UNC Kenan-Flagler Insights

Emotional intelligence: Can companies really feel their way to success?

November 7, 2013 By kfblogadmin1

Emotional IntelligenceThe following is an excerpt from a white paper by Lauren Garris, client relationship manager, UNC Kenan-Flagler Executive Development.

It has been nearly 25 years since Peter Solovay and John D. Mayer first used the term “emotional intelligence” to describe a different kind of intelligence many business leaders believe is essential to achieving success in the workplace. Unlike many other business trends that have come and gone, emotional intelligence—an intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions and to use that information to guide one’s thinking and action—still has legs. Business leaders continue to use the term and value it as a key employment factor. There is also evidence that HR and talent management professionals who make increasing emotional intelligence among all employee levels a strategic organizational priority will help boost their organization’s bottom line.

The Benefits High Levels of Emotional Intelligence Bring to Organizations

High emotional intelligence in organizations is associated with increased productivity, higher engagement levels, lower turnover and absenteeism rates, and increased market share. Daniel Goleman has theorized that 80 to 90 percent of the competencies that differentiate high-performing workers from average-performing workers can be found in the emotional intelligence domain, and one study found emotional intelligence to be two times more predictive of business performance than employee skills, knowledge, and expertise. Another study found a positive relationship between a leader’s emotional intelligence scores and his or her subordinates’ job performance ratings.

Employers are taking notice. One survey found that four out of five large companies were trying to promote emotional intelligence in their organizations. A 2011 Career Builder study found that 71 percent of the hiring managers surveyed said they valued emotional intelligence in an employee more than IQ, believing that employees with high emotional intelligence are more likely to remain calm under pressure, can more effectively resolve conflict, can better lead by example, and are more thoughtful in their business decisions. That same survey found that more than one-third of employers said they were placing more emphasis on emotional intelligence when hiring and making promotions. Seventy-five percent of survey participants said that when it came to promotions, they were more likely to promote the person with high emotional intelligence over a person with a high IQ.

These studies make an extremely persuasive argument for HR and talent management professionals as to why their organization should focus on improving emotional intelligence at all employee levels.

How to Improve Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Emotional intelligence can be developed, but it will take time and patience. A three-hour seminar simply will not have a long-term effect. HR and talent management professionals who want to improve their organization’s emotional intelligence should consider the following steps offered by Cary Cherniss and Daniel Golemen:

  1. Select for emotional intelligence.
  2. Start at the top to assess emotional intelligence and to achieve buy-in.
  3. After the senior leader pilot program, launch a voluntary, company-wide initiative.
  4. Evaluate the program’s effectiveness.

The concept of emotional intelligence has stood the test of time, and study after study has demonstrated the value it can bring to an organization. HR and talent management professionals have the opportunity to improve their organizations’ productivity and bottom lines by making increased emotional intelligence a strategic organizational goal. It will require assessment, planning, and long-term commitment for everyone involved, but the potential benefits make the effort and time commitment well worth it.