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Soft Skills & Hard Skills

The skills of the future - N°4 Human relations

eye 269 Published on 23 Nov. 2023
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tag ##SkillDevelopment

Today, we can process staggering amounts of data beyond our imagination in astonishing time frames. Technology, ever more efficient, no longer confines itself to simple, repetitive tasks but now undertakes tasks once reserved for the most learned minds. It's clear that skills once valued and sought after are losing their relevance. The skills that remain in the race are those that complement technology and make us human.

In this final article of our series on the skills of the future, we'll explore the importance of human relations, how to measure and develop them to ensure our place in a future where technology is increasingly prevalent.

Why are Human Relations Crucial?

Journalists, lawyers, accountants, even doctors... skilled professions are now being affected by the rise of artificial intelligence. For example, a cardiologist in the USA decided to test the reputed power of the famous ChatGPT, arguing that he wanted to test its supposed capabilities. He wasn't disappointed as, based on a patient's medical record and symptom list, the software proposed an appropriate treatment in just a few seconds - the same treatment the medical team had defined after team deliberation. A fluke? Perhaps not, since the doctor repeated the experiment with other patients, and each time, ChatGPT proposed the same treatment.

Rest assured, these professions newly impacted by AI are - for now - not on the brink of extinction. However, the way they are performed will undoubtedly change. While knowledge and skills related to brain power are partly swapped for algorithms, other skills, less vulnerable to technology, will be more in demand.

Human skills such as empathy, cooperation, kindness, and tact are sought after to complement the work of AI. Taking the example of medical diagnostics where ChatGPT can suggest appropriate treatments, humans remain better positioned than robots to inform and accompany patients in their illness. Humans know how to create a connection with others, they understand, interpret and manage the emotional part, and they allow the patient, through their listening and presence, to feel understood and supported.

These human skills are sought after in several professions. Take the example of cashiers, where computerised checkouts have been part of the commercial landscape for several years. While order methods, checkout speed, and payment facilities are appreciated, users lament the loss of contact with a human. To this end, in recent years, 'chat checkouts' have been introduced. Their goal is simple: to recreate social bonds by allowing those who feel the need to take the time to chat with the cashier, without the pressure to hurry.

How to Measure Human Skills

Human skills can be measured during a structured interview, with questions addressing conflict resolution, empathy, collaboration, tact, and diversity management. Candidates are asked to provide concrete examples from their past experiences. These interviews can be enhanced with group exercises to further analyse these skills. Group situational exercises allow observing how candidates listen, interact, and integrate into a group.

Psychometric tests remain a winning value in skill assessment. For human relations, personality tests based on the Big Five will highlight traits like agreeableness as well as extraversion and open-mindedness. Emotional intelligence assessment will analyse empathy, conflict resolution, diversity management, and assertiveness.

Finally, a more recent and impactful method reveals a candidate's human skills differently: 360 Feedback. It involves the professional environment, where 8 to 12 people who have closely interacted with the candidate are asked to assess their skills. An anonymous report compiling all responses is then generated and used as a basis for analysing the person's strengths and weaknesses.

How to Develop Human Skills

Practise Empathetic Listening
To develop human skills, the advice is often simple, but its implementation can profoundly change the quality of relationships. To work on empathy, it's enough to regularly check in with those around you. The interest must be sincere and focused on the other person, avoiding judging them based on your experience or values. Don't hesitate to steer the conversation towards emotions by asking the person how they felt or experienced the situation. The goal of these conversations isn't to solve problems but to create and strengthen bonds and allow the other person to feel listened to and understood.

Consider Intercultural Differences
The same language can be spoken in several countries, yet some expressions do not mean the same thing from one culture to another and can bring confusion. Beyond these linguistic differences, there can be more insidious misunderstandings at the level of attitudes or behaviours. For example, a smile is interpreted differently in North America, Europe, or Asia. Multicultural collaboration is increasingly present in the workplace, and everyone is invited to show cooperation and openness to facilitate these relations. Rather than believing that 'your' expression or behaviour is the best, it's more advantageous to consider diversity as a wealth and a generator of progress by adopting an open, curious attitude.

And finally, what will also strongly differentiate an individual from a machine, and especially individuals from each other, are the mad skills. These are the original skills that distinguish a candidate. They come from the professional path but also from private life, through hobbies, volunteering, or intensive sports practice. In the case of sports, it's rigour, discipline, but also team spirit and cooperation that are highlighted. Or those who have made long-term trips can highlight their intercultural skills, their adaptability, and their openness to the world. With AI, companies need profiles that think outside the box, that have added value, that know how to be resilient, but also versatile, adaptable, and especially human. Because as AI takes over technical tasks, thus removing them from the employee, it's the human part that remains predominant, and that must be valued.

Helen Simard

Consultant psychologist (career guidance and psychometrics)

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