People skills more important than ever amid tech advancement

by Ephraim Vecina29 Nov 2017
As a world leader in terms of both economic power and technological development, Canada is no stranger to enjoying the greatest benefits that current technology can provide – as evident in how mobile apps and nigh-ubiquitous online connectivity have shaped virtually every industry, from retail to real estate.

And with Toronto, in particular, being home to companies and institutions engaged in bleeding-edge work in artificial intelligence, observers have said that it’s more important than ever to ensure that industry professionals’ skill sets keep up with the rate in which these tools advance.

In a recent analysis, Matthew McKean – an Adjunct Research Professor at Carleton University’s Department of History – emphasized that the skills that need sharpening are not just those involving the technical aspects of one’s industry, but also those that involve how one relates to others as people, not just potential transactions.

“Automation creates new opportunities to privilege, value and grow human interaction, soft skills and our mutual understanding of and appreciation for people,” McKean wrote.

“The toughest tasks these future workers will face won’t be technical, but interpersonal — working with, understanding, and serving others.”

Read more: Battle strategy: Innovate the way you work, not just your products and services

McKean noted that multiple studies have pointed to a steadily growing need over the past 35 years for social skills.

“In economic terms, these skills are the key to productivity and growth in the service industries. Which is why the time and money that technology saves us must be reinvested — in cultivating, contextualizing, communicating, with and caring for people.”

Most importantly, McKean stated that any industry that deals with people’s wants and needs has the responsibility of ensuring that fundamental humanity is not removed from the equation.

“If we under-invest in the research and training that support the development of social, emotional and communication skills in relentless pursuit of … bigger and better [machines], we’ll miss the crucial opportunity that new technology affords us,” he warned.  “Canada might up end making better things, not making things better.”

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