The rise of AI automation in the workplace is bad news for the 'brilliant jerks' of tech
- AI is expected to take on tedious tasks and free humans to do more creative work.
- This will make it more important for tech workers to be good at collaboration and communication.
Whether or not AI ends up stealing people's jobs, it's undeniable that the rise of technology that can automate away many boring, tedious, mundane tasks is going to change the way we work.
With so much grunt work done automatically, employees will be expected to be more innovative and collaborative.
Those who get ahead in this new world, experts suggest, will be those with strong people skills who know how to bring teams together around an idea. That signals the end of one of tech's most enduring stereotypes: the brilliant, solitary jerk that nobody actually likes working with
Experts said those who can bring both the expertise in working with AI and the "soft skills" that make someone a good teammate are the ones that will flourish in an increasingly AI-enabled world.
"To build something great, you need collaboration and conversation in addition to data science to make and build the best technology," said Diana Lee, founder of marketing firm Constellation. "What I notice with some data people is that they just want to throw as much data into a model without really understanding how it speaks to a problem."
The more AI becomes integrated into a workplace, those experts suggested, the more all workers can work with others to get more creative in solving issues.
Lee gives the hypothetical example of her own firm working with a larger brand on a marketing campaign. To make the project successful, everyone — including technical staff like data scientists or backend programmers — needs to buy in. Those who take the time and effort to listen to the client and work with them to make sure they're all on the same page will be the ones who set themselves apart in the workplace.
That doesn't leave a lot of room for the brilliant jerks who struggle to treat their colleagues and customers with respect. They may be very smart, perhaps even visionary, but with AI handling much of the actual hard work, they stand to lose whatever sway they had over the team.
"Employees are already experiencing rapid integration of AI in their day-to-day lives and will need diverse and adaptive skill sets to navigate the landscape," said Rajat Kohli, partner at digital consultancy Zinnov. "Currently, the most important skill sets enabled by AI are technical and soft skillsets."
He added that AI tools combined with interpersonal and collaboration skills create a more team-based culture in the workplace.
A different hiring focus
While no one knows the future for sure, tech companies could, at some point, prioritize these kinds of people skills at the same level as coding excellence.
"It's traditionally been the case that if you're hiring a software engineer, the number one thing you care about is their technical ability which will still be true," said Sheilin Herrick, solution director, technology at HR consultancy SHL. "But I suspect in the not too distant future, we'll see a greater importance of soft skills in the hiring process."
She added skills like the ability and willingness to learn, critical and strategic thinking, and the ability to work within teams will become important when adapting to working with ChatGPT and other AI tools like it, Herrick said
As Herrick explained, companies have three categories when assessing potential employees. For tech businesses, the biggest piece of the pie is the readiness to take on the job, which includes coding skills, followed by potential and fit. Those last two slices deal with the possibility of someone's further growth in a company and how well they'll mesh with the rest of the team.
But as more repetitive tasks get taken over, Herrick said companies would take that chance to reassess where their hiring emphasis should be, especially if there's going to be more need to collaborate and work within larger teams.
Tech employees, especially in startups, love to throw the word collaborative around. And in an AI-powered workplace, true collaboration, communication, and knowing how to use the tools can get you ahead.
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