EQ has been in the news a lot recently. From Google making it a large part of their hiring process, to a spate of published articles and papers linking it to success. Still, many HR managers find themselves asking: What is eq? Why is it important? And why does it matter in the modern workplace?

First, EQ stands for Emotional Quotient, often referred to as emotional intelligence. Like IQ, or Intelligence Quotient, it is a measure of how well an individual is able to understand their own emotions and the emotions of others, and how well they can use that understanding to work together with others. Harvard professor and EQ pioneer Howard Gardner explains it by saying, “Your EQ is the level of your ability to understand other people, what motivates them and how to work cooperatively with them”.

Like IQ, which is often divided into sections like “spatial ability”, “mathematical ability”, and other subgroups, EQ is also subdivided into parts. These include:

  • self-awareness, the ability to understand your emotions and see worth in yourself;
  • motivation, the ability to set goals that are well-aligned with personal needs and wants as well as group and organizational wants and needs;
  • social skills, the ability to interact with others in a way that builds bonds, creates trust, and pushes groups towards achieving common goals.
  • empathy, the ability to understand and relate to others, anticipate their needs, and intuitively understand power structures; and
  • self-regulation, the ability to control one’s own actions and emotions, be open to new ideas, take responsibility for oneself, and be trustworthy and open to new ideas.

So now that we have a rough handle on what EQ is and what it encompasses, it becomes pretty obvious why it’s such an important criteria for successful organizations. What company doesn’t want their employees to have leadership, self-confidence, empathy, motivation and self-control? In fact, EQ as an idea has been around for years. Most HR managers and recruiters will immediately recognize these traits as characteristics that they’ve been instinctively looking for in their candidates for their entire professional careers.

EQ is simply a formalized and scientific approach to the age-old questions that companies have been asking their candidates forever. Is this person a natural leader? Can they motivate a team? Can they motivate themselves to go above and beyond? Will they be reliable and trustworthy? Can they handle conflict between clients or team members? EQ is little more than a way to take the “gut feeling” out of making these kinds of calls, much like IQ was simply a way of confirming intelligence where it was already sensed on an intuitive level.

Even more importantly for organizational success, and unlike IQ, emotional intelligence can be changed and improved. By moving the conversation from hunches and intuition and into the realm of testable science, EQ gives organizations a powerful tool to evaluate employees and executives, and create detailed action plans to improve performance. These improvements can be very precisely targeted, and can lead to significant benefits to efficiency, morale, and most importantly, the bottom line.

So what is EQ and why is it important in the workplace? The answer to both of those questions is one and the same: EQ is a data-driven way to do what HR managers and recruiters are already doing, while taking out the guesswork and uncertainty.