The Power of Emotional Intelligence

Posted on May 8, 2014. Filed under: Interesting Articles | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Charles Coy, the Senior Director of Analyst and Community Relations at Cornerstone, considers innovations in talent management and speaks about the power emotional intelligence adds to our businesses.




When companies are recruiting or assessing a candidate’s capacity for a position, it’s not uncommon for them to administer a personality test such as the Myers-Briggs. While personality tests may offer some insight, they fail to capture a key indicator for success — emotional intelligence. For example, hiring extroverts for sales positions is a tried and true practice, but based on a personality test, an employer can’t tell whether a candidate will be persistent enough to develop and close new deals. Emotional intelligence (EQ) involves a person’s capacity to be empathetic, maintain optimism in the face of adversity, provide clear thinking and remain composed in stressful situations — all important traits for a leader or team player. When used as an alternative or supplemental tool in the recruiting process, testing emotional intelligence can yield significant long-term results.

“An employee with high emotional intelligence can manage his or her impulses, communicate with others effectively, manage change well, solve problems, and use humor to build rapport in tense situations,” says Mike Poskey, vice president of human resources consulting firm ZeroRisk.

Instead of looking at personality and experience, companies are increasingly incorporating EQ into the recruitment process. One in four hiring managers say they are placing greater emphasis on emotional intelligence when hiring and promoting in the wake of the recession, according to a Career Builder survey.

Emotional Intelligence Programs at Work

There’s no doubt that there’s value in evaluating job candidates based on their emotional intelligence, but how do companies put that into action? Here’s how three companies are employing emotional intelligence programs:

Become centered

Google, known for its innovative programs, offers emotional intelligence training to help employees find their inner peace and a state of meditation. More than 1,000 employees have completed the Search Inside Yourself (SIY) program, developed by Chade-Meng Tan, Google’s resident “Jolly Good Fellow,” according to Wired. Employees learn about the five crucial skills of empathy, motivation, social skills, self-awareness and self-regulation.

Teach soft skills

The world’s second-largest construction equipment maker Komatsu looked to increase the emotional intelligence of its employees after the economic plummet in Europe by first conducting engagement surveys and addressing issues that were top of mind for employees. Managers and employees alike participated in a leadership program that encouraged innovation and developed people-based skills.

Hire for retention

To tackle the problem of high turnover, auto dealer Park Place Dealerships focused on emotional intelligence during the recruiting process. The company evaluated a candidate’s emotional response to various phrases such as “With this ring, I thee wed.” After integrating emotional intelligence into the hiring process, sales employee turnover decreased from 60 percent to 12 percent on an annual basis, according to Chief Learning Officer.

3 Tips for Integrating EQ into Recruitment

Baking emotional intelligence into the evaluation process is easy with these three steps, notes Anna Gibbons, corporate communications manager at recruitment agency Sellick Partnership:

  1. Write a job description that goes beyond qualifications to describe softer skills required, such as adaptability, communication skills, teamwork and motivation.
  2. Employ psychometric testing, such as the Thomas International Personal Profile Analysis (PPA), to identify what motivates candidates and how they react under pressure.
  3. Pay attention to a candidate’s body language and word choice — they can greatly impact first instincts, which hiring managers should always take into account.

“In every decision, emotions count,” Max Ghini, director of global strategy for emotional intelligence consulting firm Six Seconds, told Chief Learning Officer. “Better engagement is key for bottom line, and emotional intelligence is greatly connected to organisational performance.”


charles coy

Charles Coy is the Senior Director of Analyst and Community Relations at Cornerstone. He is responsible for getting the word out about Cornerstone as a company, as well as evangelizing Cornerstone’s innovation in talent management technology solutions. Charles continues to be interested in the ways that technology can impact how organizations evaluate, motivate and value their employees.

Charles brings a background in public policy analysis and research to Cornerstone. Having studied regional economic development and education policy, Charles originally came to the company with an interest in the convergence of technology and higher education.  He has worked in marketing, sales, and corporate development at Cornerstone since the early days of the company more than a decade ago.

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Employee Engagement: Why You Should Care

Posted on July 19, 2013. Filed under: Our Leaders Say | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Motivation expert and  an advocate for the use of neuroscience insights in business practices, Bronny Coombes looks at the relationship between employee engagement and safety through a neuroscience lens.  


brain ladder

Since 1997 Gallup has been exploring the links between workforce engagement and organisational success. In its eighth iteration, the 2012 Gallup research clearly highlights this link and shows some consistent outcomes to its 2009 research findings.

The 2012 Gallup analysis ”examined 49,928 business or work units and included about 1.4 million employees in 192 organizations, across 49 industries, and in 34 countries. Employee engagement affects nine performance outcomes, including approximately 48% fewer safety incidents, 21% higher productivity and 22% higher profitability.”

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics the most common causes of workplace deaths during 2009-2010 were incidents caused by vehicles; falls from heights; hit by moving objects; hit by falling objects. Released in March 2012, Safe Work Australia estimates the cost of work related injuries to be more than $60 billion dollars for 2008-2009–this represents nearly 5% of GDP!

The following table breaks down the associated costs for work related injuries.


Screen Shot 2013-07-18 at 11.49.32 AM


The connection between engagement and safety

In the 2007 SHRM Research Quarterly, results of research in a manufacturing company showed that their engaged employees were five times less likely to have a safety incident and seven times less likely to have a safety incident involving lost-time.

An engaged person is naturally motivated toward their work – they find their work rewarding.  They are the person who is intrinsically driven to perform well; they naturally bring ‘more’ of themselves to the work environment.  They are the energised, focused, proactive and absorbed member of a team who provide high quality results.  They ask quality questions and are able to problem solve in situations.

According to Dan Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, the factors that create employee engagement are:

      • Autonomy: the ability to control aspects of our time, tasks, techniques, and teams
      • The opportunity for mastery
      • Purpose: a connection to something larger than ourselves

Evian Gordon, 2008, proposes the brain is organised to minimise threat and maximise reward. The neural basis of engagement can be defined by activation levels of the brain’s reward circuitry. Disengagement, on the other hand, is defined by the activation levels of the brain’s threat circuitry. When we engage in work that drives our brain’s reward circuits, the neurotransmitter dopamine is released.  Dopamine also positively influences other neural networks. We experience a heightened sense of awareness and attentiveness: we ‘feel’ good, we easily retain focus, we think and rationalise more clearly, we have clarity of purpose, we ‘get lost’ in time, we make better connections for improved decisions, our energy remains high, and we successfully solve problems.  And all of this is surprisingly effortless for such a quality outcome.

So, if each of our brains constantly scans the environment for any perceived threats, why is an engaged employee less of a safety risk than a disengaged employee?

Quite simply, engaged employees are more likely to feel safe in their work environment. They are also less likely to have work-related accidents. Some of this is because they are more easily able to identify the safety threats in their environment. Additionally, their perception of such threats is more accurate.

graph 1     graph 2


Disengaged employees, however, are less likely to feel safe in their work environment.  The  threat circuits of their brains are on constant alert for a wide array of possible reasons: anxiety from work related issues or conditions, threatening leadership or leadership styles, sadness, despair, anger, fear of failure or poor performance. Disengaged employees are easily distracted, are more difficult to motivate, have lower levels of attention to detail,and  find it more difficult to make good decisions or to problem solve independently.

With a perceived threat in the environment, the brain shuts down the ability to work well. Thinking clearly becomes a problem because enormous amounts of brain resources are diverted to protection. Work naturally requires a lot of effort and energy. When the brian’s resources are directed elsewhere, judgement errors occur, something that can easily which affect personal safety. Disengaged employees are more likely to have work related accidents. Because their work environments seem to be fraught with dangers, they are unable to identify the real impending threats.

The connection between engagement and recruitment

cartoonThere is another dimension to employee engagement, and that is hiring the right person for the right work.  Disengagement is the result of a poor hiring process and comes at an enormous cost to an organisation.

As far back as 1997, Iverson & Erwin, and more recently by Nahrgang, Morgeson and Hofmann, research on safety at work suggests that people who are not a good fit for their work environment are at greater risk of injury. It is now possible to use the latest in brain science research to select candidates for positions based on preferences for behavioural and working styles. This allows savvy leaders to cultivate engaged employees from the moment they step into the organisation.

Imagine outlining to a potential candidate what type of work they need to love to do in order to feel successful in their work. Imagine a candidate being employed for what they love to do?  And imagine a safer work environment for everyone.




Screen Shot 2013-07-18 at 10.17.50 AMHaving studied Human Movement Studies, Psychology, Sociology and Philosophy, Bronny Coombes is curious by nature.  She spent a number of years challenging the relevance of education programmes in a changing world and went in  broader search for new learning, ultimately landing in that fascinating world where people, technology and performance meet–work!

Her work focuses on what drives human performance in organisational culture, how to apply learning to help improve individual and team performance.

She collaborates with a number of high performing people in a variety of Australian organisations, covering all kinds of motivational topics, having plenty of fun and innovating along the way.


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