There are good reasons why emotional intelligence is one of the most keenly sought-after soft skills. Increasingly, employers are recognising that employees and managers with high emotional intelligence have a profound influence over team and company performance.
In fact, testing by TalentSmart found that emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor of performance, explaining a full 58% of success in all types of jobs.
Individuals with high EI / EQ have a number of defining qualities that make them valuable employees.
According to Fast Company, these employees manage pressure healthily, they understand and cooperate with others, they listen and take feedback well, they are empathetic, set positive behaviours and make more thoughtful and thorough decisions.
So why is this important now?
These qualities have always been valued. But as formal employment structures change, the soft skills qualities of high EQ workers are now coming into their own.
The notion of a “job for life” is rapidly being replaced by a shifting workforce with very different expectations from the employer/employee relationship. Employees expect their employers to demonstrate their social conscience and provide their staff with autonomy and respect.
But this needs a new kind of management – the kind of management that leverages the talents and skills of the high EQ manager. Respondents to a 2011 survey of more than 2600 US hiring manager by Harris Interactive found that 71% (of hiring managers) said they value emotional intelligence in an employee more than IQ.
Rosemary Haefner, of CareerBuilder said that “technical competency and intelligence are important assets for every worker, but when it’s down to you and another candidate for a promotion or new job, dynamic interpersonal skills will set you apart.” And those businesses that can genuinely deliver on these new expectations secure and keep the best talent.
This translates into bottom line benefits as well. According to Kim Morris Lee of the University of Illinois, “When senior managers had high emotional intelligence capabilities, their divisions outperformed yearly earnings goals by 20 percent.” More broadly, a 2017 Forbes Magazine article found that “soft skills training, like communication and problem-solving, boosts productivity and retention 12 percent and delivers a 250 percent return on investment”.
Similarly, DDI Research found that “organizations demonstrated an average return on investment of $4,000 for every $1,100 spent developing soft skills”. By all accounts emotional intelligence is not just good for business but a vital part of the future company DNA.
Can EQ be learned?
Yes. Like any skill, some people have a greater innate aptitude for empathy and other EQ qualities. But the good news for the rest of us is that emotional intelligence skills can be learned and developed. In many cases, an increased awareness of the importance of these skills can bring those traits to the fore. Courses specifically designed to bring out those skills can also be a great way to fast-track the development of emotional intelligence skills.
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