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People Power in the AI Age: What Leaders Should Look for in New Hires

Companies regaining their footing in the pandemic’s wake now struggle to keep up with rocketing changes affecting the marketplace. As they grapple with the impact of global and national events, technology seems to be operating on steroids. In particular, business leaders are trying to discern how to manage the lightning-fast advancement and use of artificial intelligence (AI).

In many cases, they’re trying to navigate the future without fully grasping what is happening now. As they scan the horizon, leaders must staff their organizations with people capable of maneuvering the current whirlwind of developments and what lies beyond.

Hiring Strategy for a Brave New World

According to research conducted by quantitative futurist Amy Webb, we are in a technology super cycle. In a recent episode of Brené Brown’s “Dare to Lead” podcast, Webb said that fifty years from now, people will look back at this era like we view the Industrial Revolution: a period of unfathomable change in a relatively short time span.

Webb and her Future Today Institute work with leading CEOs to help them achieve long-term growth. She noted that to be successful in this transitional era, leaders must engage in fast and slow thinking. The winners, she believes, will be those willing to project forward and make plans without fully knowing what is in store while also harnessing the powers at hand now that will facilitate the ride.

Skill sets are quickly evolving to match technological advancements. Most leaders acknowledge they need to embrace some level of AI in their businesses to remain competitive. Using that lens, they must hire people who are not only technologically proficient but who can nimbly adapt as AI advances continuously roll out.

Aside from securing staff who can manage new technology, leaders must also zero in on the soft skills that will grow in value in a rapidly evolving environment. Emphasizing this point, Dan Brodnitz, Head of Global Content for LinkedIn Learning, recently wrote in a LI blog:

“As organizations come to grasp the full extent of what AI can do, they’re also coming to terms with all that it can’t do — those tasks that require the uniquely human skills that all businesses need.”

Human Superpowers

Some might think that the call for a higher appreciation and value of soft skills is limited to those who don’t specialize in IT. Yet many captains of technology are highlighting the need for human capabilities that AI can’t duplicate.

One example is Aditya Malik, founder and CEO of, who is also associated with many companies in the AI and software as a service (SaaS) arena. He wrote this in a recent Forbes article:

“While artificial intelligence (AI) excels at crunching data and automating tasks, it falls short of capturing the very essence of what makes us human—the qualities that drive true success in a nuanced and ever-evolving world.

As organizations chart their course in this AI-infused landscape, the focus must shift from merely seeking skills to nurturing the very qualities that set us apart and remain beyond AI's grasp.”

Because of the AI boom, many experts believe adaptability tops the list of today’s critical people-centric capabilities. Dan Brodnitz writes:

“Adaptability is an indispensable skill that allows teams and organizations to keep steady and drive maximum impact. And this skill will become even more important as the pace of change only increases.

Since 2015, skills for roles have, on average, changed by 25 percent; by 2030 it’s expected that number will reach at least 65 percent.”

While employers should consider adaptability a core strength when hiring new team members, experts cite other critical soft skills that define today’s top job candidates. Some crucial capabilities are practical, including:

  • Communication
  • Project management
  • Sales
  • Service orientation
  • Teamwork

Other needed traits are more character-based. Peter Cardon, professor of clinical business at USC’s Marshall School of Business, conducted a study of nearly 700 companies worldwide. The personality-linked skills that ranked the highest in his research were:

  • Integrity
  • The ability to inspire others
  • Motivation
  • Drive

Two must-have qualities stood out to Cardon: ethics and interpersonal communication.


In an article for Fast Company, Cardon explains why ethics will be a superpower for staff members in the coming years.

“I believe that in the future, each of us will need to become a mini “AI ethicist.” We’ll have to navigate the daily ins and outs of machine-mediated relationships with colleagues, clients, and customers, using technology effectively while preserving authenticity and trust.

I attribute this to a recognition that incorporating AI into the workplace requires careful oversight grounded in high moral values and interpersonal trust.”


Cardon stresses that the ability to manage human interactions and “foster a sense of trust and authenticity” will steadily increase in value. He points out that technology will be more dominant in this area because of AI’s accelerating prowess in written communication. However, 72 percent of leaders Cardon studied say they value oral communication more than ever before.

“While email and other forms of writing dominate our professional communication, I believe oral communication is still the best way for people to display compassion, inspiration, creativity, sincerity, vision, and other human characteristics.”

For all its capabilities, AI can’t replicate these uniquely human characteristics, which are invaluable in cultivating a powerful organizational culture.

Aditya Malik lists more traits that differentiate humans from technology that employers should look for when hiring. These capabilities include:

  • Emotional intelligence
    Malik notes that people who have honed their emotional intelligence can handle complex relationships, build trust, and show empathy. These qualities help form a culture of collaboration and innovation. They are vital for teams to work together and build strong client relationships.

  • Creativity and innovation
    AI can spin solutions based on the data we feed it, but it can’t improvise. Malik writes: “Creative individuals, on the other hand, bring fresh perspectives, challenge assumptions and drive innovation in ways that defy algorithms, propelling organizations forward in uncharted territories.”

  • Cultural fit and values alignment
    A company’s culture, formed by its staff’s behavioral norms, is its lifeblood. Leaders who grasp this proactively shape their organization’s culture, including hiring people who will enhance it. Accordingly, they factor in job candidates’ values, beliefs, attitudes, and work ethics to ensure that they will sync with their team. AI doesn’t augment culture.

  • Critical thinking and problem solving
    AI can solve clearly defined problems, but Malik points out that it falls short when presented with ambiguous scenarios. “Critical thinkers—with their knack for analyzing situations, identifying root causes and developing creative solutions—become invaluable assets in tackling the complex challenges of a constantly evolving work landscape.”

  • Adaptability and lifelong learning
    Adjacent to adaptability is the desire to continuously improve and grow. Malik observes: “Individuals with flexible mindsets and a passion for learning are best equipped to navigate the whirlwind of technological advancements and adapt to ever-changing work environments, ensuring their relevance and value remain constant.”

  • Leadership and vision
    AI will continue to be a game-changing tool that improves speed, efficiency, and productivity. However, it won’t generate employee engagement and motivate workers. Today’s companies should be scouting for people with leadership and team-building skills who can look ahead and anticipate conditions that will affect the organization and inspire and unite the workforce.

Leaders will need to recognize and verify these vital human qualities as they add team members. Malik cautions that relying on resumes and traditional interviews won’t provide sufficient information. He recommends several tactics to help them identify top candidates.

  • Behavioral interviews
    Beyond assessing job seekers’ technical skills, leaders should ask open-ended questions about past experiences. This allows them to gauge how they used specific soft skills to approach real-life problems.

  • Assessment tools
    Malik tells leaders to use “validated psychometric assessments” to clearly understand job seekers’ personality traits that may not be evident on resumes.

  • Collaborative tasks
    For a more in-depth approach, leaders can devise simulated or problem-solving activities so they can observe how people demonstrate teamwork, communication, and leadership potential.

  • Reference checks
    Leaders should do more than verify technical proficiency if they contact previous employers. They should also try to get their perspectives about candidates’ soft skills to understand their potential better.

Employers are on the brink of an unprecedented transformation in the workplace. The ones who will come out on top are those who can accept and lean into continuous change while making decisions impacting long-range planning. This includes taking a long view of the value of innately human characteristics and skills and how they can enhance and complement businesses during this technology revolution.