The predicted impact of AI on the global job market over the next several years seems to have caused general work anxiety to rise. How many of us are subconsciously questioning how long it will take until our job role is replaced by a robot? Proving job competence, value and worth seems critical in uncertain times where advancements in tech are progressing at an impressive (if somewhat alarming) rate.

The rise of automation and increase in the use of digital platforms at work in day-to-day job functioning is evidence that we already rely heavily on tech to keep things running smoothly, while enabling room for enhanced innovation and creativity. But the focus then should not be on maintaining our dominance over tech, but how we can utilise tech to enhance our own unique set of skills and talents to prosper in this uncertain times.

Writing in Harvard Business Review, Barry Libert and Megan Beck identify several areas in which humans still hold a major upper-hand against their robot counterparts: understanding, motivating and interacting with other human beings; persuasion; and empathy. The key to maintaining relevance for human beings in professional industries is for the individual to embrace their unique human skills and not reject those of AI.

By harnessing machine learning’s superior ability to gather data and implement results, as well as the emotional intelligence of humans, a symbiotic relationship can be accomplished where both the quality and efficiency of results are improved. One important question is whether AI will one day be able to surpass humans in emotional intelligence, and what the ramifications of such an advance would be.

“Human beings can’t just plug in more servers when we reach our limits processing new information. Instead, we must rely on our own, often biased, preferences, habits, and rules of thumb.” Source: Harvard Business Review

Disruption or Evolution?

It’s well known that the financial industry is set for major change. Financial advisers gather and analyse data about their clients and potential investment vehicles, interpret the implications given a variety of factors such as risk tolerance, recommend an investment strategy, and help their clients carry this strategy out over time. They solicit high fees because of three capabilities: Their abilities to go through tasks quickly and accurately; their experiences and judgement in determining a course of action; and their savviness for helping clients navigate that course. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will be able to replace the first two of those capabilities, shifting the skillset for any worker wishing to embark on such a career. The same goes for medical practitioners and business consultants, too.

“IBM’s Watson is already cracking medical cases that stump doctors, and investors are fleeing expensive, actively managed funds for better-performing passive ones. The value of some of our most prized career paths is already being eroded.” Source: Harvard Business Review

So, instead of competing with AI or remaining in denial about its enormous capabilities, the focus should be shifted towards enhancing uniquely human skills in order to work with the power of AI. The combined intelligence of humans and machines will indeed be a force to be reckoned with. An exciting yet unnerving prospect. With the changing nature of work AI will bring challenging new ethical and moral questions that will need to be contemplated, defined and regulated, in order to ensure properly upheld worker’s rights.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Let’s identify what emotional intelligence is so we have a clearer picture of what skills we will need to refine in order to be relevant in this new work landscape. According to the Institute for Health and Human Potential, emotional intelligence (also referred to as EI or EQ) is the ability to:

  1. Recognise, manage and understand our own emotions
  2. Recognise, understand and influence the emotions of others

In practical terms, this means being aware that emotions can drive our behaviour and impact people (positively and negatively), and learning how to manage these emotions – both our own and others – especially under pressure. Strong leadership skills will be highly desirable in the evolving labor market, as well as skills that AI has trouble replicating such as motivating, understanding, and interacting with other human beings. Google has already refined its recruitment procedure to testing for EQ levels over cognitive competences. People with good grades can learn how to perform a job role, but do they possess the emotional intelligence to lead effectively, and relinquish that leadership when necessary?

Smart machines will be able to identify problems and offer up corresponding solutions, but it takes an emotionally intelligent human being to spur on a team of people, avoid political tensions, boost morale and celebrate (or commiserate) with the team after a project goes live. Essentially, the human workforce will need to evolve into walking diplomats and therapists in order to work healthily and successfully in a tech enhanced world.

Interested in AI and the working world of tomorrow? Read our article on artificial intelligence’s impact on jobs