The connection between employee engagement and emotional intelligence is becoming more and more apparent to organisations. Business leaders can’t succeed without effective communication and a clear cultural focus, and this requires empathy and understanding with their employees.
Leadership is a people business, and emotional intelligence is key to this. With employee engagement levels remaining static in recent years, despite companies pouring millions into programmes designed to make people happy, it might be time to consider an emotional approach.
How does emotion drive deeper motivation?
Emotional intelligence is the primary driver in leader effectiveness because leadership is about using influence and building effective relationships, which are largely emotional tasks. In fact, it has been measured as contributing 75-80% of the elements for success compared to 20-25% for IQ.
But what steps can an organisation take to improve emotional intelligence within their employee engagement strategies?
1. An emotionally intelligent approach should go beyond the external
Although it is a good idea to make your workplace more fun with offers like free food, games and creatively designed offices, the external improvements need to be matched with internal engagement. Material perks alone can come across as manipulation if the overall culture and ethos of the business isn’t clearly defined and communicated.
Employees must motivate themselves and become engaged, but it is up to leadership to create the conditions where there is possibility. Business leaders need to learn how their words and actions affect an employee and their motivation and productivity by taking the time to listen to staff, which follows on to the next point
2. Listen twice as much as you speak
In order for leaders to connect to the community of fellow employees, they need to step back and listen and do so with empathy and understanding. Misreading behaviours can result in emotionally-charged encounters which impair performance, communication and decisions.
A recent Harvard Business review article notes that the quality senior leaders lack most is empathy. To be effective, today’s leaders have to connect with people on a personal level and understand what drives them. This “connecting” requires a high level of emotional intelligence, specifically empathy.
3. Be smarter with your feelings
Leaders who put emotional intelligence into action are better at relationships. They “get” people and are able to foster genuine collaboration. This allows a stronger interpersonal connection, motivating people through relatedness. They see their people’s strengths (and weaknesses) clearly, so they can foster that essential sense of competence.
4. Give your employees a sense of autonomy
Leaders who practice emotional intelligence are less reactive and more responsive. They know themselves, so they don’t need to prove their own power. Instead, they work with others, giving an appropriate level of autonomy. This is important to make employees feel engaged and valued.
5. Training and development with emotional intelligence in mind
Emotional intelligence training can improve vital skills like decision making, the ability to cope with stress and the ability to relate to others. This leads to more employee engagement and better performance all around. Create emotional intelligence awareness and provide skills-development opportunities to increase your organisation’s capacity for success.
Success Stories: Emotional Intelligence Driving Engagement
In a study by Six Seconds, Amadori, an Italian agro-food sector company and European supplier to McDonalds, emotional intelligence was found to predict 47% of the variation in manager’s performance management scores.
Emotional intelligence was also correlated with increased organisational engagement with 76% of the variation in engagement. Plants with higher organisational engagement achieved higher bottom-line results. During this period, employee turnover also dropped by 63%.
“The workplace climate is a driving force in how employees engage in their daily activities,” Massimiliano Ghini, a management professor at Italy’s Alma Graduate School, said. “So the conclusion is simple: If we want business success, we need to equip leaders with the skills to make an environment where employees can work effectively.”
Emotional Intelligence is therefore an effective way to enhance employee engagement and company performance. A strong organisational culture and sense of belonging can be achieved through this, which ultimately encourages employee retention and job satisfaction.