- Companies that embrace emotional intelligence (EI) report higher levels of productivity and better employee engagement than those that don't, according to a study by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services (HBR-AS) for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. However, some organizations have not adopted EI as part of their mission, HBR-AS said. For the study, HBR-AS interviewed 600 members of the HBR Advisory Council and surveyed leaders from organizations with 50 or more employees.
- The report defined EI as a combination of self-awareness, self-control, empathy and social skills. Organizations that value EI have stronger customer experience ratings (37% vs. 8%) and higher levels of customer loyalty (40% vs. 12%) than those that don't, HBR-AS said. Companies that value EI, according to HBR-AS, can also better cope with risk, and they also demonstrate successful characteristics including communication, collaboration and innovation.
- Even still, less than 20% of companies surveyed instilled EI into their corporate cultures, and one-third of survey participants don't see EI's benefit to their organizations. Fewer than one-third of organizations require EI skills in their job ads, but 40% provide training and online courses in EI, the study revealed.
Organizations that haven't adopted EI or EQ might believe that soft skills are intrinsic rather than teachable, but some experts disagree. "Many of us have been led to believe that soft skills and emotional intelligence (EI) are strengths you have to be born with, but it's simply not true," Cara Brennan Allamano, SVP of people, places and learning at Udemy, recently told HR Dive. "Abilities like building solid relationships, being a good communicator and conflict management all require EQ skills that can not only be learned, but also strengthened over time."
Cultivating stronger EI is not without its difficulties. One employer, Westminster Tool, said that establishing more soft skill training helped it close hard skill gaps, as well, although productivity stalled and some workers left as the company made the switch. In the long run, it reported better productivity, shorter training time for new hires and a more satisfied workforce. When pitching the idea of EI training to workers, experts have recommended framing it as a way to build stronger relationships — rather than a way for individual workers to improve their self-awareness.
HBR-AS noted that many organizations that strive to be people-focused have not yet educated their leadership on the importance of EI. To reap the purported benefits of a more productive, engaged and empowered workforce, HR departments might need to lead the charge on establishing EI training programs and educating leaders on the importance of soft skills.
"This 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 impact on their human capital, but ultimately on their future success," Alex Clemente, managing director of HBR-AS, said in a statement.