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The Future of Skills: Turning Humans and Machines into Collaborative Colleagues

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The Future of Skills: Turning Humans and Machines into Collaborative Colleagues

The “skills landscape” has never been as complex and essential as it is today. As AI and automation continue to take...

5 Minutes Read

The “skills landscape” has never been as complex and essential as it is today. As AI and automation continue to take over routine, repetitive, and low-end tasks, it will also begin to permeate highly skilled white-collar work, forcing us to rethink the skills we’ll require for future employment. As a result, companies and higher education institutions will need to revamp their training programs to prepare employees and students for both current and future jobs. Whether these changes proceed rapidly or at a moderate pace, many individuals will need to adapt to changing work tasks or switch to new occupations entirely. With this in mind, we will need to consider which skills will be essential for surviving and thriving in a world where machines will do almost everything. Listed below are my takes on the three skill types that will gain significant importance in the future:

  • Skills that make humans more human. As the future of work unfolds, what makes us human will also make us employable. Companies are increasingly recognizing job applicants who demonstrate skills such as flexibility, self-motivation, empathy, resilience, creativity, and communication, as they know “humanness” will become a competitive advantage when working with intelligent systems. In fact, even big data and data science jobs are more likely than other career paths to require creativity, teamwork, research, and writing skills. However, an even bigger challenge occurs when defining, recognizing, and measuring human skills. My earlier article on The Challenge of Teaching Humans to Be More Human provides guidance on how to handle this issue.
  • Robotics/AI skills for work with intelligent systems. In the future, workers will need to think in terms of the systems, tools, and processes required to best make use of AI-driven insights and capabilities. However, not every individual will need to become a machine language expert. Consequently, we believe that two types of AI skills will emerge in the future: skills to build machines and skills to collaborate with them. While the former will be meant for people who want to build their career in robotics/AI, the latter will involve familiarizing every worker with AI systems by teaching them basic technical constructions and tweaking machine capabilities to exploit the full value of the system. For example, hospitals in the National University Health System in Singapore will soon use facial recognition and AI-driven predictive analytics to speed the patient registration process and advise doctors on patients with a high probability of being readmitted. Healthcare workers will be able to make better decisions and be freed up for more direct patient interaction. When human-led tasks and skills are complemented with machine intelligence, a positive impact on workforce productivity and business value creation occurs.
  • Ethics to build trust with AI systems. Machines being built today are unlike that have been built before, and as a result, nobody really knows what type of consequences could result from AI-driven intelligent machine failures or mishaps. Because of this, there will be a need for highly-skilled professionals to ensure the integrity, security, objectivity, and proper use of intelligent machines. In the future, ethical skills will become essential for building trust with AI systems. We will need to train engineers, designers, developers, and innovators to not only define specific tasks for intelligent machines, but also to determine what to do when such tasks are not executed as expected.

While it is true that AI and automation will increase productivity, allowing us to solve big problems and invent entirely new products, services, and experiences, they will also make some jobs obsolete and some skills and capabilities irrelevant, leaving behind workers unable to keep up, reskill, and compete. So that leaves us with the million-dollar question: Who will be responsible for preparing current and future workforces with relevant skills? Companies? Higher education institutions? Individuals themselves? In reality, everyone will have a role to play, but it won’t happen without the evolution of our current decades-old education and corporate training models. In order to succeed in the new world of work, we will need to break down the old rules and write a few new ones. My new report, The Future of Learning, offers just that—some new rules that we all need to consider when preparing tomorrow’s workforce.

So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to practice honing a human skill rarely used in today’s busy life: the art of relaxation. With this in mind, I suggest you grab a copy of my latest report and sit back, relax, and enjoy reading it. I guarantee you won’t regret it.

Until next time, here’s to a great and prosperous 2019!


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