Why Emotional Intelligence is Key in the Workplace

Emotional intelligence has mainly been seen as a positive trait in the ongoing search for talent, but a new study has found that EI may be even more important than employers previously believed. But, despite that finding, the study reports that global employers are underestimating EI’s value at their own peril.

Executed by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services and sponsored by Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, the study, The EI Advantage: Driving Innovation and Business Success through the Power of Emotional Intelligence, provides fuel in driving the home the importance of a corporate culture transformation based on the power of EI.

However, there is a growing disconnect between what executives are saying about the importance of company culture and what they are actually doing to improve it.

“Companies love to talk about the importance of their people and the strength of their human-centric workplace, yet many fail to promote EI among their leaders and their workforce,” says Alex Clemente, managing director of HBR-AS. Clemente adds that the research shows that many companies struggle to champion EI and reap the myriad benefits for their organizations–including happier, motivated and effective employees.

“Even more, employers wanting to create the workplace of the future–the one that millennials are demanding–must understand that ignoring EI not only has grave impacts on their human capital, but ultimately on their future success,” he says. HBR-AS defines EI as a combination of self-awareness, self-control, empathy and social skills.

Key findings from the report include:

  • The EI Advantage: Among emotionally intelligent companies (those that emphasize and promote EI), almost two-thirds (64%) strongly or somewhat agree that their organization “offers a high degree of empowerment with clear decision rights, incentives and risk tolerance.”
  • EI Enhances the Customer Experience: Emotionally intelligent organizations report significantly stronger customer experiences (37% versus 8%) and higher levels of customer loyalty (40% versus 12%) and customer advocacy (31% versus 8%) than companies that don’t perceive the value of EI or foster its development among their employees. Bottom line, corporate cultures that embrace risk and encourage strong interpersonal skills will foster higher employee engagement, which leads to better products, services and experiences for customers.
  • The EI Deficit and Disconnect: Less than one-fifth (18%) of respondents have EI ingrained in their corporate culture. Half of respondents are either neutral or uncommitted to EI, and one-third (33%) don’t perceive its value to their organization. Even more troubling is that only one in 10 employers assesses company-wide EI skills.
  • Millennials Matter: Twenty—seven percent of survey respondents believe millennials expect purpose and meaning in their work, and place purpose high on their list of career priorities, well above incentives and rewards (10%) and technological advancements (5%). Employers must recognize and prioritize EI skills in attracting and retaining millennial employees.

“Change is hard, and cultural change is even harder,” said Christian Clerc, president of Worldwide Hotel Operations at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. “More than ever, customers are seeking connections with the companies who serve them, and emotionally intelligent employees are the key to delivering an authentic customer experience.”

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Tom Starner
Tom Starner is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia who has been covering the human resource space and all of its component processes for over two decades. He can be reached at hreletters@lrp.com.