In a world where HR is hustling to “upskill” employees to keep up with the Artificial Intelligence (AI) hype and competitive pressures of today, we fail to observe the skills that we are losing. We are facing a time characterised by digital dependencies, hybrid after effects of the pandemic, an increasingly individualistic society and life being lived at turbo speed.

A recent Pearson report highlights the most coveted power skills are in fact soft skills. Should we be surprised that this is exactly where the the skill drain seems to be happening?

After all, soft skills are the very qualities that distinguish employees and may be the reason why they will never be completely replaced.

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Here are some skills that are being eroded that HR needs to pay attention to:

1. The art of conversation

Today, if you want to rekindle a conversation you either send a funny TikTok video or turn to (what is considered as useful advice) articles like ‘11 Texts To Send When The Conversation Dies’. But one of the harsh realities of the digital world is that human connection cannot be substituted by a text, meme or an emoji reaction.

On the other hand, we find phone calls are the modern nightmare and genuinely do illicit anxiety. According to the BBC, a survey of UK office workers found that around 40 percent of baby boomers and 70 per cent of millennials experience “telephobia”.

Another obstacle in conversations is hybrid work. It is true that remote workers are happier - about 20 per cent happier - but it comes at the cost of reduced opportunities for teams to connect and an overall a slump in employee engagement.

So what does that mean for the HR learning function? No communication is complete without conversation. There will be detrimental impact on teamwork, meetings, conflict management and simply anything that requires a conversation.

2. The art of innovation

According to British Philosopher Bertrand Russell, we need a certain type of boredom to get the creative juices flowing. One self inflicted aspect of current life is the trendy hustle culture mixed with phone addiction that certainly ensures the opposite of boredom - where even relaxing leaves you mentally tired. Sometimes resulting in too much stimulation that leads to anxiety and a minimal attention span.

We incur the “switch-cost effect” which basically means that checking texts while working does not make a productive multi-tasker but instead, you are actually losing a considerable amount of time it takes to refocus afterwards.

The other aspect is inflicted by the workplace in situations where your boss is constantly messaging after hours. But are you simply producing a hyper hardworking worker at the cost of an efficient, effective and creative worker?Is it better to get an employee to keep on going without a second to think versus an employee who has the mental space to come up with game changing solutions that can be instrumental for the business?

Google, Nike, Apple, and Goldman Sachs are hence, all heavily invested in mindfulness training, which may sound like a piece of fluff but according to SAP has a 200 per cent return on investment.

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3. The art of long-term thinking

Sometimes in the recruiting grapevine, one hears people talk about an employee who stays at an organization for five years or longer - as a bit of an anomaly. You hear things like “the employee is too risk-averse” or “they do not want to step out of their comfort zone”. Similarly, employees have a similar short-term mindset as approximately 80 percent of US employees are looking for a new job in the past year according to report by Yulife.

Part of this short-term thinking pandemic is that instant gratification is key. Author Simon Sinek analyses how Generation Z employees approach workplace issues: “I’ve been here eight months and I would like a 50 per cent raise.” And despite preparing a plan for them to achieve that - “they take it as a no”.

Perhaps the biggest loss of this type of thinking stems from the fact that wisdom has never been achieved in a day. It takes a multitude of experiences, patience, learning how to jump rope - before it humbles you upon its presence.

4. The art of disagreeing

Under the guise of “tolerance” is a severe lack of it - cancel culture. There have been many incidents of witch-hunt like situation simply because someone does not follow the popular theme of the day.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah is a human representation of how disagreements have the power of change. Differences in opinion or cognitive diversity are the essence of an innovative and robust organizational culture.

Unfortunately, society is becoming increasingly polarized and it is personal. The art of respectfully disagreement has left the building.

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5. The art of asking for help

There is too much information to process on a daily basis. The fact that we can see shark devour a human being as he calls for his father for help is not normal - this is not what our predecessors had to deal with. Disturbing content, increasing isolation, bullying, media bias, social media comparisons, networks of deranged people - all have their hand in worsening mental health.

According to the World Health Organization, “Globally, an estimated 12 billion working days are lost every year to depression and anxiety at a cost of US$ 1 trillion per year in lost productivity.”

Sinek mentions that the biggest issue across all generations is the inability to ask for help. There is a dire need to train individuals for a seemingly simple but crucial skill. “‘I am struggling can you help me?’ - whether it is personal or professional - it is absolutely lacking,” says Sinek. “So we do unhealthy things to help compensate.”

Similar to the concept of a cashflow, HR professionals need to keep a check on the inflow and outflow of the human asset - skills being the currency. A skill gap analysis is definitely useful but a loss of skill points to a more systemic long-term issue for an organisation.

The article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Recorder or its owners

Khadija Husain

The writer is a HR professional based in the US


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Hussain Jul 03, 2023 04:16am
Thoughtful. Thanks for raising awareness
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Asad Khursheed Jul 03, 2023 10:07am
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Asad Khursheed Jul 03, 2023 10:07am
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