10 Jul

Why Soft Skills Remain Essential in the Age of AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) stands at the forefront of technological advancement today, revolutionising industries and reshaping the future. However, alongside its transformative power arise concerns about job displacement and unemployment, as studies suggest that AI could automate up to two-thirds of existing jobs and potentially replace the workers. But while AI may supplant humans in certain tasks, it remains critical for you to develop some skillsets, such as soft skills, in order to achieve professional success.

The Importance of Soft Skills in the Workplace

Soft skills refer to essential attributes that enable individuals to interact effectively and harmoniously with others, such as adaptability, communication and problem-solving skills. Employers value soft skills because they are crucial for building strong teams, resolving conflicts and fostering a positive work environment. Swing Goh, a trainer in soft skills at James Cook Institute, said, “While AI-driven chatbots can perform many tasks efficiently, it lacks the emotional intelligence and empathy that humans possess. Soft skills, such as communication, empathy and interpersonal skills, are crucial for effective human interaction, whether it’s with clients, colleagues or stakeholders.”

Jansen Chua, another soft skills trainer at the school, added, “In remote work environments where people may sometimes feel isolated and disconnected, soft skills are even more critical because of the reliance on digital communication. Soft skills help remote workers effectively communicate, collaborate and manage relationships with their colleagues across different time zones and cultural backgrounds.”

The Role of AI in the Workplace

The global AI market size was worth an estimated USD208 billion in 2023, and it is predicted to reach nearly USD2 trillion by 2030. As AI continues to evolve, its impact on different industries becomes increasingly intense, transforming the way tasks are performed and decisions are made. For example, in healthcare, AI improves diagnostics through analysing medical images, detecting abnormalities accurately, identifying patterns in patient data and predicting the most effective treatments for patients, as well as helping in drug discovery, thus leading to improved outcomes and a more efficient healthcare system.

Although AI is expected to create new job roles as organisations seek to leverage AI technologies to drive business growth and address societal challenges, it has the potential to impact job roles across various industries by automating routine tasks, augmenting human capabilities and creating new opportunities for innovation. However, only jobs that involve repetitive, rule-based tasks are most susceptible to becoming automated with AI. Jobs that require soft skills, such as creativity, empathy and complex problem-solving skills, are less likely to be fully replaced by AI. For instance, even though AI chatbots are now used more often to help answer simple and routine customer service questions quickly, they may be unable to handle complex or emotionally charged interactions that require empathy and understanding, in which humans can excel.

Relationship Between Soft Skills and AI

How AI Can Enhance Soft Skills

Although AI is mainly associated with technical capabilities, it can also improve certain aspects of soft skills. Jansen said, “AI can enhance soft skills by helping to automate repetitive tasks, providing data-driven insights for decision-making, and enabling personalised communication and learning experiences. For example, AI-powered tools can analyse communication patterns to provide feedback on how human workers can improve interpersonal skills. Another example is how AI algorithms can analyse large amounts of data to identify patterns and help workers make informed decisions.”

How Soft Skills Can Complement AI

Soft skills can also complement AI in some instances. For example, while AI can improve decision making and problem solving by analysing data, identifying patterns and generating insights that people may overlook, it lacks the ability to understand the nuances of human behaviour, emotions and ethical considerations to interpret the results and apply them in practical, real-world situations.

Jansen explained, ”Soft skills can complement AI in decision making and problem solving by providing the human touch and context that AI may lack. Soft skills like critical thinking, creativity and empathy can help humans interpret AI-generated insights and make informed decisions. Such soft skills also facilitate ethical considerations and emotions that AI may struggle with.”

The integration of AI and soft skills is most beneficial in areas where human-machine collaborations can lead to more effective results. For example, in a kitchen, AI can manage mundane tasks such as preparing ingredients or managing an inventory, while humans can focus on creating the dishes with creativity and serving customers with a personal touch. Just like how a chef’s judgement is crucial in creating a delicious meal, human judgement adds that special flavour to tasks that require emotional intelligence and creativity in collaboration with AI.

Navigating the Future Job Market with Soft Skills

As the job market evolves, soft skills like critical thinking, ability to interact with others, and managing oneself effectively to stay relevant in the industry are becoming increasingly important alongside technical expertise.  With automation on the rise, these uniquely human skills are in high demand for driving innovation, collaboration and resilience in the workplace. In the future, individuals with strong soft skills will have a competitive edge, as they can effectively navigate changing work environments and build meaningful relationships. This highlights the importance of investing in the development of soft skills to succeed in a dynamic and interconnected world.

According to Skillsfuture Singapore, companies prioritise certain soft skills such as communication, collaboration, problem-solving, creative thinking and self-management.

If you’re looking to develop these skills further, you may wish to consider taking any of these courses that we offer: Business Writing, Telephone Etiquette, Adapting to Change, Communication Skills, Personal Effectiveness, Problem Solving, Leadership & People Management, Service Excellence, and Teamwork. You can learn more here.

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