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Focus on boosting soft skills to get the real benefit from AI

15 Sep 2023

Rachel Hamann of AllCampus explains that leaders need to ensure workers are properly equipped to use AI systems – and that means a focus on soft skills.

“The speed at which AI and other tech advancements are evolving and becoming more sophisticated can be overwhelming and anxiety-inducing,” says Rachel Hamann of AllCampus, a US-based education administration provider. It goes without saying that this anxiety is only magnified for those who do not work in tech-focused or tech-adjacent roles.

The speed at which things change in tech and in digital-led workplaces means that people can get overwhelmed or left behind through no fault of their own. As Hamann says, generative AI tools like ChatGPT and its competitors have “revolutionised the workplace” – and in a relatively short period of time, too.

On the other hand, there are the people who jump gung-ho on the AI hype and throw all caution to the wind.

All of these reactions and attitudes have to be considered and accounted for. Hamann says that leaders, HR and L&D teams need to have their own policies on generative AI so it can be used to help rather than hinder workers.

‘Investing in soft skills will become a differentiating factor for organisations to foster a successful work environment’

Hamann cautions that while generative AI tools have automated so many of the boring tasks workers do every day – which is great – the tech can also be faulty. Generative AI tools cannot replace human judgement. They don’t have a “nuanced understanding of empathy, creativity and critical thinking”, as Hamann puts it. “These intangible skills help employees navigate dynamic work environments and will also be key to collaborating effectively with AI systems.”

She adds that these soft skills are something that leaders need to monitor in workers regardless of what industry they are in. What kind of soft “inherently human” skills does Hamann think will be most crucial to emphasise as AI keeps revolutionising the world of work?

Leadership and teamwork

“While AI and ChatGPT can provide information and even insights and recognition, leadership and teamwork are critical for organisations to grow and evolve. With disruptive technology such as AI, it’s critical to prioritise the human component of work and decision-making.”

Critical thinking

“While AI can provide data and insights, it lacks the ability to assess and problem-solve individual complex situations. Human touch will be pivotal to take findings from AI and apply them to a broader project and business context with an ethical lens.” This point is especially important for data scientists or anyone dealing with data.

Effective Communication

Effective communication is important. Hamman gives the example that communication skills enable you “to successfully present insights from AI to non-technical stakeholders from data analysis”. But there are multiple other instances where effective communication is important.


Is this a soft skill? Hamann reckons so. “Innovation helps employees challenge the status quo and think creatively to solve complex issues. It helps employees create new solutions and work alongside AI to advance business goals by streamlining the idea-to-launch innovation process.”


“Employees today live in a fast-paced digital era that requires the ability to be resilient, agile and open to adopting new tools and work processes, a skill many of us learned during the pandemic. While resilience helps employees adapt to the latest tech, like generative AI, it also enables a growth mindset that can transfer into their general careers.”

How to use AI systems ethically to upskill

The significance of these soft skills will become more and more apparent, says Hamann. They ensure that “humans work effectively with each other and alongside AI systems while maintaining ethical practices”.

She points out that it is possible for HR teams and leaders to upskill themselves and others using generative AI. For example, “AI tools can help HR and learning and development leaders identify soft-skills gaps across an entire workforce as well as for individual employees. Through employee-wide surveys and soft-skills assessments, AI can analyse results to find what soft skills an employee has mastered and which could use more work.

“Managers could then leverage generative AI to create individualised assessments that provide situational questions to measure an employee’s progress towards that skill development. It can also help provide recommendations on personalised learning and training plans.”

Handle with care…

But all of these positives should be viewed alongside the knowledge that these tools can also hinder soft-skills development if employees rely on tools like generative AI too heavily to the point of limited human interaction. “Without continuous practice, soft skills, like all skills, will weaken but development programmes and upskilling programmes can mitigate this issue.”

Hamann emphasises that there is no quick fix when it comes to soft skills. “Building soft skills is an ongoing process that looks different to everyone and requires patience and consistent effort from both employers and employees.”

“Investing in soft-skills development will become a future differentiating factor for organisations to foster a collaborative, efficient, AI-driven and successful work environment.”

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea worked as a Careers reporter until 2024, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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