APAC firms will need more soft skills as AI emerges in workforce

Workers with soft skills will be important in future as automation and artificial intelligence (AI) increasingly are used in future workplaces, since these skillsets are unlikely to be easily replaced. Some 42 percent of tasks in the workplace were projected to be done by machines and AI by 2022, compared to the current 29 percent. In addition, 75 million jobs worldwide could be displaced by 2022, as a result of automation and AI, according to projections by World Economic Forum.

At the same time, though, 133 million new roles might be created due to this shift. To prepare for this disruption, businesses should source for skills that were difficult to access, said Olivier Legrand, Linked’s Asia-Pacific China managing director and vice president. He pointed to skills such as management, project management, leadership, and customer service, which were some of the most sought-after roles in Singapore and tough to be replaced by machines.

Legrand added that the most crucial skills gaps encompassed soft skills and urged organisations to retrain their employees to ensure they remained relevant and able to continue creating value for the business. DBS Bank CEO Piyush Singh concurred, suggesting that there would be need for skills in philosophy, psychology, and emotion or affective science in the next decade.He added that the biggest challenge then would be to reassess the rules of society amidst the increasing use of AI. For instance, what would it meant to have AI run your life?

People also would have to decide collectively what would be acceptable, and unacceptable, to give up their privacy in exchange for services, said Singh, who was speaking at a recent fireside chat hosted by LinkedIn. He added that new types of skills would be needed to determine what constituted to being “human”.

The CEO explained that DBS itself had be assessing the use of automation and AI to take over “grunt work” and eliminate “failure demand”, in which it aimed to identify and resolve inefficiencies. The Singapore bank then realised this could result in 15,000 jobs that would not be needed because machines could perform the same tasks, he said.

It drove the need to reskill its employees so they would remain employable. Singh added that AI, alongside machine learning, could help identify patterns that humans previously could not. Organisations then had to create and provide the tools that would enable their employees to interpret these patterns and data insights, and generate new business ideas and services.

These changes meant that the nature of work was evolving, he said, and paving more independence and flexibility in the way of working. Employees could collaborate in different ways, including working on projects on their own, and work anywhere. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner added that his CFO also was identifying areas within the company where repeated tasks could be replaced by automation and AI.

Such menial tasks then could be moved away from employees and better enable them to leverage their unique human skills to “connect the dots”–something which machines were not, yet, capable of doing, Weiner said. On discussion about how AI could take over the world become evil overlords, he noted that humans ultimately still were the ones who had to create the algorithm that power AI. The engineers and scientists behind this would have been trained in ethics and understood the need for compassion, he said.

This, he noted, would enable humans to better control future outcomes and development of AI. He urged the need for businesses and technology companies also to invest efforts in mitigating unintended or undesired consequences, as a result of developing new products and services. Weiner explained, for instance, that LinkedIn launched a feature called Ask for a Referral, that enabled its members to tap their networks for introductions into specific companies at which they wanted to work.

It later discovered, however, that this could unintentionally put members who did not attend top-ranking schools or know people who worked at great companies, he said.

In other words, the feature could create a vicious cycle for people from unprivileged backgrounds, he noted.

To address this, LinkedIn drove new initiatives under its Career Advice that would allow its members to ask for help and mentorship, and match these with volunteers who offered to mentor others.

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