Humans and Soft Skills: Must-Haves in the Digital Era

The age of automation is no longer a far-off future prediction; it is now our reality. Data from World Economic Forum estimates that approximately 1.4 million people will lose their jobs due to automation and other technological changes by the year 2026 – that’s less than a decade away.  

The alarming rate at which workplace skills are becoming obsolete is at an estimated rate of five years, whereas in the past you could expect them to remain relevant for about 10-15 years. So, what can organizations do to protect their employees from losing jobs due to unprecedented changes and a need for reskilling, and which skills can remain relevant in a world shaped by rapidly evolving technology? 

Blending digital and soft skills 

According to a report by McKinsey, 62 percent of executives believe they will need to retrain or replace a quarter of their workforce between now and 2023. Executives, politicians, and HR and L&D professionals are now faced with the challenge of how to prepare their workforce for the changes happening now and those forecasted for the future. We now know that the modern workforce requires a blend of both soft skills and digital skills, along with an understanding of their role in the digital era. 


The connection between education and the economy has been made clear – an educated and skilled workforce has positive impacts on unemployment rates. In fact, data from LinkedIn’s 2019 Workplace Learning Report shows that employees are open to training opportunities and 94% said they would stay longer at a company if it invested in training them. In order to safeguard the current workforce and the future human capital of organizations around the world, a culture of continuous learning and learning transformation must be adopted in the corporate world.  


Historically, resources like time, location and cost were noted as the biggest barriers to workplace training – but LinkedIn reports that budget concerns are decreasing and 82% of L&D professionals have said that their leadership actively supports learning programs. Things like mobile learning, micro and macro learning, have made learning a new language and training soft skills both affordable and manageable. Now with blended and mobile learning at our fingertips, resources like time, location and cost are no longer big concerns. The top focus now for L&D is properly assessing skills gaps and providing the necessary training to fill those gaps. The question is, does your L&D program focus on training the right skills, skills that both your workforce and your organization benefit from?

Now ask yourself, ‘What can humans do that robots and technology cannot?’ Make a human connection. With AI taking over jobs that are in nature, generally more repetitive and routine, this leaves humans to do more 
meaningful work. Here are three reasons why soft skills should not be forgotten in the digital world and why adopting a culture of learning in your organization is necessary to stay ahead of the curve of automation: 


using soft skills in the digital era

1. Robots do not have soft skills or emotional intelligence

Carrying out important meetings and conferences, closing out important deals, developing meaningful partnerships – they all require two things, good soft skills and emotional intelligence. 

Emotional intelligence will come into play much more now than ever before – robots cannot display emotion and exhibit empathy like humans can. As automation and advanced technology begin to creep into many aspects of business, emotional intelligence and good soft skills will be vital to keeping the true human touch in communication and customer service efforts (something every company needs to be successful). Companies wanting to see themselves as successful businesses and able to serve their customers properly and efficiently will need to stay ahead of the curve of automation by keeping the human touch intact with customer service. 

2. Automation requires humans to work alongside robots

Without proper and continuous training, your workforce won’t stay ahead of the automation curve, or any other technological advancements for that matter. Humans need to be trained to understand intelligent technology – what good does new HR technology do if humans are unable to utilize it? 

IBM reports that ‘’the half-life of skills continues to shrink, while the time it takes to close a skills gap has ballooned.’’ This means that constantly assessing the skills gaps of your employees will be key to not falling behind. Guide your workforce as they become more familiar with new technology and regularly assess skills gaps to ensure your employees are on the right track. In fact, identifying and assessing skills gaps and training for soft skills, are among the top five focus areas for talent development in 2019. 

3. Humans will still call the shots

It’s likely that humans will continue to remain the CEOs managing organizations, the politicians running our countries, and the HR specialists making human connections with applicants and hiring new staff. 

AI has improved the recruitment process with new tools for performance development, assessment, and skills gap analysis – but when it comes down to business, humans will still need to communicate effectively and make meaningful connections with one another. We will still be the ones deciding what to do with the technology we are holding in our hands. 


emotional intelligence and soft skills at work

Organizations need to take the reins

If organizations take the reins strategically, they have the power to drive a future of education in the workplace and empower their employees to embrace a culture of continued learning. This ensures both employee retention and ongoing professional growth and development – less of a need to re-hire new people with new skills but rather invest in the ones you already have.