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Forget coding, tomorrow’s employees need to learn people skills

Soon the City will venture back to the office. First in small groups, but later en masse, people will return after a year of remote work with new perspectives and tools.

Employees now realise they work quite literally anywhere, thanks to power of technology. What smart organisations need to do now is show these leaps in innovation can improve and empower employees returning to work.

New technology always brings opportunity and peril. Thirty years ago, Microsoft Excel revolutionised the account function. Tedious calculations were replaced by simple (and not-so simple) formulas and tables. Accountants survived, but their job changed.

The same thing is happening now with the adoption of artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, and big data. Huge swaths of the current work day will soon be replaced by technology.

But ultimately this is a cause for joy, not fear. There will always be one function that technology can never replace - human relationships.

No match for human intelligence

Artificial intelligence cannot replicate emotional connections, build personal relationships or establish trust in the same way vital in business, especially in the service industry.

The pandemic has proven this to be true. Across the world, we have seen businesses adapt almost instantaneously to allow their staff to work safely from home. In many cases, technology has enabled a seamless transition to remote operations.

But what is it that we are all missing? Human interaction. We miss being around people, absorbing our colleagues’ energy, and the buzz of real-life exchanges – something that can never fully happen over a Zoom call.

New technologies are an opportunity to capitalise on this need for greater engagement and raise the bar for client relationships. 

The rise of interpersonal skills

Soft skills will become increasingly important. Artificial intelligence may soon eliminate the need for human coders, but machines will find building relationships much harder. Empathy and understand will be the differentiator between successful and unsuccessful competitors.

Let’s look at the Excel example. Every accountancy firm now uses the same basic technology, so the most important factor is the individual relationship. The same will soon be true in many financial jobs. The ability to communicate effectively, persuade, think creatively and engage with clients in a charming manner are some of the skills that employers will be looking for in candidates to make sure that the technology that they have invested in is being taken to the market with the best person to sell it.

Reskilling in the digital era

As technology breaks down job roles as we know them, companies should adopt alternative means for tasks and reconstruct roles for new ways of working. 

This is the perfect opportunity for them to retrain their staff to work in perfect harmony with technology, so they can focus all of their time and energy on building strong relationships with their customers. 

New roles will be created to manage the technology itself, and as the pandemic has shown, these roles can easily be carried out by people all over the country. Technology will be a key driver in promoting greater diversity and inclusion. Not only will a more remote approach to working enable employers to widen their talent pool geographically, but this new flexible way of working will also mean that these new job opportunities can be offered to those from different backgrounds.

Let’s welcome employees back to the office with the promise of a better, more interesting career.

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