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Career Advice

The skills AI can’t replace in the workplace

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

Last Updated Sep 21, 2023
|5 min read
  • AI will automate many repetitive tasks, but it's unlikely to replace jobs requiring human skills such as judgment, creativity, and emotional intelligence.
  • Workers can prepare for the future of AI by developing skills like problem-solving, technical competency, and the ability to use AI tools to increase efficiency.
  • Explore why AI is likely to serve as a bedrock for research and foundational problem-solving elements, freeing up workers to focus on more creative and strategic tasks.

Technology replacing human labor is nothing new. Humans find a task they don’t particularly care for, create a way to make it easier, and move on to another task. It happened with the invention of the printing press, the industrial revolution, the rise of the Internet, and it’s happening now with the rapid acceleration of artificial intelligence (AI).  

In the current landscape, where value is often driven by data, experts predict that large-scale AI in the workplace will add as much as $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030; 45% of those gains will come from increased demand for product enhancements. While it’s natural to feel nervous about how the future of AI will affect your job, it’s unlikely that computers will replace the human workforce.

“As AI seamlessly integrates into our workflows, many job roles will retain their significance,” Angel Pichardo, a General Assembly instructor who specializes in content creation and full stack development, explained. “Essential areas include product teams that  orchestrate innovation, and customer/client-facing positions ensuring personalized interactions. While most jobs will endure, their focus may shift towards enhancing user experiences and handling unique scenarios.”

As AI becomes a part of our lives and jobs, it’s a good idea for workers to plan for how it will change the future of work, and what skills will be in demand as AI is incorporated into daily life.

What jobs will AI replace?

Pew Research Center found that about a fifth of workers have high exposure to AI in their jobs. College-educated workers are the most exposed. “Jobs are considered more exposed to artificial intelligence if AI can either perform their most important activities entirely or help with them,” the report explained. Using that explanation as guidance, mathematicians, paralegals, and web developers are more exposed. A worker performing general physical activities is less exposed.  

AI is best positioned to take over repetitive tasks such as data entry and review, transcription, clerical work, basic customer care inquiries, and research compilation. 

When work is “repetitive and subject to rigid procedures optimizing efficiency and productivity, AI is able to perform in more accurate ways,” David De Cremer and Garry Kasparov wrote in the Harvard Business Review. That could include scheduling, conducting exploratory research, automated note-taking, summarization, and complex math. These types of changes have been brewing for decades: Each of these processes can be completed almost instantaneously with AI and will continue to be adopted into workflows over the next five years. 

The jobs and skills that AI can’t replace

“We’re not going to run out of things for humans to do anytime soon,” Erik Brynjolfsson, a professor at the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI, told The New York Times. “But the things are different: learning how to ask the right questions, really interacting with people, physical work requiring dexterity.”

Fields that require one-on-one interaction and analysis, like health care, mental health, rehabilitation, and fitness are less likely to be impacted by AI. Jobs in agriculture, construction, and maintenance will also remain. Data science, particularly outside of tech, will remain important.

AI is unlikely to replace jobs requiring human skills such as judgment, creativity, and emotional intelligence. AI can process data, but it can’t anticipate how humans will respond to new stimuli. It doesn’t understand short-term versus long-term concerns. It can’t create, it can only iterate. In a field like advertising, where success hinges on tapping into culture and emotion, AI can assist humans, but it can’t compete. 

“Achieving an optimal AI/human collaboration involves employing AI for foundational tasks, which are then refined and expanded upon by human expertise,” Pichardo said. “In the future, this balance could evolve into a true partnership, where AI becomes an active participant in project completion, harmonizing its capabilities with human creativity.” 

AI has taken over sifting through giant piles of resumes for HR departments, so job seekers looking to stand out in the algorithm can distinguish themselves by touting skills like emotional intelligence, problem-solving, and technical competency. Communication, time management, and teamwork are skills that are always in demand. As even non-tech companies become increasingly reliant on AI, having basic competency in UX,  data mining systems, and analytics will be beneficial. 

AI can filter and process information faster than humans, but it can’t make decisions. It can assist  workers, making them more productive. Certainly, there will be a shift in the number and type of entry-level jobs and the most marketable skills, but history shows us that humans are highly adaptive.  

“Envisioning the near future, AI will likely serve as a bedrock for research and foundational problem-solving elements,” Pichardo said. “This could involve providing sample code, suggesting code snippets, and similar tools that expedite the initial stages of work.” 

Workers should be strategic in honing their skills to coordinate with an AI-empowered future. That starts with learning how to use AI to increase efficiency — using AI tools as a starting point in tasks, not the finished product.