Just when EI development was flourishing, with organizations prioritizing the development of essential skills for their leaders and teams, the pandemic hit and created a backward slide. The ripple effect is multifaceted and includes negative impacts on employee engagement and well-being and fueled organizational attrition.
Organizations are now struggling to retain and attract top talent, and it’s commonplace for industries like healthcare and hospitality to pay higher wages to fill their gaps. However, there are more opportunities beyond compensation, as per McKinsey & Company's Great Attrition/Great Attraction survey from April 2021 to April 2022, which identified twelve reasons for employee turnover. We assert that emotional intelligence deficiencies are at least indirectly related to each of the twelve reasons employees quit their organizations.
Let’s connect some dots.
According to McKinsey & Co., the number one reason employees quit is due to a lack of career advancement and development, followed by inadequate total compensation and uncaring and inspiring leadership. After being thrust into lockdown during the pandemic, many people became aware of the energy drainers they elected to eliminate as the world resumed more normal activity. Purpose-driven work and self-actualization as priorities were borne from the reflective downtime that so many had during the lockdown. While this elevated level of introspection is perhaps one of the ‘gifts’ from the pandemic, the disconnect and stress we experienced negatively impacted three critical areas: Collaboration, Risk Tolerance, and Imagination.
Our youngest working generation - Gen Z, suffered the greatest blow to their EI, which is concerning since they will represent the largest group of workers by the latter part of this decade (2021 Global Report: Trends in Emotional Intelligence). Another factor to consider is that Baby Boomers often prioritize direct action over influence. Unfortunately, this approach can lead to short-sighted thinking and contribute to one of the main reasons employees leave their jobs - disengaged and uninspiring leaders. It's important to consider how we can prepare the next generation of leaders when our current ones are more focused on pushing than inspiring and pulling in Gens Y and Z.
Competition is keener than ever for most organizations. With rapid changes occurring from phenomena like artificial intelligence, there is no better time to prepare current and emerging leaders for organizations that wish to remain relevant, innovate and grow. The emerging threats from deficiencies in collaboration, risk tolerance, and imagination pose significant threats to organizational innovation and growth, making it difficult to remain relevant when leaders are ill-equipped to cultivate the people power skills to overcome uncertainty and volatility from rapid change. We’re at a time in history when change is happening so quickly that there is no room for complacency in emotional intelligence competency. Only those who maintain a growth mindset and commit to expanding their EI skills will be successful in leading organizations that thrive. Let’s unpack each of these threats.
Collaboration – regularly touted by consulting firms to the well-regarded Center for Creative Leadership, creating collaborative relationships is a critical skill for leaders and their teams. How else will anything get done? How will the most fundamental element to drive culture and engagement, trust, be fostered? Communication will be lackluster, confusing, or a breeding ground for conflict without the ability to collaborate. Blessing White Consulting firm identified collaboration as one of the three top skills leaders must master. Collaboration can make or break the ability to inspire and influence, which has the biggest impact on driving high engagement and satisfaction. In addition to positioning organizations for greater relevance, innovation, and growth, healthy collaboration will also remedy one of the top three reasons employees quit organizations – disengaged and uninspiring leaders.
Imagination – the source of creation; a slide backward here will negatively impact organizational innovation and growth. How do we generate new ideas to remain relevant, innovate and grow without imagination? We can’t. A closed mind will never learn; the same may apply to organizations that don’t promote and encourage possibilities. A fatal flaw we often hear from clients is how organizations continue using systems or processes because it’s what worked in the past. Yet, as a popular Marshall Goldsmith book title indicates, “what got you here won’t get you there.” Innovation and growth require embracing imagination.
Dare to dream and have an open mind. The concept of artificial intelligence and even the internet, borne from the ARPANET funded by the US Department of Defense in the 1960s, would have never come to fruition without imagination. Encouraging imagination can reduce the likelihood of employees leaving their organizations by providing them with meaningful work and a clear career path.
This leads to the final threat from the backward slide on EI – Risk Tolerance. Most organizations need to assume a certain level of risk to remain competitive. And there is no shortage of competition for virtually any industry. Additionally, stress levels are beginning to spike again, and not enough organizations are doing anything to combat the effects on their employees’ mental health and well-being. With increased levels of stress, declining risk tolerance is of utmost concern. Risk tolerance is a critical and necessary EQ skill to maintain balance when facing challenges and adversity. The decline of risk tolerance will increase volatility as stress responses increase. Increasing risk tolerance will reverse the negative impact on relevance, innovation, and growth and knock out a few other reasons employees quit their organizations, including lack of support for health and well-being and perhaps making a connection to an unsafe work environment if too much stress is being tolerated.
Emotional intelligence is the secret sauce in transforming leaders from “good” to “great,” and the impact on organizations is undeniable. Gallup indicates that leaders impact 70% of the climate for their teams. Therefore, EI deficiencies will only add fuel to the fire and give workers even more reasons to quit. Considering the emerging threats of EI decline upon collaboration, imagination, and risk tolerance, many organizations are on a slippery slope to suffer losses in their growth. How can an organization grow if it’s irrelevant and unable to innovate? The link is inextricable.