Why Emotional Intelligence is a Critical Skill for Your Future Workforce

— August 14, 2019

Why Emotional Intelligence is a Critical Skill for Your Future Workforce

mohamed_hassan / Pixabay

For those of us in the Human Resources field, we’ve heard about the term Emotional Intelligence (EI) back in the mid-90’s when Dan Goleman wrote the eponymous book. At the time, the idea was revolutionary: that there is more to exceptional leadership and performance (and to success in life) than IQ and technical skills. In fact, in the Harvard study that Goleman referenced, EI counted for twice as much as IQ and technical skills combined.

Fast forward almost 25 years and many people may think the topic of Emotional Intelligence has faded away. This is where you want to transform your perspective because EI has become even more critical to the future workforce! The workplace is changing profoundly. Artificial intelligence and automation are expanding to manage more mental and physical tasks historically managed by people. At the same time, Emotional Intelligence skills in people are becoming the key differentiator towards achieving excellence in employee engagement, breakthrough innovation, and customer experiences.

Consider these facts:

  • The World Economic Forum ranked EI as the 6th more important skill for 2020 and beyond. It wasn’t even on the list on 2020!
  • McKinsey Group research states the need for soft skills will grow in every industry between now and 2030.
  • IHHP research has found that EI qualities account for 80% of what makes a leader exceptional.
  • Organizations like MetLife, IBM and UnitedHealth Group are investing heavily in developing the workforce of the future by teaching the skills of Emotional Intelligence.

Building a business case for emotional intelligence training

Why are these organizations investing in Emotional Intelligence training for their leaders and staff? The Return on Investment (ROI) that companies expect to get from EI training include:

Employee engagement

The demand for engagement continues to increase. The reason your employees get up in the morning and choose to be engaged has nothing to do with their manager’s level of IQ or technical abilities. It has everything to do with that manager’s level of EI. In fact, when we ask people what the defining characteristics of exceptional and unexceptional leaders are, almost 90% of responses are linked to Emotional Intelligence behaviors. Managers that display high EI enable employees to display resilience and find meaning and connection in their work. Engaged employees are more willing to take on new challenges and pursue new opportunities.


Innovation doesn’t belong only in technology companies – it’s needed everywhere. Innovation in a company starts the day people feel safe; safe to take risks and offer ideas that have the potential to be terrible but could be building towards something brilliant. The psychological safety required to take risks is built through trust, which only exists when emotionally intelligent behaviors are present at every level of the organization. EI is the force that drives courage, creativity, and breakthrough approaches needed for successful innovation and problem-solving.

A culture of connection and collaboration

Emotional Intelligence drives a culture of greater human connection and teamwork. Forward-thinking organizations nurture these EI skills to deepen relationships with their employees and their customers. The competitive advantage of the future will belong to organizations that can forge unbreakable bonds with their people and their clients.

The research is clear that Emotional Intelligence is the single most important driver of an engaged, results-driven, highly adaptive workforce.

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