Artificial Intelligence (AI) has gradually changed the job market and will accelerate in the coming years. With AI increasing automation and replacing repetitive and predictable tasks, a significant shift in the skills required to adapt to the future of AI in the workplace is expected. Employers have started to prioritize certain skill sets in retaining their current employees by upskilling and reskilling, as well as in the attributes they look for in potential employees during the hiring process. Current and future employees should also anticipate the growing demand for the skills needed to adjust to the changing job market. In this way, both employers and employees can learn how to overcome challenges and transition to working with AI in the workplace.
Understanding Concerns about AI-related Changes in Employment
It is necessary to first understand where AI-related concerns originate from, especially in relation to employment. From white-collar to blue-collar workers, there exists a fear that the introduction of AI will replace human labour, thus creating the idea that AI is inherently a threat to their job security. So far, the “finance, healthcare, manufacturing, retail, supply chain, logistics, and public services” industries have undergone change by implementing AI. Specifically, the fear of automation replacing the tasks currently being completed by human labour, potentially making the skills required for those tasks obsolete, contributes to this displacement effect and causes unease among employees (Morandini et al., 2023; Acemoglu et al., 2018).
A more pressing cause for concern is the ability of AI systems to “mimic human transversal skills” or “perform any intellectual task that a human can” (Morandini et al., 2023). This prompts further questions about how valuable human labour is and casts self-doubt on employee capability to adopt skills that may also be replaced by AI. Employees will either approach AI with positive attitudes if they believe it will support or motivate them in their jobs, or they will view it with apprehension and less positive feelings if they feel threatened (Zhu et al, 2021). Hence, it is important for employees to understand which skills employers are starting to value and for employers to communicate these expectations clearly.
Employee Skills in the Age of Artificial Intelligence
The skills required to succeed in the job market will depend on the industry and level of complexity that an employee is situated in. Certainly, the two major categories of skills that will be most generally in demand are technical skills and soft (or transversal) skills (Morandini et al., 2023). Within these categories, there are subsets of skills that most employees should acquire according to their specific contexts. Yet, they should also anticipate these skills to be applied to industries other than the one they started in. The following skills have been identified as the most crucial to future work with AI.
There is a general consensus that manual skills will be the most impacted by AI-led automation and that demand for manual and physical labour will decline (McKinsey Global Institute, 2017; Morandini et al., 2023). However, these skills will not be completely replaced by AI. Rather, manual skills will change as well and become more complex as they shift away from simple tasks. Employees will need manual skills to work with AI tools and equipment, especially machines and hardware (Morandini et al., 2023; Boston Consulting Group, 2015).
Since AI requires highly skilled workers to program and maintain AI systems in the workplace, technological skills are extremely valuable to employers. Experts have suggested that companies with strong digital and technological skills in their workforce will transition more smoothly into the age of AI in the workplace. These include “information technology (IT) skills,” “machine learning skills,” “modern programming language,” “application development techniques,” and “modern IT architecture skills.” Additionally, being able to manage data, analyze it, and synthesize it is important. With data management, cybersecurity knowledge and skills are also important for employees to have (Brock et al., 2019).
Such occupations as “big data scientists, IT professionals and programmers, technology designers, engineers, advanced technology maintenance workers, and scientific researchers” will proliferate with the mass implementation of AI, yet they will not constitute a majority of the workforce. Employees with less highly specialized skills will still need to acquire “basic digital skills” that will equip them for automation (McKinsey Global Institute, 2018).
In addition to the technical skills required to work with AI itself, competency in multiple languages will benefit employees. Certain AI devices and applications will require English to use, and keeping up with developments in AI necessitates being fluent in the languages of knowledge production. (Morandini et al., 2023).
Decision-making, Critical Thinking, and Analytical Skills
Employees will be required to refine their decision-making skills which will allow them to apply critical thinking skills, be it for working with data sources to “synthesize information and draw conclusions” or for coming up with quick and logical solutions. (Verma et al., 2022; Morandini et al., 2023). While AI aims to mimic human intelligence, “complex reasoning, judgment, analogy-based learning, [and] abstract problem solving” cannot be easily replaced by AI due to their high complexity, therefore making cognitive skills essential for employees. Analytical skills are especially important in data management, not only for understanding the data itself, but also for knowing how to appropriately utilize data information (Acemoglu et al., 2018; Brock et al., 2019).
Social and Communication Skills
One of the skills deemed crucial for employees to learn is sociability and communication. Employees learn how to communicate information with their colleagues and stakeholders, especially if they are interpreting and sharing reports based on AI data. This also applies to employees, and even employers, who are in a position to lead group members. They must be able to support other employees who face challenges specifically related to AI, which does require technical skills.
AI is not as capable as people are of managing other people, identifying talent and expertise among employees, and having the emotional intelligence to handle difficult situations that require empathy. In order to work with other employees in reconfiguring their skills around AI in the workplace, it is necessary to handle the stress and anxiety that comes along with the uncertainty of how AI impacts them. These interpersonal skills are also considered important for networking (Morandini et al., 2023; McKinsey Global Institute, 2017; Zhu et al., 2021; Verma et al., 2022).
Self-management is a highly desired skill that is made more important by introducing AI systems into the workplace. Employees who can identify their strengths and weaknesses and have a level of control over them are able to manage their tasks and time efficiently. This self-direction allows employees to focus on human interaction, which is exactly the gap AI leaves open for workers to thrive in. The fast-paced nature of working with AI makes time management especially important for employees to hone these skills (Morandini et al., 2023; Verma et al., 2022).
While the premise of learning new skills has the end goal of employee adaptability, the ability to adapt is in itself crucial due to the ever-changing nature of AI. Jobs will continuously change as AI capabilities advance. Adaptability will become a key trait across many industries, especially as upskilling and reskilling become more commonplace and employees undergo training they did not anticipate receiving when they first entered their respective industries (McKinsey Global Institute, 2017 & 2018; Morandini et al., 2023).
What Employers Search for in Employees
Whereas the skills mentioned above are the general skills employees need to start acquiring and will need in the near future, employers are currently searching for specific traits in the recruitment process.
Experts have taken note of the fact that, at the moment, there exists a shortage of employees with the necessary skills required to implement AI in the workplace. Candidates who have obtained at least a bachelor’s degree in machine learning, engineering, business, computer science, artificial intelligence, mathematics, and data science can expect to be prioritized for their technical skills. The cognitive skills gained through higher education, especially where creativity is concerned, ensure that employers do not limit themselves solely to these majors. (Verma et al., 2022; McKinsey Global Institute, 2017).
Thinking and Social Skills
As mentioned above, employers are looking for soft skills that comprise thinking and social skills. Some recruiters will test that candidates “can analyze situations, make good choices quickly, adapt to unforeseen events, optimize resources, coordinate skills, and propose original solutions.” Recruiters also look for people who not only possess soft skills but can also apply them properly to the role they applied for. An employee’s attitude towards AI is also considered during recruitment since openness to AI is increasingly valued. Moreover, employers seek candidates who demonstrate sociability and will be able to apply their interpersonal skills when working with AI (Allal-Chérif, 2021; Zhu et al., 2021).
For many employers, individuals who are detail-oriented exhibit better organizational skills and are better equipped to handle work in a fast-paced workplace. This idea will solidify with advancements made in AI. Organization communication with team members and putting together their analysis reports. Additionally, being able to concisely present information and concentrate on the important details in verbal and written form is highly prized (Verma et al., 2022).
Artificial Intelligence will continue to transform the job market in the coming years, leading to changes in the skills required for the workforce to adapt to the future of AI in the workplace. Employers have already begun to prioritize specific skill sets in retaining and hiring employees, and employees must anticipate the growing demand for skills needed to adjust to the changing job market. The fear of automation replacing human labor and the ability of AI systems to mimic human skills and perform intellectual tasks create concerns for employees, and employers need to communicate clearly about the skills they value. For employees, technical and soft skills are in high demand, including certain manual, technological, language, decision-making, critical thinking, analytical, social and communication, self-management, and adaptability skills. Employees must anticipate these skills becoming more relevant in the job market and refine them. Employers value these skills and are currently focused on candidates’ technical skills acquired through higher education, thinking and social skills, and organizational skills. While it is difficult to know which new skills will emerge from using Artificial Intelligence in the workplace.
Acemoglu, Daron, and Pascual Restrepo. „Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and Work.” In The Economics of Artificial Intelligence: An Agenda, pp. 197-236. University of Chicago Press, 2018. https://www.nber.org/system/files/chapters/c14027/c14027.pdf
Allal-Chérif, Oihab, Alba Yela Aránega, and Rafael Castaño Sánchez. „Intelligent Recruitment: How to Identify, Select, and Retain Talents from Around the World Using Artificial Intelligence.” Technological Forecasting and Social Change 169 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.techfore.2021.120822
Boston Consulting Group. 2015. “The Robotics Revolution: The Next Great Leap in Manufacturing.” https://www.bcg.com/publications/2015/lean-manufacturing-innovation-robotics-revolution-next-great-leap-manufacturing
Brock, Jürgen Kai-Uwe, and Florian Von Wangenheim. „Demystifying AI: What Digital Transformation Leaders Can Teach You About Realistic Artificial Intelligence.” California Management Review 61, no. 4 (2019): 110-134. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1536504219865226?casa_token=6i5cR2hiz0gAAAAA:m8J4badQ32niTVTZQBRtDv3z9HAuHXABcNTl_0LBYJp5hvtdXS0CPIiEU5V3YJByuGjn4cQ-7ZcTbA
McKinsey Global Institute. 2017. “Jobs Lost, Jobs Gained: Workforce Transitions in a Time of Automation.” Report, McKinsey & Company. https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/mckinsey/industries/public%20and%20social%20sector/our%20insights/what%20the%20future%20of%20work%20will%20mean%20for%20jobs%20skills%20and%20wages/mgi-jobs-lost-jobs-gained-executive-summary-december-6-2017.pdf
McKinsey Global Institute. 2017. “Skill Shift: Automation and the Future of the Workforce.” Report, McKinsey & Company. https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/mckinsey/industries/public%20and%20social%20sector/our%20insights/skill%20shift%20automation%20and%20the%20future%20of%20the%20workforce/mgi-skill-shift-automation-and-future-of-the-workforce-may-2018.pdf
Morandini, Sofia, Frederico Fraboni, Marco De Angelis, Gabriele Puzzo, Davide Guisino, et al. “The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Workers’ Skills: Upskilling and Reskilling in Organisations.” Informing Science: The International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline 26 (2023): 39-68. https://www.proquest.com/openview/1d538ec201692666584daa0a964868ef/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=5314839
Verma, Amit, Kamal Lamsal, and Payal Verma. „An Investigation of Skill Requirements in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Job Advertisements.” Industry and Higher Education 36, no. 1 (2022): 63-73. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0950422221990990
Zhu, Yu-Qian, Jacqueline Corbett, and Yi-Te Chiu. “Understanding Employees’ Responses to Artificial Intelligence.” Organizational Dynamics 50, no. 2 (2021): 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.orgdyn.2020.100786