How is competency defined? According to the Cambridge English dictionary, competency is ‘an important skill that is needed to do a job’. A bit broad perhaps? If we look deeper, competencies are the skills and abilities that an enable a person (or organisation) to carry out their job effectively. They are inherent qualities that an individual possesses.
Competencies are often part of a broader competency framework, which allows organisations to select and develop talent and assess employee performance. The competency framework is generally divided into three areas – core values, which are the values chosen by the organisation, core competencies, focusing on the behaviour and soft skills of the employee and functional competencies, focusing on the actual job responsibilities and duties of the employee.
As a leadership coach and consultant, my main interest is in the core competencies area. Having been an employee and leader in the broadcast media space for over 20 years, I used competency frameworks on countless occasions – both to be assessed and to assess.
This assessment generally took place once a year (and was tied to my annual salary review) and had generalised meanings on what these core competencies were – communication, team work, decision making, strategic thinking, commercial awareness etc. All very important attributes to have when performing a job well. Although some of these competencies involved some type of emotional intelligence skills, they did not embrace the full value of what this type of skills can bring to every level of an organisation and its employees.
Firstly though, what is emotional intelligence (EQ)? Well, psychologists John Mayer and Peter Salovey describe it as ‘the ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth’.
Daniel Goleman, a leading author and researcher in the field of emotional intelligence, breaks EQ down into the following areas:
- Self-Awareness – the ability to monitor our thoughts and emotions and manage them effectively.
- Self-Regulation – this enables you to balance your emotions, understand your goals and achieve them with optimism, even if there are obstacles in your way.
- Social Awareness – empathy and cultural awareness are core to this competency. It is the ability to understand the emotions, needs, and concerns of other people – pick up on emotional cues, feel comfortable socially, and recognise the power dynamics in a group or organisation.
- Relationship Management – this is the ability to inspire, influence, connect to others, work effectively in teams and manage conflict.
The Harvard Business Review hailed emotional intelligence as a ‘ground breaking, paradigm-shattering idea’ and years of research has ensured that the application of emotional intelligence is grounded in solid data. Founded in 1996, CREIO (The Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations) is one such organisation which has completed extensive research on the benefits of emotional intelligence in the workplace. They state that competencies such as self-awareness, optimism and empathy can ‘enhance satisfaction and productivity at work and in other aspects of our lives’.
But how often are we educated in organisations to have these skills? Rarely. CREIO goes on to say that ‘the workplace is the ideal setting for the promotion of these competencies in adults because work plays a central role in their lives. Not only do most of us spend the largest portion of our waking time at work, but our identity, self-esteem, and wellbeing are strongly affected by our work experiences’.
Working alongside companies such as Johnson & Johnson and American Express, CREIO have backed up their findings on the positive impact implementing an emotional intelligence framework has on the workforce.
Emotional intelligence is the glue which holds other competencies together and allows them to have more meaning. For example, ‘Communication’ is a standardised competency most organisations assess against. This is because communication is an incredibly important skill to have, both inside and outside of work.
But how do we assess communication? A huge part of communicating is listening to other the person (active listening), asking open ended questions and displaying empathy. But often these skills are not taken into consideration nor developed. And yet, they are essential for conflict management and being able to have difficult conversations with your manager or colleagues.
With a new generation of leaders emerging, the tradition of work culture changing and the reality of potentially being furloughed or made redundant, now is the time for organisations to adapt and change. By implementing an emotional intelligence framework and their related competencies, organisations will be able to retain staff, create a culture (be it from home or an office) which allows all employees to flourish, enable the ability to bounce back from adversity and give their employees the skills to adapt to change – both professionally and personally – in these unprecedented times.
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