Artificial intelligence (AI) is helping businesses of all sizes accelerate their employee recruitment by identifying and wooing candidates.
With the experience of these benefits top of mind, HR teams are embracing this modern technology in new and exciting ways. For example, they are tapping AI-powered chatbots to eliminate the time-consuming and disruptive, albeit vital, need to answer individual employee payroll, benefit, or other policy questions. By offloading these tasks, AI is enabling HR teams to function more efficiently.
So, it is only logical that innovative human resource professionals are now turning to AI to address their more significant strategic challenges, such as closing today’s workplace soft skills gap within their organization.
Most articles you read about employee training raises the concern about how to ensure employees have the right technical skills and defining upskilling strategies. But there is a more pressing skill development need. To drive innovation and creativity throughout an organization, the discussion is shifting to focus on how to ensure employees have the essential soft skills employers desire today, which can have a more significant impact on an organization’s success.
A 2016 Wall Street Journal survey revealed that C-Suite executives rank soft skills as equally or more important than technical skills. But respondents also admitted they have a difficult time finding candidates who possess these critical skills, including empathy, critical thinking, problem-solving, effective communication, getting along with co-workers, and more.
The Soft Skills Gap
Both employers and employees are feeling the effects of the current demand over available supply of soft skills. Employers want their employees to have them, but they are decreasing in availability and competency levels. Starting in 2017, PWC’s global CEO survey has stressed the negative impact of the increasing lack of soft skills. The concern is so great that 77% of respondents the first year highlighted the lack of soft skills as the biggest threat to their business.
2017 PWC Global CEO Survey – Biggest Business Threat
Underdeveloped Soft Skills
Employees share this view, especially millennials who recognize their lacking ability of these critical skills. Many have indicated they feel vulnerable about their level of confidence, ability to lead (manage conflict, demonstrate empathy), their social interactions with co-workers, and the ability to communicate effectively.
If you were to plot the year-over-year demand versus supply gap on a graph, it would look something like this.
This graph is for illustrative, relatability purposes only. We designed it based on aggregated sentiment from articles, industry discussions, and human resource professionals’ comments, and we believe it will get some heads nodding in agreement.
AI is emerging as a formidable solution to this challenge. Traditional (read outdated, historical) learning and development processes are not effective with today’s younger workers. Millennials and Gen Zers want an interactive, digital experience.
Today’s techno-savvy younger professionals quickly embrace and leverage any new digital experience. This behavior is to be expected. They were practically born with a mobile computer in their hands. Millennials and Gen Z’ers leap at the opportunity to experience new technology-enabled services, tapping and swiping hurriedly to self-discover all that might be available at their fingertips. L&D efforts need to capitalize on this digital curiosity to be effective.
Strategies to ensure younger employees engage with educational content include:
- Micro-burst content. Content should be consumable in 2 – 15 minutes. And navigating to and through it should be simple, intuitive, and well designed.
- Easily accessible. Content needs to be digitally native and available on mobile devices.
- Collaborative. Younger generations are discovering the value of long-term interpersonal relationships in a way they’ve not experienced before. Solutions that promote collaboration and community building will promote success.
- Relevance. This happens to be a “traditional” (obvious) strategy that has stood the test of time. Content needs to address their specific needs.
- Integrated learning experiences. Development strategies need to incorporate educational content with real-world experiences. This learn and apply approach helps to speed growth and development.
AI supports these strategies in several ways. Chatbots can guide employees to the best micro-burst content for their current skill development. AI-powered “smart” development plans can keep track of progress and push exercises or activities to the learner to ensure they continue to grow and develop. With its predictive ability, AI can foresee potential pitfalls and offer help to employees before a problem happens. And of course, AI offers a digital approach to how today’s workers want to learn.
Like the rapid pace of technology development, the HR digital transformation is moving to a new phase. It is not only about automating processes; it is about fostering and delivering support for curiosity and continuous learning. AI is powering this modern-day approach.