In 1913, Henry Ford profoundly changed global business practices with the invention of the production line. The 1960’s saw similar seismic changes in business practices with the rise of computers. By the late 1990’s the introduction of the internet forever changed the world. Now we are entering the next stage in the global development of business practices, with the increasing integration of artificial intelligence (AI) in the workplace. With all change comes friction, and although this may be uncomfortable at times, those that adapt survive (and even can thrive), and those that don’t, will be left behind. For this new phase, professionals must adapt and equip themselves with skills that are irreplaceable by automation. While AI can perform numerous tasks efficiently, there is one skill that remains uniquely human and indispensable: effective communication.
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Many forward-thinking companies have already started taking steps to face this new era and future-proof their workforce. The emphasis on high-level technical knowledge (hard skills) is already slowly being replaced by growing numbers of AI tools. And although these skills will always have a place of some value, they will be significantly overshadowed by other considerations of what should be must-have attributes. The workplace of tomorrow will demand from its leadership and its employees the abilities that place them beyond the capabilities of AI, in other words, more innate human skills (soft skills). This will be the new battleground for organizations that will be trying to obtain a competitive edge over the competition, and where job security and career development will be defined. It is ironic that this inevitable rise of AI will now force us to strengthen our human bonds of communication and interaction.
The Power of Human Connection:
While AI can assist with data analysis and decision-making processes, it falls short in one critical area — building human connections. Effective communication skills, particularly public speaking, and presentation abilities, enable professionals to connect with others on a deeper level. In a business context, building rapport, inspiring trust, and influencing others are invaluable assets that set individuals apart from machines. On the most basic of levels, human beings (for the most part) are social creatures that need human-to-human interaction to feel alive and obtain a sense of belonging that is critical to our own self-worth. The lockdowns during the global pandemic emphasized this point more than anything. Therefore, no matter how effective and efficient AI will become, it will still require a human to decide and deliver the key messages to another human for there to be any significant relationship based upon trust and accountability. Therefore, amplifying these human-to-human attributes will be key in this new age.
Leadership in the Age of AI:
Leadership skills are paramount in an era where AI systems increasingly influence decision-making processes. However, leaders who excel in effective communication skills possess a unique advantage. By incorporating emotional intelligence (rather than artificial), they will be able to bring to life their visions, inspire their teams, and foster a collaborative environment that harnesses the capabilities of both humans and AI technologies in tandem. Ultimately, great leaders provide us with a sense of hope which is the key component of motivation, which in turn significantly affects the operations, productivity, and results within an organization.
Innovation and Creativity:
Innovation is the lifeblood of progress and growth. While AI can generate insights and data-driven suggestions, it is the power of human interaction (founded on the framework of an effective communication model) that sparks innovative ideas and drives creative problem-solving. Collaborative brainstorming sessions, diverse perspectives, and the exchange of ideas among individuals with different backgrounds and experiences lead to breakthrough innovations. By fostering an environment that embraces experimentation, risk-taking and continuous improvement, we can keep pushing forward and evolving not only our businesses but our society as well. As anyone who has been in business long enough knows, sometimes the logical “right” solutions are not always the best path to a successful outcome. Sometimes it’s our “gut” that knows best, something that is impossible to be communicated through AI.
Customer Relationships and Loyalty:
All businesses in all sectors have one thing they need in common: customers. In a digitally driven world, our relationships with our customers have become more crucial than ever. While AI can assist in customer service and data analysis, it is human connection that forges lasting relationships and builds customer loyalty. Personalized interactions, attentive listening, and understanding of customer needs are elements that only humans can truly provide. In fact, there is a growing trend of businesses that are successfully increasing their customer base, retention rates and up-selling revenues by scrapping the automated customer service lines and chatbot services with a more human touch. These strategies are working because there has been a realisation that for most of us, at some point, we have experienced the excruciating frustration of not being able to connect with an actual person to discuss our issues. This leads many business leaders to conclude that the higher the quality of communication skills the customer-facing workforce has, the easier it will be to increase sales, retain the market share and strengthen the reputation and loyalty of their customers.
The workplace of tomorrow:
As the workplace continues to evolve with the advent of AI technologies, upgrading our communication skills becomes paramount for professionals seeking job security and career advancement. These skills elevate our leadership capabilities, direct and shape our innovation capabilities, and strengthen our reputation with our customers. By focusing on our soft skills, we can position ourselves as indispensable assets to organizations.
However, I do have one correction to make, at the start of this blog post, I pointed out that all this will place demands on our working practices in “the workplace of tomorrow”. But this is not true, the fact is, it is already here. We can no longer wait for tomorrow to arrive and then change because it is already in set motion. If we want to future-proof our jobs and secure our value in this decade, we must adapt and upgrade our human interaction skills and communication competencies now before we get left behind.
At Business Learning Solutions, we understand the critical role that communication skills play in shaping successful careers in the age of AI. Our tailored executive coaching and professional development programs are designed to equip professionals with the communication prowess they need to survive and thrive. Contact us today to discover how we can help you unlock your full potential.