A Great Workplace: The Intersection of EI and AI

A Great Work Place: The Intersection of EI and AI

Published 7th February 2019
Michael Jenkins

Chief Executive Officer (2018–2020),
Human Capital Leadership Insititute

Published 7th February 2019

At the Human Capital Institute, we are interested in understanding how to make human capital, human. In other words, what do workplaces need to look like now and in the future if they are to be healthy and fulfilling environments for human beings? 

And with digital transformation gathering pace across many sectors throughout the world, we also wanted to ask the question: what might a great place to work look like where people are happy and supported, where engagement levels are high, and productivity looks great – and where the organisation itself is not only embracing digital transformation but leading the charge – simply put, what organisations could claim to be really human (represented by EI – Emotional Intelligence) and really digitally-savvy (represented - for simplicity of purpose - by AI – Artificial Intelligence, and all it encompasses)?

The nine-box grid is an attempt to contribute to the conversation about humane and digitally-advancing organisations.

In the top right-hand box, we have suggested that this is where we might find a work environment that could be characterised as a “great work place”. 

Image of the expert human grid that allows users to assess where they are on their journey to being a great place to work

In sharing sessions around SE Asia – in Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur - audiences have suggested examples of organisations that might exist here and the most often cited are tech start-ups, typically ones where friends or a small group of like-minded people have banded together to create an exciting new venture. When it comes to examples of larger, more mature companies, Unilever has been mentioned as a place where human and digital come together well. 

As we progress through the various boxes, other organisations get mentioned of course – and most often, we get examples of huge organisations that are digitally extremely advanced but where the attention paid to the people who work there – characterised by warmth, empathy and care for the individual - is scant and cursory. These are organisations which are “Tough and Transactional”. They are successful in providing the products and services consumers want, but the question that lingers is: at what cost to employees? 

In the adjacent box, we find organisations whose business model was built on false promise and faux human concern: examples include digital money-lenders in Europe, many of whom have now gone out of business thanks to new legislation being brought in to curb their predatory tendencies. And there are organisations where digital evolution has failed to make its mark and where pitifully little progress has been made to take care of people. Organisations with these characteristics can be found in the “Falling Behind and Away” box. 

Organisations in the “Made to Last?” box are ones where digital transformation has been stellar but a relative lack of attention to the human dimension could make the organisation’s continued success somewhat questionable: the organisation might be managing transformation - but are its human capital practices humane enough to sustain and retain talent? 

In a short experiment in Singapore involving clients and newcomers to HCLI from the human capital functions, we asked participants to use an app to place their organisation on this grid. The majority opted for the “Getting There” box - which from our perspective at HCLI – is a positive outcome. There’s a recognition that much has been achieved but that there is still a lot more that can and should be done. Next most popular was the “Tough and Transactional” box, with “Great Place to Work” coming in third. It was encouraging to see only a handful of respondents opting for the “Head in the Sand” category or the “Happy but Losing Out” box, suggesting that the audience was generally clued-up about digital transformation. 

The box labelled “Missing Opportunities” is about organisations that could do more to make their organisations more human – by identifying approaches, policies and procedures that could be adopted but for now at least, are being sidelined. 

This grid was created to generate debate and self-reflection about where one’s organisation sits in respect of being human (EI) and at the same time, moving with the changing (digital) times (represented by “AI”). It takes an optimistic view that organisations can transform for the better on both the EI and AI dimensions.

The first step is to figure out where you are and from there, formulate a plan that ideally interweaves a people and a digital strategy. Those organisations that can manage this are the ones most likely to thrive in an age of massive change. 

Why not get together with some colleagues and ask: 

“Where would we place our organisation on this grid? And why?” 

Enjoy the conversation!

Back to top