Featured in today's briefing:
- How AI impacts the IQ and EQ components of jobs.
- What happens when older workers are in the workforce longer.
- A strategy for writing self-evaluations.
AI and Work Radar
- Judges in the UK may now use ChatGPT to help them write legal rulings, according to government guidance, which also cautioned judges to fact-check the chatbot’s outputs and to only enter information that didn’t need to be kept private.
- A new study found that AI tools are as effective as human doctors in using x-rays to diagnose patients. Of the 37 health conditions the study authors tested for, AI was on par with or better than radiologists at spotting 35 of them.
- The US government has proposed a “nutrition label” system for AI healthcare tools—which would include information on “validity and fairness,” suggested use, and risk assessments—to help healthcare providers and hospitals with purchasing decisions.
- At an AI conference this week, Accenture CTO Paul Daugherty urged employers to “invest more in the people than in the technology,” arguing: “There is no AI-ready workforce you can hire a year from now, or two years from now, or three years from now… You need to bring your workforce with you and develop them.”
- Some HR leaders are using generative AI to help more effectively draw conclusions from employee engagement surveys, deploying tools that analyze themes in responses and generate next steps for managers. (Charter Pro members can read more here about how to design an effective engagement survey.)
Focus on IQ and EQ as AI Changes Jobs
Over the past several decades, the ability of technologies to perform routine mental tasks has increased the importance of “soft skills,” which are harder to replicate with software. The share of US jobs requiring decision-making, for example, grew more than fourfold between 1960 and 2018, according to a recent NBER working paper. Separate research suggests that the same phenomenon is happening in the c-suite—especially for CEOs—where a growing share of job descriptions highlight the importance of social skills like communication and theory of mind, the ability to infer other people’s perspectives.
Unlike earlier technologies, however, AI isn’t limited to routine tasks. It can write articles, generate images, and even converse, leading many to worry about what will be left for us humans to do. That may be because those people “see human potential as limited to just IQ, and therefore view AI as a growing threat getting better by the day at IQ tasks,” writes Aneesh Raman, vice president at LinkedIn and head of the company’s Opportunity Project, which helps organizations understand how work is changing. Instead, he argues, we should view emotional intelligence, or EQ, as a “a big arena of untapped potential for humans.”
We spoke with Raman to learn what this means for jobs and why he’s “long on humans.” Here’s an excerpt of our conversation, edited for length and clarity:
You’ve argued that AI will increase the importance of EQ to individual and organizational success. Can you give a few examples of EQ skills that you see as increasingly important in the near future?
The study of philosophy is about to become an—if not the—‘it’ degree. Critical thinking, creativity, ethics, empathy, collaboration, that bucket of stuff. I would also describe knowledge, knowledge gaining, and knowledge sharing as critically important—we've often misattributed it to just IQ, but it’s actually an EQ thing. Knowledge is a participatory endeavor. I'm going to be smarter from this conversation. I'll be smarter if I talk to a diverse set of people.
A lot of this EQ stuff, in the short term, might end up being less about ‘How do we become more human?’ and more about the ability to ask good questions, the ability to start with empathy for where someone is at, critical listening. All of these things that are critical to the people who gain knowledge who don't just read, but engage, will become core to the skill sets that we're talking about.
You've got this race right now between the human brain and the artificial brain. The artificial brain is learning how to learn in new and more dynamic ways. So the human brain needs to do that. But I'm long on humans. I'm so bullish on what the human brain is going to be able to adapt and build out into as we start to learn in new and more dynamic ways.
What Else You Need to Know
Microsoft and the AFL-CIO announced a new labor neutrality agreement, which would allow any of Microsoft’s 100,000 US-based employees to unionize with one of AFL-CIO’s 59 affiliate unions without interference from the company.
- The official pledge builds on Microsoft’s 2022 labor principles that affirmed workers’ right to choose a union, the importance of collaborative partnerships with employee unions, and its commitment to listening to workers’ concerns. For more on crafting and implementing neutrality agreements, read the Charter Pro guide.
- Microsoft and the AFL-CIO also announced a new partnership on artificial intelligence, which includes sharing information between Microsoft and unions on the latest developments in AI, integrating worker perspectives into the development of new technologies, and advocating for public upskilling and training programs.
- More broadly, the newest members of the workforce may have more experience with labor organizing than those that came before. The number of student-worker bargaining units increased 56% between the beginning of 2022 and July 2023, from 54 to 84. While the overall number of student-worker unions on campuses still remains small, the increase reflects a larger trend among Gen Z to be more supportive of unions than other age groups—even when older workers were the same age.
A greater share of older workers are staying in the workforce, and they’re shrinking wage gaps with younger peers. This year, 19% of Americans ages 65 and older were employed, nearly double the share in 1987. Back then, the median hourly earnings for workers ages 21-65 was $8 more than that of older workers. Now, the gap has narrowed to just a $3 difference.
- Economists point to several factors driving this trend, including today’s older workers having higher education levels, improved health, changes to retirement programs, and fewer jobs that require strenuous physical activity.
- Upskilling and reskilling may be essential to keeping these workers in the workforce. Over half of workers ages 50-65 report that younger workers are prioritized over them for learning and development opportunities, according to a survey of 3,000 US and UK workers from apprenticeship organization Multiverse. Among respondents who intend to retire in the next year, 16% said they would stay in the workforce if their employer offered opportunities to develop new skills.
Companies are increasingly giving employees months of runway for layoffs. After organizations faced backlash for handling cuts insensitively, some employers are now giving laid-off employees extended notice before their final day. The extra time is intended to give workers more of a cushion to find their next opportunity while still employed.
- Federal law requires large companies to give workers 60 days’ notice in advance of widespread job cuts, though many have begun informing affected employees even earlier in a bid to increase transparency and communication around layoffs.
- “HR owns the employer brand,” executive coach Jason Levin told Charter Pro last year, up to and after an employee’s final moments at the company. Conducting more humane layoffs, from messaging to severance packages to carefully-designed layoff experiences, can protect that brand and minimize reputational damage for when an organization is ready to hire again.
New research finds that virtual connections can be just as strong as in-person ones, undermining an argument used by corporate leaders to support hard-line office attendance policies.
- Building on a past study showing that friends are more likely to mirror each others’ brain activity, researchers from the Wharton Neuroscience Initiative and the consulting firm Slalom studied the brain activity of pairs of Slalom employees as they watched a video.
- Pairs who considered themselves close showed more similar patterns than those who didn’t—a finding that held regardless of whether the two people were watching the video virtually or in person together. “You can create virtual friendships that are just as strong in the brain as in-person friendships,” Natalie Richardson, director of Slalom’s HabLab, told Fortune. “I think that’s really encouraging for a lot of us who are part of virtual teams or virtual workplaces.”
- Those workplaces are becoming increasingly rare, according to EY’s Future Workplace Index. Just 1% of the US organizations surveyed for the report said workers are required to come into the office once a week or less, down from 34% last year.
Here are some of the best tips and insights from the past week for managing yourself and your team:
- “STAR” your accomplishments in self-reviews. If your performance review process includes a self-evaluation, structure each of your accomplishments with the acronym “STAR:” situation, task, action, result. Then, tie them back to company values or norms and include any relevant lessons learned during the experience.
- Start networking by giving, rather than taking. Rather than building networking relationships purely off of one-sided asks, consider approaching connections with what you have to offer. Build deeper, longer-lasting relationships by proactively reaching out to ask if you can provide assistance, resources, or knowledge that might help them.
- Remember to-do list items by visualizing them. Creating a visual or emotional cue can be powerful in improving short-term memory. As you add a task to your mental to-do list, picture yourself completing it or imagine how it might affect your colleagues, both of which can help you keep it front of mind.
- To recruit more qualified women, remove vague language in job postings. A recent study, covered here in Charter Pro, found that making qualifications more concrete can increase the number of qualified female applicants to more senior roles. For example, replace the phrase “excellent coder” with a list of the specific coding abilities you’re looking for.
Even AI wants a rest. A recent experiment suggests that the “winter break hypothesis”—the idea that GPT-4 mirrors the humans who created its training material by working less around the holiday season—may hold water. The system wrote significantly more code when it believed it was May than when told it was December.
Truly excelling. At the Microsoft Excel World Championship in Las Vegas this week, spreadsheeters at the top of their data-analysis game competed before a crowd of cheering fans for a $3,000 prize, a championship belt, and glory.
- For the third time in the competition’s history, the top prize went to Australian actuary Andrew Ngai, known in Excel circles as “the annihilator.”