As increasing digitisation continues to cut into jobs, workforces need to adapt by being more creative and, above all, by rehumanising leadership roles.

Experts call it emotional intelligence. But in Vietnam, this is still an “unfamiliar” concept especially among small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs).

So far only “big organisations in Vietnam have their own pathway and mechanism to understand the importance and benefits of emotional quotient (EQ)” [also known as emotional intelligence] at work, especially for leadership roles, Tieu Yen Trinh, general director at Vietnam-based Talentnet Corporation, told People Management.

Yet the concept is equally important for SMEs. Quoting from the company’s latest research report, Fast Research New Leadership Portrait in Vietnam, Trinh said that “personal values alignment” was the most important factor for leaders hoping to engage with their businesses.

This all boils down to EQ, said Trinh: it helps talent to “stay cool under pressure, conduct thoughtful discussions, and control emotions, which are vital to handling people effectively in this fast-changing, highly digitising business world,” she said.

“The lack of an EQ-high workforce is an issue for Vietnam SMEs,” said Tran Tien Cong, CEO of the Vietnam Coaching Institute. “I have seen some struggle when the team is not working with each other” and workers often prefer to communicate only with the boss, ignoring their co-workers at the same level, added Cong.

EQ is part of the institute’s coach training, which aims to rectify such situations. “We emphasise that the key to achieve success either as a coach or as an employee is by managing our emotional state as this will affect behaviour,” Cong explained.

“When we are in an empowered state – happy, or excited, for example – we can have better results than when we are in a disempowered state, such as being angry or frustrated, he said.

Trinh suggested the HR sector in Vietnam’s larger companies could act as a “facilitator” for smaller businesses to improve their EQ. They could organise training sessions on EQ, how to use it in communication to build “touch-points between the leaders and team members” and clients as well, she said, adding: “Some coaching and mentoring for leadership roles” is a good way to promote EQ.

Having internal campaigns and workshops to improve employees’ soft skills, to unlock their emotional values in thinking and decision-making processes, can also help, said Trinh. A rewards scheme meeting employees’ intangible and personal values is worth considering.

Digital uprising, no matter how daunting it is, cannot completely undermine the role played by individuals. “People are the stewards of technology,” Trinh said. “Humans are still the core driving force for any business”.

“Humans will need to retool themselves in jobs that impact and influence decisions,” Sheel Majumdar, HR country director at Microsoft Philippines, added. The workforce will need a greater ability to “collaborate, converse and cocreate with fellow humans – resulting in the the need for higher EI”, for Vietnam as well for the region as a whole, Majumdar added.

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