Building the Skills of the Future: Why Emotional Intelligence Is Critical for the AI Generation


AI won’t steal your jobs. It will push you to be a smarter, more resourceful, and self-aware professional. And that is why building emotional intelligence as a skill to prepare for the future is necessary.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation have found their place across industries and sectors, ranging from personal to professional. Sure, there are claims that “robots will take over the world,” but any well-informed individual knows that this is far from the truth.

Even so, in this emerging landscape, staying relevant is a whole new ballgame for employees. In addition to learning technical skills that now have shorter shelf lives, there is the pressure to build critical human skills – such as emotional intelligence. And let us assure you – these are the skills that will help you stay more relevant than the technical skills you develop.

If you find yourself feeling fearful about the advent of AI and its power to take away your job, pause for a moment and think about what AI cannot do: understand, evaluate, appreciate, interact, and bring that vital human factor to the job.

While a machine can perform some necessary tasks, a human being is still most suited to conduct specific “intelligence-driven” jobs such as leadership, crisis management, and talent recognition.

“The technology of the future, led by artificial intelligence and deep learning, will be able to outthink us in many ways,” saysOpens a new window Ed Hess, co-author of Humility Is the New Smart: Rethinking Human Excellence in the Smart Machine AgeOpens a new window . “However, in the coming Smart Machine Age, our emotional intelligence will be the very factor that makes us unique and employable.”

Learn More: Why Soft Skills Are Crucial in the AI EraOpens a new window

What Is Emotional Intelligence and Why Is It a Skill of the Future?

Emotional intelligence (EI) is defined as our ability to:

  • Understand our own emotions as well as the emotions of those around us.
  • Express our emotions as effectively as possible.
  • Respond to others’ emotions appropriately based on the setting – personal or professional.
  • Use these emotions to make crucial decisions.

EI is a particularly important leadership traitOpens a new window , especially for leaders at higher positions who manage large numbers, and who must motivate, inspire, and drive towards shared goals or targets. Importantly, EI also helps ensure the creation of an inclusive and prejudice-free workplace. For example, in a workplace dominated by AI, an emotionally intelligent leader can understand employees’ inhibitions and fears, and help employees overcome their fears of AIOpens a new window .

In addition, leader or not, a certain amount of self-awareness is essential if you are to work with technology that is learning to make decisions for you. Who defines this technology, after all? And who assesses its success and failure? It requires a group of highly emotionally intelligent teams to create bias-free technology, in addition to honoring the ethics of AIOpens a new window while applying AI to real-world situations with real consequences.  

The Skills of the Future Must Be Developed Now

In a discussion on the HR roles of the futureOpens a new window , several experts were of the opinion that in addition to technical skills, it is soft skills and emotional intelligence that will help shape the future.

Technology, even one as advanced as AI, cannot reason for you. It can predict outcomes based on pure facts. Let’s consider a situation: an algorithm tells you that an employee is not performing at their highest efficiency and should be terminated. It is your real-life experience, your observations about the individual, your EI, and your ability to empathize that will help you. You can evaluate why they aren’t performing to their fullest potential and consider whether they bring other essential skills to the table, such as the willingness to learn or their own emotionally intelligent behavior that makes them essential to teamwork.

While some people are naturally emotionally intelligent, others can be equipped with EI skills. So how do you boost EI in your employees?

1. First, identify the skills. There are several psychometric tests to determine EI-driven soft skills online. It is also essential to make your employees aware of why EI is needed. Conduct a series of tests, and then commence EI training.

2. Then, conduct training to build the skills. Training begins a series of self-inquiry: who are you, and what makes you happy or sad? What are the goals that drive you? How do you deal with negative and positive emotions? Do people matter to you, and if they don’t, why is that so?

Consider adopting a solution meant for future-ready skills training, such as Harvard ManageMentor®Opens a new window by Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning. Their latest update called Spark includes training modules on Authenticity, Design Thinking, and Emotional Intelligence, among others.

3. Simulate sessions that allow them to demonstrate their EI skills. A significant part of EI is our ability to be great listeners. Individuals with high EI are constantly absorbing what other people say, hear, or think about an issue. For managers, this is essential, helping build a consistent communication, feedback, and review pathway. If it is challenging to simulate real-life sessions that assess EI, use virtual reality toolsOpens a new window that put them in a situation without the anxiety of offending anyone.

Empathy is at the core of EI. It is our ability to understand the hearts and minds of others and finetune how we converse, assess, and acknowledge them. Simulating situations through virtual reality will also help build empathy among employees, fostering respect, a zeal for collaboration, and a feeling of oneness with the organization.

Learn More: Human Empathy is Essential to the Future of Machine-Led HiringOpens a new window

AI Is Here to Stay: But You Have the Power to Build Skills of the Future

Over the next decade, human skills will define the future of workOpens a new window and the successful worker. Focus on how building EI will help work with AI and the technologies of the future better. This can be achieved with consistent discussions and training. However, it’s important to remember that one does not develop EI overnight. It must be nurtured over a period of time.

In conversation with HR Technologist, Greg Jakacki, CEO at CodilityOpens a new window , said, “Effectively merging human empathy with efficient machines will ultimately revolutionize HR processes. Recruiter demand will increase along with the shift in the way people work, which is diverging from life-long stable employment in favor of short-term contracts.”

Are you ready to bring your humanity to the table through high emotional intelligence?

What is your opinion on the value of emotional intelligence as a skill of the future? Share it with us on FacebookOpens a new window , LinkedInOpens a new window , or TwitterOpens a new window . We would love to hear what you think!

(Updated: 08/14/2019)