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Microsoft says employers will look for these 3 skills as A.I. changes the workforce

Happy woman examining a new robot in laboratory.
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There's no doubt that Artificial Intelligence is changing the workforce.

Four in five business leaders in Asia Pacific believe the burgeoning technology will transform the way their firms operate within the next three years, according to a new report from Microsoft and the International Data Corporation.

And yet, there's disconnect among the workforce.

As many as 15 percent of employees believe AI will have no impact on their jobs, the research found. Meanwhile, more than three-quarters (77 percent) expect their employer to help them develop skills to adapt to the changing environment.

That presents a troubling situation for workers, according to Microsoft's managing director for Singapore, Kevin Wo, who said that employees need to ensure they can respond to the changing work landscape.

"No longer is the responsibility only with the employer," Wo told CNBC Make It, noting that many businesses are slow to reskill staff. "The individual needs to take that on."

Three 'in-demand' skills

Microsoft's report found that by 2021, there will be an excess of traditional cognitive and manual skills in Asia Pacific, such as data entry, numeracy and communication, and mechanical skills.

However, there will be a lack of higher cognitive capabilities, as well as social and technological skills. Specifically, the report noted, there will a shortage of the three skills business leaders most need.

  1. Digital skills
  2. Analytical abilities
  3. Continuous learning capabilities

Wo said employees should focus especially on developing continuous learning abilities and creative analytic approaches.

"They need to start from the (continuous) learning," Wo said of employees.

"I think there's a need for them to learn about skills around design thinking," he continued, referring to a solutions-based approach to problem-solving. One definition breaks that model into five steps: empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test.

Teamwork and creativity

Wo also encouraged employees to surround themselves with colleagues who are eager to upskill too.

"Individually, it's very hard to do it on your own. You need that environment, that forum, to create change," said Wo. "I think having that peer group where they all feel there's a need to drive change, they all feel there's a need to bring about change in the organization helps to enhance that creativity mindset and culture."

"Creativity is a must." -Matthew Friedman, chief digital officer, Sembcorp

Matthew Friedman, a chief digital officer who attended the report's launch agreed. He said such teamwork and creative thinking have been central to his tech recruitment drive at energy company Sembcorp.

"Creativity is a must," Friedman told Make It. "When we interview people, we look at creative problem solving ... how they go about solving the problems, how they can solve problems with other people."

"Even if you're going to build an application in Python (a programming language), you still need a full-stack programmer, you still need someone to do data governance," he said. "How well they can bring a team together and rally the team is all important."