Top 5 Skills for the AI-Enabled Executive Workforce

Top 5 Skills for the AI-Enabled Executive Workforce

Filter tag: Change Management and Executive Outplacement, Culture & Organisational Effectiveness, digital transformation, Strategies for Growth

In the World Economic Forum’s 2023 Future of Jobs report, 49% of those surveyed across industries anticipate AI to be a catalyst for job creation while 23% also expect it to drive job displacement. This displacement does not just apply to automation making certain roles redundant but also entails reshaping certain functions and shifting the skills needed by the professionals working alongside AI.

When thinking about the skills needed for future success, leaders need to consider both their own capabilities and the skillsets their team will need to possess to deliver impact while working alongside the digital workforce. With Generative AI and other forms of advanced technology taking over specific tasks and functions, what gaps may humans need to fill? How can man and machine work together in tandem to drive business growth? Our team have identified the following five skills for senior executives to focus their upskilling and reskilling efforts on:

  1. AI Understanding: To work alongside AI effectively, one must possess a solid understanding of its capabilities, limitations, and functions. For senior leaders, it is imperative to understand what value AI can bring to your business, to be clear on the ‘how’ and ‘why’ your organisation plans to adopt it, and to ensure the rest of your team shares that same vision and understanding. Having a grasp of the scope of AI’s capabilities will make it much simpler to assign actions and owners, all while knowing that AI will not be a total replacement for all tasks and functions. While intelligent and impressive, this technology is not yet autonomous and will need a human at the helm prompting it into action and overseeing its outputs. Executives and their team members alike should treat AI as an assistant rather than a leader, learning how to coexist beside this technology rather than fixating on the losses it may create or overinflating expectations about its capabilities.
  2. Analysis and Critical Thinking: One key area that AI excels at over human intelligence is its ability to process vast amounts of data in real-time and provide valuable on-demand business intelligence to business decision makers. This will include insights into markets, competitors, customers, supply chain productivity, and employee performance. While AI can compile this information into clean and digestible formats, artificial intelligence is not always able to assign relevance, perspective, or meaning to the insights it produces. It is therefore essential for leaders to hone their analytical and critical thinking skills to provide relevance to the information generated by AI and relate it back to the business’s objectives and strategy.
  3. Bias Detection and Ethical Consideration: Of course, AI outputs should not be inherently and wholeheartedly trusted, as this technology has been proven to occasionally have ‘hallucinations’ and produce inaccurate outputs. Applying critical thinking and analysis to AI outputs can not only help mitigate the risks of misinformation but also help catch potential ethical errors. To be clear, AI is not an inherently unethical or biased technology, but with misuse or improper training can generate harmful outcomes. AI does not possess a human’s judgement to determine between right and wrong, and therefore leaders and their teams must be conscious of the dangers and potential harm of adopting this technology into business practices. This includes becoming conscious of the data sources AI algorithms are trained on, the potential harm of using AI for tasks such as recruitment or talent management, and the privacy concerns involved in sourcing and using information.
  4. Emotional Intelligence: Adopting AI will be a major change for senior executives and their teams and is likely to cause discomfort and potential friction. Some members of the team may be eager to evolve, while others may feel threatened, intimidated, or anxious about the introduction of AI into their day-to-day activities. Therefore, it is of critical importance for senior executives to lead with empathy and understanding throughout the entire digital transformation process. Offer support and reassurance wherever possible. Understand your team’s perspectives and take their feedback on board.
  5. Communication: To help ease concerns and make the transition to an AI-enabled workforce more effective, senior leaders need to become skilled and tactful communicators. Ensure that all goals, objectives, and expectations are shared clearly across every level of the business. Make it clear why the organisation is adopting technologies, how and when it plans to do so, and what this will look like in practice. Assign clear actions and owners with defined expectations and responsibilities. At the same time, it is just as important to listen as it is to speak. Open the feedback loop for questions, concerns, and suggestions. Making the entire team active participants in your business’s AI journey will help the process and man-machine partnership function much smoother.

In conclusion, as we stand at the crossroads of a transformative AI-driven era, senior executives must recognise that their role in shaping the future workforce goes beyond merely adapting to technology. It involves a profound shift in perspective, from viewing AI as a tool to seeing it as a collaborator in business innovation. These pivotal skills are the pillars on which executives can build a bridge between human ingenuity and artificial intelligence and are not just keys to embracing AI; they are the compass guiding us towards a more agile, empathetic, and prosperous future of work, where man and machine together drive the evolution of business and society.

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