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AI isn’t quite what the movies warned us about, but its impact has been no less disruptive.

The ability of AI tools to produce content of reasonable quality with simple prompts is jeopardising content production roles, while AI algorithms are encroaching on business strategizing and data modelling. Robots are also imperilling manual work, while chatbots and speech modelling software could even threaten customer service jobs.

While there has already been a minor backlash to this technology, this is likely to recede as the technology improves, and more businesses embrace its cost benefits. As a result, employees in some industries are already considering retraining, and switching to a more AI-proof career. But a less drastic approach may simply be to train skills that AI is still years away from replicating – and may never be able to emulate convincingly. 

The rapid rise of AI

The rise of modern AI tools has been startlingly quick. Almost concurrently with the world returning to the workplace after Covid, AI software such as ChatGPT and Midjourney broke into the public consciousness. The initial promise was that these tools would be a boon to employees of all types, and enhance their abilities, rather than supplanting them. In some areas, this has been proved correct. AI algorithms are being applied to sort through massive data sets and identify patterns with greater accuracy than humans in many instances, including in recognising medical conditions from patient scans.

In many other cases, however, the real benefits are less obvious. The advent of ChatGPT has improved the efficiency of certain tasks, such as generating ideas or formulating lists. But the influx of AI-written content has blurred the lines between content written with intent and emotion, and content regurgitated by software. The nature of ChatGPT and its ilk is that they use millions of examples of other content to predict which words to put in which order – creating content that is technically unique, but lacks any originality. As AI software begins to feed on AI generated content, this problem may only escalate.

The legality of using copyrighted content to train these AI models has been questioned, but perhaps the most troubling aspect has been the reliability of the information they produce. AI-written content has been frequently found to not just present incorrect information as if it is fact, but to completely invent information based on the way it predicts and continues patterns. Yet despite these limitations, AI software has undoubtedly improved rapidly in a very short space of time – and become competent and convincing enough to be used by small businesses and major corporations alike.

The impact of AI on jobs

The threat of AI to jobs and creativity is real and tangible, and there is a necessary reckoning on the horizon. Businesses that could easily afford to hire real artists or writers have already been caught using AI for text and image generation, speaking to both a dangerous future for creatives and the flaws in the current technology. But it is feasible that it will reach a point in the next couple of years where the quality of content is indistinguishable from a real person, if not the creativity and originality. While laws may be put in place to watermark AI content, or more heavily police the tools that make it, the genie is likely out of the bottle.

If artists and writers are already feeling the effects, however, many others may soon be at risk. AI has already been widely used for data modelling and analysis, and it seems only a matter of time until this is extended to marketing and other pursuits. ChatGPT and its competitors have already proved helpful for programmers, but may soon be able to produce error-free code without human intervention. Elsewhere, self-driving vehicles are becoming more of a reality, while robots already carry, sort and pick goods in warehouses. Many manual jobs as well as skilled jobs could be automated within a decade or two.

So what can workers do in a world where even retraining doesn’t necessarily protect you from AI? The answer isn’t necessarily to find the roles that AI can’t do or disrupt, but rather the skills it can’t emulate. The nature of how AI works means that there are certain things it will never be good at. This doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t affect certain jobs, but that humans can bring things to those jobs that AI may never be able to – whether that involves using AI in your role or not.

How to protect your job against AI

In the face of AI tools, the value of skills that engage people on a human level remains unmatched. It’s also something that is only going to increase in importance as AI becomes more omnipresent. We’ve already seen a small sampling of this in the growing rejection of self-checkouts in favour of staffed ones. Human interaction is prized, both because of the ability to avoid issues that the machines struggle with, and because people enjoy having another person to talk to.

Personal and professional development can help to maximise this value. By undertaking skills training, you can forge better connections with both colleagues and customers. Good relationships will always produce better outcomes in a way AI can‘t replicate, and discussions will always produce creative solutions that AI isn’t capable of. The skills below are just a few examples of areas where people have a significant leg up on AI – and where skills training can fortify these abilities.

  1. Phone-based customer service

Some customer service positions are being replaced, but some simply can’t be. While chatbots can field common complaints – and AI language modelling will expand the range of things they can respond to – AI ultimately doesn’t have the capacity to actually understand queries. All ChatGPT or similar technology is doing is a fancier version of predictive text, where it recognises a pattern based on things it’s read, and then uses this to fill in the next word. In short, it’s just regurgitating information from elsewhere – which makes it almost useless when something comes up that it hasn’t seen before.

AI also fails on the simple gauge of human connection and emotion. Many people prefer phone-based customer support because they can explain their problem more easily to a person than they can communicate it in text. They may also feel that talking to someone directly gives them a better chance of fixing a problem, and getting a quicker solution than a live chat or by email, where responses are often delayed. Phone calls can also be escalated if the problem can’t be fixed by the customer service rep, which is not always a facility that live chat and other text services offer.

  1. In-person customer service

Short of developing androids – which should still be a few years off – in-person customer service remains as important as ever. Part of the reason many people still opt for the physical retail environment over online shopping is this personal connection, and the ability to lodge queries or make returns. Negotiating this is as important as ever, and remains a sought-after skillset, with many retailers currently improving salaries in a bid to attract more workers.

Customer service training helps to hone these skills that improve customer satisfaction. Sometimes this will be simply helping somebody to find an item, or having a fruitful conversation that may reflect well on the business. In many cases, however, it’s about defusing a potentially difficult situation. Reducing the frustration of a customer when something goes wrong – and dealing with a difficult customer appropriately – can be just as important and impactful.

  1. Leadership and management

AI can analyse data and predict trends, but it can’t understand the emotional and human dynamics of a team or organisation. Leaders need to inspire, motivate, and build trust, with the end goal of fostering an environment where individuals feel valued and empowered. There are also complex factors to weigh up and difficult decisions to make, taking both the short-term and long-term consequences into consideration. 

Leadership and management training helps to provide greater clarity of leadership and decision-making, and to bring the best out of your colleagues. While AI will have a place in certain decision-making processes, it can never be trusted to make the final call, and won’t be the one delivering good (or bad) news. Ambiguity, nuance, and emotions are aspects that no AI will be able to weigh up, or respond to in a way that is both humane and rational.

  1. Sales and marketing

Salesmanship has always been, at its very core, about moxy. A highly competitive landscape requires charisma and creative solutions to get noticed, and elevate one brand or product above another. It’s about understanding the needs of customers, but also how to encourage them to buy something they might not realise they need – whether that’s through great storytelling, eye-catching branding, or an infuriatingly catchy jingle.

It’s this creativity at the heart of great marketing that AI will have most trouble replicating, and is something that marketers can absolutely learn and improve. The collective idea sessions, problem-solving abilities, and the building of relationships are all skills that AI may never possess. Even as robot-written copy sweeps the web, the ability of individuals to charm, create and convince will remain unparalleled.

  1. HR and wellbeing

The clue is in the name, but human resources isn’t something that’s easily automated. While some aspects – coordinating holidays – are already managed by software, many elements of HR are fundamentally human. HR departments and personnel often deal with sensitive issues, and support employees through difficult times. AI can automate tasks and analyse data, but it can’t understand human emotions, provide empathetic support, or build trust.

Training courses such as Conflict Management & Resolution in the Workplace, Mental Health First Aider and Developing Mental Fitness can all help to reinforce your HR skills, improving your own resilience and allowing you to better support others. This human contact and appreciation for other people’s wellbeing is resolutely out of reach for AI, and a skill set that is transferable to every possible workplace.


AI isn’t quite the impending doomsday scenario it continues to be painted as, but it is a change that most people should be mindful of. The best thing you can do to reinforce your position is to train the skills that AI will find hardest to replicate – human creativity, communication skills, and the ability to connect and empathise with others.

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Mark Fryer

16th February 2024

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