Manchester column
Organisations should invest in bolstering the soft skills of its workforce. If that helps boost the collective problem solving skills, it's the entity that eventually benefits. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Disruptive technologies like AR/VR and artificial intelligence have forced organizations into automating operations. This calls for employees to look beyond their traditional skills – those that has been taken over by AI - and improve upon their soft skills.

Acquiring new skills is key to being sought after. This is the case regardless of what sector you function in. However, it is difficult to identify what skills to focus on as the business environment goes through multiple tech-enforced disruptions.

While digital and hard skills remain as important as ever, soft skills are the new currency. The reasons are not far-fetched. Since technologies can be copied, the soft skills of an organization’s employees are what can give that brand an edge over the competition.

These include creative thinking, negotiation skills, problem-solving skills, teamwork capabilities, and building consensus.

This resonates with a 2019 global talent survey on LinkedIn, where about 60 per cent of global organizational leaders noted the benefits of soft skills are weightier than those offered by hard skills.

Needn’t be visible

And yet, these skills are not quantifiable. This makes it difficult to know how well one has honed these skills. But since soft skills are transferrable, brands should focus on cultivating them rather than organize training on them, as is done with plain-vanilla hard skills.

Several methods have been deployed for this in the past. However, they are rather expensive.

A cost-effective method employed by organizations these days is immersive learning, which integrates extended reality (ER), virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR). This method of learning places individuals in an interactive environment, either virtually or physically, to replicate possible work scenarios and teach specific skills.

Virtual ways

One of the prime benefits of VR training is that it immerses individuals into real-life situations, prompting them to react the same way they would in reality. Employees are made to interact with fictitious characters known as “digital humans”. This method produces better results than humans role-playing or acting real-life scenarios.

Advances in technology have made this learning affordable to all, including smaller organisations.

Creating templates

With an increase in realism measures comes an increase in our abilities to track the response of individuals to different situations. Managers are better placed to consider individual’s background in interpreting the results of these evaluations. This can play a role in the evolution of people's interpersonal or relational skills.

As more companies explore immersive technology, it’s essential to note the following things:

• There are several methods to hone soft skills. However, the most effective relate to immersive training.

• The evaluation and subsequent communication of test results should be empathetic.

• The rapid advancement in tech has caused a dip in costs: Learning to design, manage devices, and communicate with virtual training programs are potentially compulsory skills in a few years. The cost of integrating virtual training programmes is also expected to be lower than it is now.

• Data privacy is of the essence: Ensure your employees know what is being tracked and recorded. Giving them a heads-up creates a trust-based environment for learning.

- Dr. Kiran S Nair is Assistant Professor of Management, Abu Dhabi School of Management, Abu Dhabi.