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Emotional intelligence (EI) is a better predictor of success than experience or a high IQ , yet many organisations are still not attuned to its benefits fully or including it in their candidate selection criteria.
Referring to our ability to identify our feelings and manage our emotional relationships, emotional intelligence is increasingly recognised as a key attribute of outstanding performance in the workplace and the business benefits are plentiful. Workers with high EI typically have stronger communication skills, an aptitude for change, the ability to control emotions and show empathy, strong team and leadership skills, an optimistic outlook, high levels of engagement and therefore productivity, a growth mind-set and a greater degree of self-awareness.
Growing recognition of EI’s role in the workplace is perhaps, a reflection of the times we live and work in. Today’s employees are faced with constant change and information overload, rapid technological advancement is changing the act of work and organisations have become more diverse, disparate and under-resourced. It’s not difficult to understand why resilient, resourceful and optimistic employees are so very valuable to growth-hungry businesses.
Business author Daniel Goleman says these EI competencies distinguish outstanding performers in the modern age and empirical research backs it up. A US study found that 6% of new recruits fail because they can’t accept feedback, 23% can’t manage their emotions, 17% lack ambition, 15% have a poor temperament and 11% lack key skills .
While many organisations may have never given EI a second thought, the data suggests that failure to address it comes at a cost – high staff turnover, lost knowledge and compromised productivity.
Employers are starting to make the connection between a resilient, positive and committed workforce and high emotional intelligence. Thankfully, thirty-four per cent of hiring managers are now putting greater emphasis on emotional intelligence  which is particularly timely as the World Economic Forum cites EI as one of the top ten business competencies for 2020 .
For employers striving to drive employee engagement, curate a positive experience and boost productivity, EI must be integral to the recruitment process and actively encouraged and supported within the workplace too. As emotional responses govern how we think, feel and react, there are clear benefits for employers that help their people to navigate and use these emotions successfully in the workplace.
Start by assessing the current state of the workforce’s EI and identify where improvements are needed. Are certain qualities lacking or missing altogether? A clear set of goals and an understanding of the gaps will help to devise an EI-centred people strategy and provide a benchmark against which to measure progress.
A workforce with high EI starts with a recruitment process that is actively searching for and assessing those attributes and characteristics. This is more than asking employees if they are good communicators or have empathy and should include designing tools and processes that will actively identify and tease out candidates’ EI attributes.
The four pillars of emotional intelligence are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. These learned competencies can be enhanced and improved with tailored training and support. Putting a structured training plan in place to help employees build empathy, handle negative emotions or deal with challenging situations can improve these competencies and reinforce the desirability of high EI.
Workplace culture is where the personality of a business comes to life and it’s intrinsically linked with employee experience. Actively celebrating and encouraging emotionally intelligent responses, such as dealing with a difficult situation calmly or leading a very disparate and diverse team etc, will help to build a workplace culture grounded in EI.
Business leaders who understand employees’ workplace experiences, frustrations and requirements stand to be able to devise the best organisational practices, culture and protocols to make staff feel valued, listened to and supported. A deep understanding of wants, needs and expectations (and an ability to meet and even exceed them) underpins an EI-minded workplace.
The environments we occupy have a direct bearing on how we feel and function. Spaces that have been designed to support how work is done and which provide a variety of motivational and inspirational stimulus help to create positive workplace experiences. Workplaces that have been designed with EI in mind cater for a full range of emotional needs – from spaces that stimulate sociability and friendships, to areas for lone-working and reflection.
In a fast-paced and demanding modern age, employees with emotional resilience, positivity, drive and self-awareness are the best equipped to thrive and it is the business leaders who actively seek-out and reward these qualities that will build a sustainable, productive and human-centred workforce. As automation and technology continues to overhaul many professions, we must celebrate the very best of the human contribution and make EI integral to modern people-strategies. Organisations that harness this power will become true bastions of business success.
As a society, we have a lot to learn from how we approach our own personal change journeys. Self-imposed change is often approached with trepidation, enthusiasm and excitement as we embark on lifestyle changes or begin a new job. In an age of business-critical and self-imposed change, the challenge of how to engender enthusiasm in the workforce rather than fear, or worse still apathy, is very real.
At a time when employees expect consultation and co-creation, it’s no longer appropriate or wise to develop new work environments without soliciting their views and actively engaging them in the process. Meeting this need for inclusion is best achieved by gauging employees’ views on every aspect of the workplace experience, from how they view the quality of the coffee to personal rewards, management styles, technological provision and working cultures.
For workplaces to drive efficiency, productivity, morale and innovation, they must be coupled with great change management and behavioural and attitudinal transformation programmes. Communicating in an informative and timely manner is important, even for those aspects of a project that individuals can’t influence and control. Feeling ‘in the loop’ rather than ‘in the dark’ is helpful in its own right. In addition, creating the opportunity for various groups to contribute to and influence some aspect of change is empowering.
All businesses must strive to unlock greater productivity from their people if they are to compete in an increasingly competitive age. While culture might seem intangible, its benefits can be felt and seen in the everyday behaviours of employees and the contribution they make. For business leaders in pursuit of more, taking a closer look at what binds, unites and motivates their people is a very important first step.
We have summarised our workplace research findings from the last 12 months of work with our clients across a range of industries. Our Annual Workplace Research Report focuses on the relationship between people, productivity and the workplace.
Useful reading & references.
 Harvard Business Review study quoted in the whitepaper ‘Emotional Intelligence as an Organizational Asset’ by Louise and George Altman