We’re at the dawn of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Technologies such as robotics, nanotechnology, and augmented intelligence are beginning to change the workforce as we know it, and analysts predict that we’re in for one of the largest shifts the modern world has seen. An increasing amount of positions are becoming remote and offices decentralized thanks to the flexibility afforded by the cloud. Automation is assisting humans with simple, repetitive tasks in sectors ranging from manufacturing to sales, and a greater importance is being placed on employees’ ability to be agile, embrace change, and acquire new skill sets. Augmented Intelligence helps humans communicate, perform, change and learn more effectively.
To adapt to AI and other data-centric processes that have the potential to automate the simple tasks that comprise our daily workload, we need to think about how we can improve the human proclivities with which Augmented Intelligence struggles. According to Megan Beck, coauthor of The Network Imperative: How to Survive and Grow in the Age of Digital Business Models, the way we evaluate human intelligence will change as the workforce transforms. Higher-order thinking and emotional engagement will be of the utmost importance.
What were traditionally known as ‘soft skills’ – creativity, criticality, innovation, the ability to understand, motivate, and interact with other human beings – will be valued more than the ability to gather and analyze data. To stay relevant in the future workplace, Beck suggests that we work on improving our ability to relate to those around us. “Begin to nurture and invest in these abilities the same way that you have the more technical parts of your career. If you can be an outstanding motivator, manager, or listener, then you will still have a part to play as technology changes your industry.”
As the workforce evolves, jobs that utilize emotional understanding and empathy will remain in demand. As such, we need to work on honing those skills that make us who we are as humans. According to the World Economic Forum Future of Jobs report, professions such as healthcare, sales, management, and education are expected to grow in demand, while administrative, manufacturing and construction are expected to shrink. Jobs in the former category rely on the interpersonal skills that are typically aligned with a female mentality or way of working.
This has some scholars saying that in the near future we’ll need to shift our institutional mindset from that of the “male archetype” to that of the “female archetype”. Salim Ismail, the executive director of Singularity University, suggests that the male archetype is competitive, risk-taking, and controlling, while the female archetype is flexible, open and distributed. According to Ismail, the global shift in the workforce and economy is connected to the shift from male to female ways of doing things. “The female archetype is participatory, nurturing, cooperative, and network-linked,” says Ismail. “And we’ve ratcheted between these two polarities throughout civilization to upgrade ourselves.”
While many scientific studies show that a gender gap exists between men and women when it comes to emotional intelligence (“EQ”), EQ is a competence that can be trained and encouraged in any organization. In fact, it’s imperative that business organizations of all shapes and sizes encourage and nurture these skills to stay competitive in the face of automation. The same World Economic Forum report cited Emotional Intelligence as seventh on a list of top ten skills that will be crucial to the future of work.
There’s no doubt that emotional intelligence has the ability to radically improve the way we work. When Google set out to create the perfect team, it found that the best teams exhibited equal turn taking, meaning team members spoke for roughly the same amount of time. Additionally, they found that successful teams exhibited high social sensitivity, meaning that team members were better than average at intuiting the emotional states of their peers based on body language, eye contact, and other nonverbal cues. Put simply, the most successful teams displayed high EQ.
While emotional intelligence is largely determined through a combination of genetics and upbringing, studies show that it is possible to coach emotional intelligence and see significant improvement. Meta-analyses suggest that good coaching programs lead to an average of 25% improvement with short-term improvements up to 50%. The most coachable EQ skills are interpersonal, hinging on our ability to interact with other people. Thanks to the plasticity of the social brain, adults can be coached to be more empathetic, compassionate, and pro-social.
Despite women possibly having an advantage in the ‘soft skills’ that are becoming increasingly valuable in the age of automation, conscious efforts still need to be made to close the gender gap in the future workforce. The Future of Jobs WEF report shows that across all industries, nearly one in four companies reported supporting gender parity because of an expectation that it would enhance innovation, while a similar proportion cited enhancing decision-making. While EQ coaching is a solid approach to usher in the female-archetype future, additional efforts can be made. Encouraging work-life balance, setting up an internal system of mentorship, and ongoing training to diminish gender bias among co-workers will ensure that tomorrow’s companies are agile in the face of automation.
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