Key Skill: Emotional Intelligence

Author: Jana Bronsch-Chassard

Apr 09, 2020 Personnel

The coronavirus pandemic challenges the world every day. Emotional intelligence is a decisive factor for employees and bosses in the current crisis situation. This includes flexible action, but also other important skills.

“In a crisis, true character is revealed,” former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt once said. Whether on the global political level, in the economic sector, or in private life: The global crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has an impact on almost all areas of life. Daily routines have to be rethought and reorganized. “The personal mental approach to the issue is a crucial point”, says management consultant Klaus Merg. The graduate pedagogue trains personnel managers, board members, and employees in areas such as personality and team development.
In crisis situations, he says, situational flexibility is required, because things can look completely different from one day to the next. Finding one’s way around under new conditions also puts everyday working life to the test. Both employees and managers are particularly challenged. “Today, it’s much more about having not only professional or technical competence, but also emotional competence,” Merg explains.
Tools for success
Emotional competence can be a decisive factor in increasing productivity, improving cooperation between employees as well as relationships with customers, and expanding market position. Managers can use it as a management tool, for example to motivate employees or resolve tension in teams.
Emotional competence is an extension of the concept of intelligence, which originally encompassed purely academic skills as a prerequisite for success in life and especially in the workplace. The term “emotional intelligence” has made a particular impact in psychology since 1990. The four characteristics of emotional intelligence are: self-perception, self-regulation, empathy, and social competence. The latter, for example, includes internal relationship management as well as the ability to network successfully. “The trend is moving away from the specialist toward the generalist,” says the managing director of management consultancy Merg & Mohr, explaining the development on the job market.
In times of global market interdependencies of companies, where it is a matter of fulfilling the wishes of customers worldwide, skills are needed that are able to cover this complexity. This also includes the ability to work under pressure, to act independently, and, above all, to act correctly according to the situation. In times of crisis, emotionally intelligent employees are better able to cope with new circumstances and find solutions to unknown situations.
Core competence of the future
A study by consulting and IT service company Capgemini has determined, among other things, that emotional intelligence will be a core competence that an employee will have to offer in the next five years. 83 percent of companies participating in the study “Emotional Intelligence – the essential skillset for age of AI” see a “highly emotionally intelligent workforce” as a basic requirement for success. What’s remarkable: Skills such as self-management and communication talent will also play a decisive role according to the study, especially in times of digitization and artificial intelligence.
Those who are successful now have already firmly integrated the culture of emotional intelligence into employee coaching. This includes companies such as Google and Amazon. And success factors are reflected not only in higher employee satisfaction, but also in growing market share, higher productivity, and lower sickness and fluctuation rates. According to the Capgemini study, 60 percent of companies have higher profits due to 20 percent of their employees exhibiting high EI. EI is determined using standardized psychological questions. The test comprises about 100 tasks around perception, knowledge, and control of emotions, and covers the four areas of emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence as part of corporate culture
Merg also knows from his experience as a consultant that the promotion of EI among the workforce not only has a positive effect on social structure in companies, but also on economic factors: “You can see it in measurable variables such as turnover and sick leave, but also in longer-term employee motivation and loyalty to the company”. In times of crisis, employees and managers are put to the test. It’s all about people orientation and authentic employee leadership. Merg shows that EI can also be trained – regardless of hierarchical level – using tools such as the Insights Discovery Model, which is based on psychological principles and methods that determine personality orientation. The earlier EI becomes part of the corporate culture, the more successful and stable a company can master crisis situations.
Those responsible are also supported by DEKRA’s experts and offer advice on crisis and risk management as well as services relating to occupational health and safety. Regardless of their size, companies can commission DEKRA experts to identify and analyze the crisis situation and to develop strategies for overcoming the crisis. In the current case of the coronavirus pandemic, the experts are helping with very concrete tips and answers to common questions and have set up a new website for this purpose: Targeted measures such as advice, analyses, and training can be used to find solutions for mastering crisis situations as confidently as possible.
Three questions for Klaus Merg
Klaus Merg is the managing director of management consultancy Merg & More Consultants GmbH in Switzerland. Together with his team, he offers training, seminars, and further education in areas such as intercultural competence, sales, soft skills, and leadership.
Which key qualifications or competences characterize the employee of the future?
Merg: There are many. It depends on the area in which he or she is active and at what level. The trend is leaning away from the specialist toward the generalist. Because employees are the biggest cost factor of a company and you can’t afford an employee for every activity, people who are familiar with several areas are in demand. This means that you have to build up competencies in order to at least partially replace colleagues who are on vacation or sick leave, for example.
Which characteristics are helpful to master a crisis situation as a manager or employee of a company?
Merg: I believe the crisis we are currently experiencing is a unique one. It entails restrictions in every area of our society and economy. So dealing with it mentally is crucial. One approach is to say: Okay, it’s an extraordinary situation, so there is no ready-made concept that I can follow. I need a high degree of flexibility to tackle it and make the best of it.
Does this mean that emotional intelligence, especially in times of crisis and beyond, could prove to be a key qualification?
Merg: I’ve included this topic in my trainings and coaching sessions since 1995. At that time, it wasn’t at all interesting for many managers. Today, however, it’s more about having not only professional or technical competence, but also an emotional one. The managers who manage to fill this role authentically in crises, i.e. who are able to deal with the needs, fears, and questions of employees, are also the ones who are currently successful. In doing so, they also lay a good foundation for everything that comes after this crisis.