For some time now, intelligence in the workforce has been a hot topic of discussion. Traditional intelligence measurements such as IQ have taken the sidelines as measurements and talk of emotional intelligence (EQ) and artificial intelligence (AI) take center stage. Across industries, experts tout the benefits of EQ and AI and predict their impact on the future of business. What does this mean to the average internal auditor, and where do these types of intelligence meet?
Individuals with high EQ easily recognize the emotions of others and understand how best to respond to those emotions. They also have command of their own emotions and use this ability to adapt and guide their behavior. For internal auditors, emotional acuity can be invaluable to stakeholder interactions, especially when negative responses to the audit process arise. High-EQ auditors project empathy and insight to help alleviate client concerns. They do this when the auditor and client are face-to-face, as emotionally intelligent people are usually very skilled at reading body language. For now, these and other activities requiring high EQ are best accomplished by humans.
At the same time, AI has quickly become an integral part of the average person's life. A study published in January 2017 by the Pew Research Center found that 77 percent of U.S. citizens own a smartphone, up dramatically from 35 percent in 2011. AI thrives in the smartphone environment where users simply speak into the device and ask for help — often without the need for any physical contact to activate the technology. Moreover, AI has become more and more common in the workplace, with organizations using it to analyze business data and increase the efficiency of customer interactions. The technology is advancing rapidly and, over time, is expected to transform the way businesses are run as more and more tasks become automated.
The human workforce is challenged to remain ahead of this curve. Predictions abound regarding which professions will be eliminated over the next few years by robots with AI. Through exercise and training to improve skills, the human workforce has an advantage over AI, at least for the near future, because humans have the capacity for both high EQ and high IQ. And while many believe IQ remains relatively fixed throughout an individual's life span, EQ is thought to be highly malleable. Therefore, it must become a focus of our continuing education and seen as a resource for improving professional relationships.
As EQ and AI gain further attention, coupled with the increase of robots in the workforce, internal auditors need to further develop skills that robots cannot replicate. Practitioners can seek opportunities to improve their EQ and look to better leverage EQ skills on audit engagements. During the audit process, for example, clients provide numerous nonverbal cues that auditors with high EQ can use to help pose targeted questions. Highly developed EQ enables auditors to better interpret client behaviors and remain attuned to their emotions.
With increased focus on EQ, interactions with clients should be more productive, and the improvements will help increase recognition of internal audit's value to the organization. In fact, value delivery is optimized when all types of intelligence — human and artificial — come together and complement each other. Making the most of intelligence resources will serve practitioners effectively and propel internal audit well into the future.