ChatGPT is only the tip of the artificial intelligence (AI) iceberg. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of new AI tools released every month and they’re automating almost every task humans can do, only better. For some people it’s exciting, while for others who see themselves as vulnerable, it feels like they’re an unwilling star in an ominous episode of Black Mirror.
While AI affects all of us differently, it’s creating unique challenges for university graduates seeking employment in fields where technology is already making employees irrelevant to a company’s success. For example, the recent strikes involving the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) highlight the issues of human roles potentially being replicated by AI. Are they right to be worried? Yes. Are the companies right to use technology? Also, yes.
So the question is, how can we preserve a sense of our own utility in a world where technological progress seems to be striving to render humans obsolete?
AI is already all around us
In today’s world of business, AI systems already perform administrative tasks and data crunching faster and more cost-efficiently than any human. Predictive analytics help brands forecast customer behaviour and model market trends in order to develop more effective marketing strategies. In the media industry, AI-powered software is writing press releases and marketing taglines. Even the Associated Press is using AI to increase its output of news stories by 1,400%.
You might not realise it, but nowhere is AI more prevalent than in the service industry. In the travel and hospitality industry, one of the most obvious benefits is the ability to quickly generate flexible pricing models for hotels and airlines based on traveller data. Even AI tools like ChatGPT are being used by companies like Expedia for travel planning.
AI has also been rolled out at fast-food chains, and not just at self-service kiosks. For instance, Shake Shack used AI to create dairy-free, plant-based desserts by analysing animal-based dairy on a molecular level and replacing them with plant-based molecules that mimicked the original.
However, it’s essential to note that there’s a big difference in the level of automation between a fast-food company where efficiency and affordability are paramount, and high-end businesses catering to customers seeking exceptional experiences and services. This is where human interaction and the knowledge to leverage on AI become integral.
AI and the white glove treatment
AI is significantly contributing to the luxury sector by enhancing the “white glove treatment” experience. Many brands, from Bvlgari and Burberry to Ritz Carlton and Rolls-Royce, are using AI-powered technology to provide personalised customer experiences. Brands like Rolls-Royce, Sephora, and Burberry let you try on their product in virtual reality. Others have sophisticated chatbots that offer virtual styling recommendations.
In private banking, AI is not just used for risk management like flagging suspicious activities, but also to streamline backend processes. This frees up highly skilled human resources to offer personalised services which are the bedrock of any private bank.
While each brand uses AI differently, the primary role of AI in the world of luxury and high-end services is to streamline tasks so that employees can focus on building relationships with clients. Therefore, among top companies – from luxury hotels and brands, to banks and restaurants – it will be skilled managers who hold the keys to the evolution of “cobotic” workplaces where humans and AI work side by side. They have the ability to amplify human and AI productivity, channelling it directly to where it matters most: the customers.
According to Laurent Alexandre, author of The War of Intelligences at the Time of ChatGPT in an interview with EHL Hospitality Business School, a future manager’s role will be to “deal with complex subjects, set up an ad hoc team, and solve it with the support of artificial intelligence.” This is because in the age of AI, crucial business decisions will still rely on human judgement, which requires knowledge of history and culture, as well as empathy and ethics which are missing from AI systems.
This means that if you pick the right paths at university, rather than supplanting you, AI could actually super-charge you. For instance, EHL boasts a 96% employment rate among recent graduates, with most being recruited by private banks and luxury brands, so they aren’t threatened by the rise of AI. This is because not only are they trained as managers, they’re “engaged at a very high-end, high-skilled level,” according to Alexandre.
The power of service
In the past decade, many countries have been transitioning from manufacturing-based to service-based economies, so there’s always going to be a demand for professionals who can design and deliver exceptional services. In the current business landscape, mastering the art of addressing customer needs is more vital than ever, since data shows 89% of companies compete primarily on the basis of customer experience (CX).
That’s why customer-centric giants like Nike, SAP, and Apple enjoy 60% more profitability compared to firms that lack this approach. This is because successful companies know how to apply the art of design thinking, which places customer needs at the centre of the design process to gain a competitive advantage.
Many top business schools teach design thinking. Among them is EHL Hospitality Business School, which stands out not only with its customer-centric curriculum, but also by imparting critical soft skills that teach students to leverage AI in human-centric ways. It also offers cutting-edge programmes like ‘Data Analytics and Storytelling for Decision Making,’ which will be taught to Year 3 students opting to do their Innovation Management & Sustainable Growth Strategies in the Singapore campus from September 2023. It teaches the skills to analyse data and turn them into strategies to operate in a digital world.
This means that EHL’s graduates are equipped with key skills that AI can’t enhance, and are therefore more valued in future workplaces where business processes become more tech-driven.
The future is human
According to an Institute For The Future (IFTF) report, 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet. However, one thing is for sure: AI will be more prevalent in most, if not all, of those roles.
But viewing AI as a “race against the machines” overlooks the significance of human soft skills in a future where AI is ubiquitous. AI is undoubtedly improving business processes and workflows, but knowing how to use it to streamline processes is where the human touch is required. And this is where soft skills become non-negotiable.
Forbes asserts that cultivating soft skills – including resilience, emotional intelligence, effective communication, and productivity – is far more crucial for future-proofing one’s career compared to hard skills. A recent American research revealed that 91% of management positions prioritise soft skills as the most sought-after qualifications. Because soft skills paired with great know-how is what defines the most successful people who enjoy the most mobility and opportunities during their careers.
With over 120 years of teaching hospitality management, EHL recognises the need to cultivate essential soft skills to generate added value for customers and employees alike. Its students acquire soft skills through innovative methods such as simulation games, and have the opportunity to benefit from an education in both Europe and Asia, with internship opportunities that span the globe.
Based in Switzerland with a campus in Singapore, EHL’s BSc in International Hospitality Management programme not only focuses on developing leadership skills that go beyond business knowledge and tech capabilities, but also with human-centric sensitivity guided by the principle that “humans are our most important asset in service.”
EHL’s curriculum reflects a commitment to both digital innovation as well as preservation of human-centric themes: the creation of a community, social accountability, a sense of purpose and belonging. This is how EHL sets its students apart from other business school graduates, preparing them for a career in an ever-evolving world that’s driven by AI’s transformative impact.