After delivering a number of talks on embracing servant leadership as a CFO, audience members commented positively on how future workforce skills, such as servant leadership, would complement artificial intelligence (AI). This article is not only for people joining the workforce, but also for more experienced employees, and for those who may be managing them.
I began working in the 1980s, and my early career experience shaped my work style to this day. I know that new generations of workers will have different life experiences, views on work and goals. For a leader to be effective, they should acknowledge these differences and be open to people with various backgrounds. Working with AI will be a new opportunity for many of us, both within finance roles and not, and we need to be ready.
AI is here and will be an increasingly prominent tool for many companies, big and small. For those working in financial positions, AI will take over manual data entry tasks and do financial forecasting using predictive analytics. AI will help you discover patterns in your financial data that you can use to take action. Your auditors will use an AI tool to compare transactions from prior periods to look for data irregularities. A finance person might first be introduced to machine learning by adopting an intelligent automation solution using a bot to vouch for supplier invoices in accounts payable. At first, bots will be able to take over tasks that can be easily automated. In the not-so-distant future, people will have coworking relationships with AI applications.
The following workforce skills will help you stay valuable in the era of AI:
1. Complex problem solving: Technology will solve our simple problems. I saw early career success by proposing solutions for company problems. I hire people who put a high emphasis on problem-solving. AI will support human problem-solving efforts.
2. Creativity: This helps employees find solutions when problem-solving.
3. Openness to change: People will need to adapt to change, especially as technology advances at an ever faster pace.
4. Collaboration: Working with other departments will require collaboration. This may be done by working with AI, as well as by working with people.
5. Emotional intelligence: This is becoming a more recognized skill. Employees with high emotional intelligence use empathy and have an understanding of the emotional dynamics of a team. AI will have difficulty with this skill.
6. Enthusiasm for diversity: Diversity needs to be authentic inclusion. It is not a checkbox but the recognition that your team will be stronger with various life experiences, cultural norms and experiences, thinking patterns, and approaches to problem-solving.
7. Empathy: This is a key servant leadership principle, and it helps people cope with difficult situations and contributes to the concept of fairness. AI will not likely have the ability to empathize anytime soon.
8. Good judgment: AI will be programmed by humans. You want employees to have good judgment to help guide ethical behavior of AI. Good judgment is a broad term that applies to many areas.
9. Integrity: Integrity means being honest and having a strong moral character. As technology advances, there will be greater ethical challenges to come, and this skill helps prevent dishonest behavior in the workplace.
10. People management: This is a critical skill as people are the heart of a company and good managers have an active interest in people. It is a talent that can be lacking in people who get promoted into management. AI will lack the ability to manage people effectively.
There are certainly more than 10 skills that complement AI, but this is a good list to get you to start preparing for the future. At this point, AI is really an advanced calculator that is dependent on lots of data to provide value. It will not easily acquire the skills listed above, and this is where humans provide value in the human-AI partnership.
I endorse these skills as they are important for me to possess today in my role as a CFO; they represent good attributes in people who will be difficult to replicate in AI. The list of top skills from 30-plus years ago would have a few universal similarities, but the updates for today speak to what society has become and is evolving to become alongside the advancements in AI.