developed much further through training.

From being able to communicate effectively to solving difficult problems, soft skills can be difficult to assess, but they affect everything from productivity to collaboration.

With the rise of automation, organisations across the globe view soft skills as more important than hard skills. According to LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trend report, over 90% of talent professionals said that soft skills are more important than technical skills, and 89% said that bad hires typically lack the right soft skills.

No-one can deny that hard skills will always remain important to businesses, but they are not the only ingredients that workers need to thrive in today’s digital workspace. The truth is that employees need both (hard skills and soft skills) to excel, but more importantly, they need both sets of skills so that they can avoid being replaced by AI in the future.

Now that you know more about the importance of soft skills, or human skills, as they say, let’s explore how you can help your employees develop their soft skills.

Digital and soft skills audit

Starting with a skills audit is a great way to identify the skills gap within your organisation.

To implement a successful skills audit, you need to ask your employees to set their own goals. Are they having a tough time collaborating? Are they finding it difficult to organise their tasks? How would they like to improve their skills?

If you don’t determine what training is needed early-on, implementing an effective learning plan will be difficult to do.

Use an effective Learning Management System (LMS)

Finding the perfect LMS system for your team isn’t easy. But it is possible. It just requires time and research.

An LMS system enables you to track your employees’ participation and learning progress. LMS systems also give you the ability to track licenses and certifications.

TalentLMS is one of the most efficient LMS software to train your employees. The system is also fully customisable and offers analytics about all aspects of your eLearning environment.

Classroom training sessions

Classroom-based training is critical for upskilling your employees and helping them develop their existing soft skills. The group setting helps employees form strong relationships with one another, which is something that other forms of training, like eLearning courses, don’t provide.

Peer-to-peer interaction is essential in the workspace and allows participants to learn from one another. With in-person training, employees are more likely to feel appreciated for their work if they can communicate with others.

Of course, it can be expensive, and time-consuming, but offering your employees’ classroom training could help your business stay ahead of competitors. At the end of the day, it’s a win-win situation for both parties. Employees get to improve their soft skills, while organisations reap the rewards from their training.

Blended learning approach

With the advancement of digital technology, blended learning is another approach that is growing in popularity. Blended learning is not a new concept, however. It consists of a mixture of classroom learning and online training.

We all know that the main disadvantage of eLearning programmes is that there are no instructors. This could potentially result in low levels of learner engagement, affecting the overall quality of the training session. You can overcome this issue by combining both methods of training. In-person training sessions allow your staff to interact with the instructor, while an eLearning program allows you to learn at your own pace.

Recent research shows that the blended learning approach is one of the most effective learning models. A study conducted by the Center for Digital Education found that 73% of educators who use a blended learning model saw an increase in engagement. That percentage just reflects the benefits of the blended learning model and its impact on students, or in this case, employees.

Frequent training sessions

A single standalone session is unlikely to improve your employees’ skills to the level that you expect, which is why it’s so important to provide regular training sessions. If you’re going to invest in training sessions, you need to remember, learning a new skill can take time and patience to master.

The journey your employees take to acquire new skills requires your support, and it’s up to you to help them. Those that ‘get it right’ will help increase their company’s retention rate and improve the satisfaction levels of their employees.

Originally posted at UpSkill Digital.

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