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By Dr Lindsay McMillan

I recently came across this excellent piece on The Conversation about the importance of emotional intelligence in our increasingly digitally enabled society. I encourage everyone to read it.

The article highlights some of the key issues confronting workplaces around Australia and the world, namely the rise of automation, increasing use of digital platforms for work and the coming Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Importantly, it also points to something that the a future that works campaign has been highlighting for some time now, and that is the importance of giving employees purpose and meaning at work, and highlighting the emotional dimension of work.

Our 2016 research showed some really negative and unhealthy results for workers throughout the country and across a diverse range of industries.

A central finding in this research, which surveyed 1,001 Australian workers, was that a massive 72 per cent said they were after greater purpose in their work.

And as technology continues to impact how work is conducted, there is a real risk that employee wellbeing is becoming secondary to work output, which leads to disengagement and unhappiness in the workplace. The act of feigning happiness and cheerfulness at work becomes an added burden.

Purpose and meaning at work aligns with the importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace, especially as technological advancements rapidly influence the workplace.

As The Conversation piece highlights: “Many indicators suggest that jobs of the future will require much more emotional intelligence to complement the sophisticated machines we work with.”

With artificial intelligence becoming increasingly pervasive, workers will need technology skills but it will be almost more important for employees to develop their emotional intelligence. For example, the globalised workplace means more employee to employee interactions occur digitally, however this means workers should be even more aware of the emotions of those they are working with.

It is time for all workplaces to start thinking about this and implementing the necessary policies. To get the ball rolling a future that works’ six steps to build a culture of Purpose and Meaning are:

1.                   Foster Employee Participation and Inclusion

A culture of respect and valuing employees can be generated and sustained by the simple act of inclusion.

2.                   Communicate the Alignment between Individual Roles and Organisational Goals

Leaders need to be able to identify and articulate the way in which an individual employee’s role contributes to the achievement of the common purpose.

3.                   Encourage Autonomy and Active Engagement

After there has been a clear identification and articulation of purpose, workers should be afforded a high degree of autonomy to carry out their role and make an active decision to work towards this vision.

4.                   Provide Resources and Information

To increase autonomy, employees should have all the information and resources they require to effectively do their job.

5.                   Serve a Greater Purpose

While an altruistic outcome is not a requirement for developing meaningfulness, this is a recommended addition to help maximise the update of purpose among workers.

6.                   Reinforcing Engagement

Actively implementing these strategies will result in higher levels of engagement, and may be reinforced through incentivisation that is not only linked to financial outcomes, but measures of application and alignment. This can be achieved through career construction and job crafting.

These six steps set the course for businesses who want to create a culture of purpose and meaning and by creating this culture, business leaders can foster more emotionally intelligent workers ready for the future of work.