I had a boss who used to say, “we hire you for what you can do, and we fire you for who you are. . .” This statement has stuck with me for over two decades.

The idea: you can have the most AMAZING credentials and resume, however, if you are not a social fit for an organization – you will not last. Jim Collins wrote in Built to Last the culture will “self-eject” you if you do not socially fit with an organization. I have seen this phenomenon of people with brilliant technical competence get exited out because their social intelligence skills did not match with the “social DNA” of the organization.

As an expert in Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Development, I am often asked: “Can EQ be developed; should organizations invest in building this capability for their employees once they are in the system?”

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the ability to integrate sensory data, thoughts, feelings and your wants in the moment.

Social Intelligence (SQ) is the ability to use your EQ to clearly articulate to others with calm, conviction your perspective as you move into action.

One school of thought is that management should hire for these skills with the expectations that employees come to the interview already “retrofitted” with a cultural DNA match. Others believe that developing social abilities on the job or in more formal educational settings can align social norms and behavioral expectations with this DNA.

Whatever the organization’s responsibility in hiring, developing, aligning or rewarding social intelligence skills, the evidence of why this important as a fundamental organizational capability is compelling.

Social scientists have been correlating organizational performance with emotional & social intelligence for years:

  • Leaders with high EQ/SQ are linked to higher performance results
  • Project managers with high EQ/SQ have better project completion rates
  • Employee engagement is higher with managers who have higher EQ/SQ
  • Employees with higher EQ/SQ use less sick time
  • Sales teams with emotional intelligence outperform their peers
  • Teams with higher EQ/SQ report better safety results
  • Emotional intelligence in employees are linked to higher customer satisfaction rates
  • Managers with higher EQ/SQ report lower employee turnover
  • People with higher EQ/SQ earn $29,000 more per year
  • Ninety percent of top business performers demonstrate higher EQ/SQ skills

In 2012, I conducted my own study in a mid-size utility company that showed a significant increase in Gallup Q12 employee engagement results when 120 managers went through a training program in emotional intelligence. My doctoral research hypothesis was not proving if EQ could be developed but rather what correlated with employee engagement. I was attempting to uncover any correlations with the MSCEIT emotional intelligence tool and the manager’s Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement score.

I also asked Gallup to pull the 120 reports of the leaders who attended a deep-dive 2-day emotional intelligence course we offered that included an EQ ability assessment, and a debriefing session with a certified expert.

I wondered: how would employees rate engagement if their manager had emotional intelligence development within that survey administration year?

There was a significant difference of the employee scores with the managers who attended the training as opposed to the employees whose managers did not attend. I never published these results, however, here are some of the other highlights from my published research:

  • Emotional intelligence impacts a leader’s ability to make decisions.
  • Nine of out of the 12 Gallup measures were correlated to a leader’s emotional intelligence indicating that hiring the right leader with both technical competency and social competency is important.
  • A manager’s time in position with the team impacts the social networks on a team as correlated by Gallup’s “I have a Best Friend at Work” question.
  • A manager’s age (a dependent variable in my study) shows a negative correlation to the Gallup question Q9 “Are my coworkers committed to quality work?” Could it be that older managers allow more performance problems to go unresolved?

Hiring to and/or developing a Leader’s emotional intelligence correlates to an increase in employee engagement.

Very few organizations select or develop emotional and social intelligence to fill a skill gap for their workforce. Emotional intelligence as a capability is still not widely used in competency profiling as compared with “Drive for Results” or “Building High Performing Teams.” However, HR leaders can incorporate critical social DNA competencies into their broader talent management system without specifically using the words “emotional intelligence.”

Here are a few key recommendations to strengthen the organization’s social DNA to increase performance and employee engagement:

  • Improve the selection process of potential leaders to those who have high levels of emotional understanding and emotional reasoning abilities rather than solely selecting for technical competencies (Align behaviors);
  • Improve the overall on-boarding and orientation process for new managers to set and establish the expectation of leaders’ social behaviors before they begin leading their new teams (Align behaviors);
  • Create an organizational standard for managers to hold formal progress reviews, and 1:1’s with employees beyond the annual performance review to strengthen social competencies of both employees and leaders (Develop behaviors);
  • Integrate social intelligence competencies into the performance management system to assess, evaluate and coach social skill within the formal performance evaluation conversation – giving social abilities an equal rating distribution with technical performance (Reward behaviors).

By hiring, aligning, developing and rewarding the right social behaviors, human resources and organizational leaders can strengthen the social DNA networks increasing retention, performance and employee engagement understanding the notion that the smartest guy/gal in the room, is not always the best leader!!