In fewer than five years, more than a third (35%) of skills considered important today will have changed, according to a report by The World Economic Forum. Amongst cognitive abilities such as complex problem solving and critical thinking, emotional intelligence – often referred to as ‘street smarts’ – has been identified as a crucial social skill that will be needed by all.
The report, based on the opinions of chief HR and strategy officers from leading global organisations, suggests that seismic advances in technology including artificial intelligence, advanced robotics and machine learning will revolutionise the way we live and work. As a result, organisations and employees will be under growing pressure to upgrade and fine tune their skillsets to thrive, or even survive, in what is being termed The Fourth Industrial Revolution.
According to the report, by 2020 there will be a greater bidding war for employees with social abilities including persuasion and emotional intelligence compared to more limited technical skills like programming or equipment operation and control. Furthermore, professions previously seen as purely technical will see a new demand for interpersonal skills, such as being able to communicate data effectively. Emotional intelligence is likely to be a major deciding factor in who will be able to adapt and flourish in these new roles.
Decoding Emotional Intelligence
So what exactly do we mean by emotional intelligence? In their book, The EQ Edge*, Steven Stein and Howard Book describe it as our capacity to objectively assess our strengths and to acknowledge and challenge our limitations, assumptions, biases and self-defeating beliefs.
Going back to that term street smarts, emotional intelligence brings into play an ability to read the social and political landscape and tune into what others want and need, together with their strengths and weaknesses. It involves an ability to remain unruffled by stress and to be engaging – essentially being the type of person others want to be around. After all, the value of a high IQ is likely to be severely diminished if we are unaware of how we come across to others, put them off with caustic behavior or crumble under minor stress. This is why EQ has been found to be directly responsible for between 27% and 45% of job success compared to just 1% to 20% for IQ.
Bridging the gaps
Whilst intelligence and personality traits are generally considered to be relatively stable throughout adulthood, emotional intelligence is a state that can be developed and enhanced. It consists of short-term, tactical, dynamic skills that can be deployed according to the situation. This means that once someone is aware of their current standing on each of the individual building blocks of emotional intelligence – such as self-regard, empathy, flexibility and stress tolerance – they can improve them through training, coaching and experience.
The good news for employers, in the light of the World Economic Forum report, is that they can get a head start by understanding their employees’ current level of emotional intelligence. Gaining an EQ temperature check means they can ensure it matches existing requirements, as well as forecast and prepare for future needs.
As the pace of change continues to accelerate and we head towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution, being able to identify and anticipate future skills requirements will be crucial. Those organisations and employees who embrace and prepare for the changes will be the biggest winners.
* Stein, S. J., & Book, H. (2011). The EQ Edge: Emotional intelligence and your success (Third Edition). Mississauga: John Wiley & Sons Canada.