A worrying new trend has been uncovered in the UK jobs market: an emotional intelligence skills gap.

There is a clear disconnect between the skills employers want and those job seekers are displaying when it comes to emotional intelligence: that’s the key finding of new data released by global recruitment specialists Michael Page, a PageGroup brand with Opinium.

Half of employers surveyed cite emotional intelligence as increasingly important for employees entering today’s workforce, ranking it higher than work experience (45 per cent), or even holding a degree, which only 22 per cent believed was becoming more important.

Despite emphasis being placed on emotional intelligence by those in hiring positions, the research revealed job seekers are failing to highlight these skills in CVs and job applications. Only 0.4 per cent of PageGroup applicants over the last year reference “empathy” in their CV – a key tenet of emotional intelligence – while only 0.81 per cent mention “listening” as one of their skills.

Emotional intelligence is defined as being able to be aware of one’s own emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships with empathy; something which is predicted to be vital in an ever-evolving work environment being shaped by technology.

Emotional intelligence skills consistently ranked higher than more traditional skills such as typing speed, financial acumen and even A Level or GCSE grades when it came to the attributes employers want candidates to show. Four out of the top five skills employers are now looking for were related to emotional intelligence:

  1. Effective communication
  2. Adaptability
  3. Time management
  4. Listening
  5. Self-awareness

PageGroup’s data also revealed employers aren’t helping to close the emotional intelligence skills gap.

The wording of job adverts posted over the last year doesn’t reflect the skills and traits businesses say they want to see from applicants. Only 0.4 per cent of job postings reference “empathy” and only two per cent mention “listening.” “Adaptability” was Michael Page’s Skill of the Year for 2019, based on the views of thousands of employers, yet still this only appears in 0.21% of job listings.

Commenting on the findings, Nick Kirk, Managing Director at Michael Page said:

“We are in the midst of a technological revolution in the UK jobs market, with AI and technology becoming more prevalent across multiple sectors and industries. The rise of automation in the workforce can be cause for anxiety amongst workers but it shouldn’t be. Our capacity for emotional intelligence is one of the most effective ways humans have the edge over our technological counterparts. What is worrying is that candidates aren’t highlighting these skills to potential employers, despite clear demand for them. I’d urge job seekers to evaluate their skill set and ensure they are highlighting the right ones, to ensure we’re not facing an emotional intelligence skills shortage in the UK.”

Michael Page has partnered with the Foresight Factory to look at the emerging technologies and trends shaping the workforce, to help both job seekers and employers prepare themselves for the future. The report predicts emotional intelligence will become more important in the workplace as technology continues to develop; meaning we’ll increasingly start to seek out human interactions and deeper interpersonal relationships with colleagues.

Consumer research methodology: Total sample size was 550 workers who are involved with the recruitment process at work as part of a sample of 2,003 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken in November 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

Michael Page data: All data referring to job listing posts and applications has been supplied by Michael Page. This data was accumulated across all Page Group brands between November 2018 and October 2019.

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