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Tech without soft skills is a half-baked strategy

A successful digital future depends on the human touch

Children at the World Robot Olympiad in the UAE, which is heavily investing in education to prepare young people for AI Wam
Children at the World Robot Olympiad in the UAE, which is heavily investing in education to prepare young people for AI

In a world enamoured with the march of technology, especially the rise of artificial intelligence, we often overlook a crucial element: human intelligence.

I firmly believe that the future of work isn’t just about AI and machine learning. It’s equally about harnessing the core skills that drive human intelligence: empathy, adaptability and communication.

These soft skills are the real game-changers in our digital future.

Technology is an enabler, not the endgame. True innovation and success in the digital age come from harnessing human potential and creativity. I’ve also seen how empathy and emotional intelligence are just as critical as technical expertise in navigating change.

Organisational agility concerns the human capacity to adapt and respond to changes, be it market-driven or technological.

Soft skills are the foundation of this adaptability. Without them, no amount of technological infrastructure can make an organisation truly agile and adaptable to change. 

Consider the global pandemic’s impact on your organisation. How did it fare? Did you witness a decline or a surge in productivity?

The answers lie in the collective human behaviour of your workforce, revealing how effectively they navigated this unprecedented change.

Customer centricity

When Al Hilal Bank, where I used to lead digital transformation, transitioned to a Shariah-compliant digital platform from a traditional Islamic bank, it chose a family-centric approach.

This included incorporating financial literacy for children through “gamification” – using games to encourage participation.

This strategy highlights a key lesson: truly understanding and connecting with your audience is paramount. Data alone is insufficient; empathising and engaging with customers is what creates real value to your customers which is then returned by customer loyalty.

Relying only on technological skills in the digital era is an incomplete strategy. In our rush to embrace digital solutions, we often neglect the human element, which is essential.

In future industries, the human touch will be a luxury, distinguishing service providers. Organisations that can blend human and AI will lead in realising competitive advantage and achieve market longevity.

Effective leadership

Leadership in the digital era should go beyond understanding algorithms and analytics.

It’s about inspiring, communicating and empathising with both customers and employees.

The most effective leaders in the era of human-machine collaboration will be those who have a technological disposition but can also harness human potential and human insight to achieve organisational goals.

The future workforce requires a balance of technical expertise and soft skills. As leaders and educators, we have a responsibility to cultivate these abilities, fostering a workforce that is both tech-savvy and deeply human.

In conclusion, it’s time to fully acknowledge the spectrum of skills needed in the digital era. Soft skills are not just adjuncts to technical skills; they are the essence of what makes technology meaningful.

As we navigate the future of work, let’s strive for a future where technology and humanity advance together.

Dua Al Toobi is a UAE-based Omani author, tech executive and TV presenter who is currently working with the Commercial Bank of Dubai on transformation and culture

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