Emotional Intelligence: What is EQ and Why It Matters in HR

Emotional Intelligence, EQ for short, and also called emotional quotient is often compared to IQ, or one’s ability to assimilate information. It’s something most people have at least heard about, and as HR professionals, we’re also likely to recognize when a person has, or doesn’t have it.  Beyond that, however, it can seem like it’s an intangible feeling we get while interacting with someone. Believe it or not, EQ can actually be tested, and you might be surprised at how big of an impact it has on performance.

How to Identify Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

When people can identify emotions in others and can react in an empathetic way, they’re said to have high EQ.1 Their responses to stress are different, their interactions with people are smoother, and they have better ways of navigating challenges. They can seem more in touch with others, as well as with themselves.

A high IQ is not indicative of a high EQ, or vice versa. An “average” IQ is roughly between 90-110. Those over 120 are said to be superior. Einstein was believed to sit somewhere around 160. Although IQ doesn’t measure “intelligence,” it is a helpful marker to determine how a person absorbs information, which would thusly give them an edge when learning. It’s also worth noting that an IQ won’t change over the course of a person’s life; it remains unchanged, whether he or she is 5 or 50. Travis Bradberry, who researches emotional intelligence, IQ, and their impact on success,notes that physicians typically have IQs between 130-155. So, regardless of which physician you choose, you’re almost guaranteed to be in the hands of someone who has superior intelligence, yet it’s easy to identify who provides “better care.” Some doctors are more conscientious with their patients. They have better bedside manner, listen more to their patients, and have a way of setting patients at ease. Clearly, those physicians have higher EQ, which leads to them being better doctors.

Seeing and noting EQ in real-world examples is beneficial, but EQ tests are also available, to help identify where an individual ranks with EQ.

Why Emotional Intellience / EQ Matters

High EQ Enhances Performance

Bradberry and his team have examined multiple “intelligences,” including EQ and IQ. Over the course of numerous studies, the team has discovered that IQ is only responsible for about 20% of how people perform on the job, whereas EQ accounts for 58% of performance. Taking it a step farther, 90% of top performers are high in EQ, while just 20% of bottom performers are high in EQ. Clearly, EQ isn’t everything, but it accounts for a lot.

Choosing Employees with High EQ Can Reduce Turnover

Because EQ impacts performance, it can also be used to determine ideal job candidates. For example, the Air Force had a civil recruiting job with a massive turnover rate. Training people for the position was incredibly expensive, and about one-third of employees were let go for performance issues or left their positions within a year. The simple solution: The Air Force began using EQ tests as part of the hiring process and only hired individuals who scored high. Turnover dropped to 5%, and the Air Force saved about five-million dollars.

Leaders with High EQ Are More Effective

Bradberry also recounts the tale of Meg Whitman in her early days as CEO of eBay. When the site went down for the weekend, Whitman didn’t crack the whip and come down hard for the outage. Instead, she went to where the crisis team was working and offered her support. This type of leadership, Bradberry says, is important because our brains are wired to mirror emotions of those around us. With a calm, cool leader at the helm, the eBay team was better poised to correct the issue. Unfortunately, leaders like Whitman are the exception. Bradberry’s research shows that supervisors are typically high on EQ, while those in roles above decline in EQ as they climb the ladder. In other words, companies aren’t hiring and promoting the most effective leaders; they’re filling positions based on tenure and IQ.

Get EQ Assistance from the HR Source

Our next blog will cover how to increase EQ, so pop back next week to learn more. In the meantime, if you’re trying to find effective employees, need assistance with training, or would like help with any other HR-related function, please reach out to us.

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