Across America, organizations are grappling with the COVID-19 induced labor shortage that has now been coined the Great Resignation. Labor reports show that in September of 2021 alone, 4.3 million Americans handed in their resignations. This was a sign that many people – especially in industries with low wages, small to no benefits, and potentially disruptive, nontraditional working hours – are looking to flip the script and find work that fits their life, not the other way around.
Influence of Emotional Intelligence on the Workforce
- Work and Technology
- Role of Emotional Intelligence
- A Human-Centered Approach to Jobs
- What Does This Question Highlight?
- A Balancing Act
1. Work and Technology
Organizations are responding to this exodus in two main ways. Some companies are increasing wages, adding benefits and perks, and attempting to rethink those jobs. Other companies are taking calculated risks and investing in automation technology. Instead of trying to entice frontline employees back with improved working conditions and opportunities, they are investing in technology that can do the same job.
Automation is nothing new. Almost a decade ago, the journalism industry started to experiment with automation. The Associated Press, one of the largest data-gathering organizations, started using robots to write articles. It struck a deal with Automated Insights, an American-based technology company specializing in natural language generation software. The software was able to turn big data into readable corporate earnings reports. These reports replaced the need for data analysists and could produce reports ten times faster than a human analyst. These days, AI is a common part of the journalism industry.
What is new is how quickly the pandemic has accelerated the pace of these technologies in other industries and how quickly most of us will likely be impacted by AI, robots, and automation in our work.
2. Role of Emotional Intelligence
“The most disturbing thing I learned in my research is that we have been preparing for the future in exactly the wrong way. For years, the conventional wisdom has been that if technology is the future, we need to get as close to the technology as possible. We told people to learn to code, to study hard skills like data science, engineering, and math….But what I learned was essentially the opposite. Rather than trying to compete with machines, we should be trying to improve our human skills. Things that only people can do – compassion, critical thinking, moral courage. When we try to do our jobs, we should be trying to do them as humanly as possible.”
What Kevin is referring to is emotional intelligence. A large part of what machines can’t do – our distinct human advantage – is the ability to be human. Consider what many working parents learned about the value of school and in particular, teachers, during the pandemic. Teachers are responsible for lesson design, materials development, test construction, grading – all things that could potentially be automated by technology. However, so much of what makes a great teacher is the ability to be human with our children. Teachers read a child’s energy and mood. They listen deeply and help students navigate situations with their own feelings and other kids. They ask good questions. Great teachers guide students in discovering what they are great at and managing things that don’t come as naturally.
3. A Human-Centered Approach to Jobs
It could be argued that certain jobs – teachers, home health care workers, therapists, nurses, coaches – require well-developed EQ while technical or functional jobs (e.g., accountant, mechanic, etc.) or even certain industries (e.g. finance) don’t necessitate such skill. I disagree. The future of work needs to take a human-centered approach to jobs because there is a human at the center. How can we start thinking about the “bedside manner” of individuals but also organizations?
In an interview with Kevin Roose, podcast host Manoush Zomorodi asked:
“Let’s talk about how we actually build the next era of the workforce because what you are talking about it a different kind of training. It’s about emphasizing emotional intelligence – how do you even teach that? What worries me is that some people who are introverted or shy [or not as charming] may somehow get left behind in an emotionally-centric workforce.”
4. What Does This Question Highlight?
This question highlights several important things. First, emotional intelligence is a different kind of training, and it can be taught. It is a skill; it is a muscle that you can train and if you do it with intention and the right support (e.g., feedback, accountability partners, coaches), it can become not only an asset, but a differentiator. Organizations can and should invest in this type of training and the support needed to make it a priority. Unlike technical training, like learning to use a new software platform or a new piece of machinery, emotional intelligence training requires that you look inside yourself and understand yourself first as a person, and that can be hard work. For some of us, talking about and managing our own emotions, connecting with people, recognizing moods, and caring about emotions in others comes more naturally. For a lot of us, it takes work.
Being introverted doesn’t mean you can’t be skilled in emotional intelligence. It just might mean that it takes more energy for you than for someone with a preference for extroversion or other natural preferences or skills. Take Gina, for example. Gina has an introverted preference. She tends to reflect first, then share her perspective in meetings. If she were given a choice, she would opt for a quiet evening with a book or going on a solo hike. She prefers connecting in deep ways with 1 or 2 people rather than being in large group setting. Gina also has low interpersonal needs when it comes to her relationships. She is very selective about who she spends her time with. She doesn’t need to spend time with many people outside of her partner and a couple of close friends.
5. A Balancing Act
Gina is also a senior marketing partner and goes to 10 conferences and trade shows a year. At these events she is expected to work at the company booth, make presentations, and schmooze. Each event she connects with dozens if not hundreds of vendors, buyers, and colleagues. Gina is consistently the most successful member of her team at these events. She walks away with the biggest list of qualified leads, gets great feedback from the event sponsors about her responsiveness, and gets glowing reviews from conference attendees about her presentations. She has a diverse network within the industry and uses these events to deepen existing relationships and foster new ones. Gina is also an expert at making introductions between people who have common interests and could form potential business partnerships. How is this possible? Because she knows herself and she works at it.
Gina gears up for these events in the weeks prior by focusing on self-care and doing what she needs to have the energy to be at her best. She goes for a run every morning of the event to give herself the time and quiet to be “on” during the day. Then, she dials it up all day in these various settings – so she can be successful and use those skills to get her what she and her organization needs. When she gets into the elevator each evening to go back to her hotel room, the doors close, she exhales, finds comfort that there is no one else to talk to for the evening, and starts mentally preparing for what it will take for her to be on her “A” game the next day. It’s work and for Gina, it’s worth it.
By: Maggie Sass, Executive VP of Applied Research at TalentSmartEQ
From Insights to Action
What do you or your company need to be ready for the next era of work? To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmartEQ’s suite of solutions, please visit: https://www.talentsmarteq.com/contact/ or contact TalentSmartEQ at 888-818-SMART.