by Stephen Blakesley, Managing Partner, GMS Talent L P

Is emotional intelligence a predictor of future success on the job? Can productivity be significantly improved simply by matching a candidate’s emotional intelligence with the intelligence required by the job? Cary Cherniss, PhD, seems to think so. In an April 2004 article in Psst! magazine, Cherniss discussed the following case studies:

  • The US Air Force used an emotional intelligence assessment tool known as EQ-1 to select recruiters (the Air Force’s front-line HR personnel). The Air Force found that the most successful recruiters scored significantly higher in emotional intelligence in assertiveness, empathy, happiness, and self-awareness. Using these emotional intelligence (EI) criteria, the Air Force increased their ability to predict the success of recruiters nearly three-fold. These hiring improvements translated into a savings of $3 million annually and ultimately led to recommendations that the EQ-1 assessment tool be adopted in all branches of the armed forces.
  • In jobs of medium complexity (such as sales clerks and mechanics), a top performer is 12 times more productive than a performer at the bottom of the ranking, and 85 percent more productive than an average performer. In the most complex jobs (such as insurance sales and account management), top performers are 127 percent more productive than average performers. Research suggests that about one-third of the difference is due to technical skill and cognitive ability, and two-thirds is due to emotional competence.
  • At L’Oreal, the cosmetics company, sales agents who were selected on the basis of certain emotional competencies significantly outsold salespeople selected through other selection systems. According to L’Oreal, salespeople selected on the basis of emotional competencies sold $91,370 more than others over a two-year period, for a net increase of $2,558,360. They also had 63 percent less turnover during the first year.
  • In a national insurance company, sales agents with weak emotional competency in self-confidence, initiative, and empathy sold policies with an average premium of $54,000. Those with strong emotional competencies sold policies worth $114,000.
  • In a large beverage firm, 50 percent of division presidents hired by standard methods left within two years, mostly because of poor performance. Of those selected on the basis of emotional competencies, only 6 percent left in two years. Furthermore, they were far more likely to perform in the top third, based on salary bonuses for division performance: 87 percent were in the top third. They also outperformed their targets by 15–20 percent, while those with poor emotional competency underperformed by almost 20 percent.
  • After supervisors in a manufacturing plant received training in emotional competencies, such as listening better and helping employees resolve problems on their own, lost-time accidents were reduced by 50 percent, formal grievances decreased from an average of 15 per year to 3, and the plant exceeded productivity goals by $250,000. In another plant where supervisors were also trained, production increased 17 percent, compared to no increase where no training took place.
  • Optimism, one of the emotional competencies, leads to success. New salesmen at MetLife who scored high on a test of “learned optimism” sold 37 percent more life insurance in their first two years than pessimists.
  • At a national furniture retailer, salespeople hired on the basis of emotional competence had half the typical dropout rate during their first year.
  • For 515 senior executives analyzed by the search firm Egon Zehnder International, those who were primarily strong in EI were more likely to succeed than those who were strongest in either relevant previous experience or IQ. In other words, EI was a better predictor of success than either relevant previous experience or high IQ. More specifically, successful executives were high in EI in 74 percent of cases, while failing executives were high in EI in only 24 percent of cases. The study included executives in Latin America, Germany, and Japan, and the results were almost identical in all three cultures.
  • The following description of a “star” performer reveals how EI was critical to success. Michael Iem worked at Tandem Computers. Shortly after joining the company as a junior staff analyst, he became aware of the market trend away from mainframe computers and toward networks that link workstations and personal computers. This awareness demonstrated the emotional competency called Service Orientation. Iem realized that unless Tandem responded to the trend, its products would become obsolete (demonstrating Initiative and Innovation). He worked to convince the managers at Tandem that the old system was no longer appropriate (demonstrating Influence) and developed a system using new technology (demonstrating Leadership and Change Catalyst). He spent four years showing his new system to customers and company sales personnel before the new network applications were fully accepted (demonstrating Self-confidence, Self-Control, and Achievement Drive).
  • Being capable of performing is one thing. Actually performing is yet another thing. How can we know if someone’s intelligence is being translated into skills that are being applied? Tune in next month for “From Emotional Intelligence to Emotional Competence.”

    Cary Cherniss and Daniel Goleman are the co-editors of the book, The Emotionally Intelligent Workplace.

    Stephen Blakesley graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.S. degree in chemistry. He also received an M.S. degree in financial services and another in management from the prestigious American College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Stephen founded and served as CEO of the Flagship Group, Inc. He also founded and is currently Managing Partner of GMS Talent L P, a management consulting firm specializing in the hiring, development, and retention of talent. He has over 35 years experience in hiring and developing talent. Stephen and his wife, Lillian, live in Houston, Texas, and have 6 children and 22 grandchildren.

    GMS Talent L P is a thought leader in application of emotional intelligence in the workplace. For more information, call 281.444.5050 or  

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