An update on what, why and how
Compared to other psychological constructs, such as cognitive ability or personality, emotional intelligence (EI) is fairly young. Although it was first conceptualised by Salovey and Mayer in 1990, it wasn’t until five years later when Daniel Goleman released his bestselling book Emotional Intelligence that mainstream interest in EI gained significant traction.
Since then, researchers have been working to define and measure EI, and they’re making good headway. While there’s still debate around whether EI is actually a type of intelligence or whether it’s more of a personality construct, the interest in and science around EI has continued to grow.
Let’s take a quick look at what we know about EI: why it’s so important in the workplace and the latest methods of measuring it.
If we consider EI as a type of intelligence, we can define it as the ability to perceive emotional expressions, understand emotional behaviour, and solve problems by using emotions1. It’s about using emotions, and our knowledge of emotions, in an intelligent way to enhance our thoughts, behaviours and interpersonal effectiveness2.
For example, EI is a manager being able to sense the low mood in a weekly team meeting before anyone has said a word. It’s your friend matching your joy and excitement when you share great news. It’s the customer service attendant who has understood the perspective of an upset customer and is working hard to resolve their complaint. All of these behaviours require an accurate emotional reading of the situation, sound knowledge of the emotions involved, and the use of this information to solve problems and inform decisions.
EI has several aspects, two of which are particularly well understood in the research – perceiving emotions and understanding emotions.
Perceiving emotions is about being able to quickly and accurately identify emotions. This is often referring to the ability to read facial expressions correctly, but it also incorporates things such as body language and tone of voice. The manager who picks up on the low mood of the team might see subtle signs of tension, observe low energy levels, and take cues from body language to infer how the group may be feeling. The accurate perception of emotions underpins an appropriate response, which is why it’s an important first step in many interpersonal interactions.
Understanding emotions is about comprehending emotional language, and knowing how emotions change over time and combine to form more complex emotions. It’s being able to predict what comes next based on a current emotional state, such as knowing that a customer will likely go from frustration to anger if their serious complaint is not acknowledged and addressed appropriately. Having a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of emotions, their causes and consequences, means we can formulate an effective approach to a person or situation.
There are other aspects to EI too, including using emotions in our thinking, and managing our own and others’ emotions, so stay tuned for a future blog on these topics as the research in these areas evolves.
We are emotional beings, and we don’t leave our emotions at the door when we walk into our workplace. On the contrary, emotions actually play an important role in our daily interactions and tasks, particularly when we’re working with others.
The body of research linking EI with various workplace and general life outcomes is now significant and convincing. The role of EI in the areas of leadership, job performance, stress management, coping behaviour, job satisfaction, and relationship quality has been well documented, with many new research insights being published regularly.
EI is relevant for a wide range of occupations, industries and job levels, but is most important for roles that require people to develop and maintain positive interpersonal relationships. This can include roles in sales and customer service, leadership and management roles, and team or group-based roles.
Futhermore, EI is widely considered to be one of the critical skills of the future, and also underpins many of the other skills on the list, including people management, coordinating with others, judgement and decision making, service orientation and negotiation skills. As we move toward increasingly connected and collaborative workplaces, there will be few roles in which EI is not a critical success factor.
Over the past few years, there has been a very positive change in the way psychometric assessments are developed. While previously we focused on ensuring the tools were accurate and reliable with little consideration for the user experience, these days the candidate experience is a central component during the development of assessments.
Recruiting organisations want their candidates to have a positive experience during the recruitment process, and this includes completing psychometric tests. They don’t want their candidates to have to complete a battery of tedious and anxiety-provoking tests. They want their candidates to be engaged in the process and for it to reflect well on their employer brand, helping them to attract the best talent.
In keeping with this (very positive) trend, the team here at Revelian began work on Emotify, a gamified, ability-based, psychometric assessment of emotional intelligence. I was fortunate enough to be part of the R&D team that brought Emotify to life, and we’re all extremely proud and excited to bring this assessment to market.
We designed Emotify to be fresh, interactive, engaging, simple and fast. In the first part, candidates simply have to decide whether the face they’re seeing matches a particular emotion. In the second part, they need to predict the emotional consequences of various everyday situations. Test takers actually need to use their EI to answer the questions and solve the emotional problems. Altogether, the assessment takes candidates around 20 minutes to complete.
During the development process, we collected feedback from over 3000 candidates who completed Emotify. Their responses were overwhelmingly positive, and they genuinely helped us to shape and refine the assessment experience. We had some candidates asking to complete Emotify again, simply because they found it fun and interesting!
Of course, alongside this focus on a positive candidate experience, we worked hard to ensure the assessment was a valid and reliable psychometric tool. Using a cross-validation approach, our research found that Emotify was a strong measure of EI. We also found clear relationships between candidate performance on the assessment and various workplace issues, such as self-reported stress management and conflict at work.
Emotify is now available to all Revelian clients across both the Express and Enterprise platforms. If you’re interested in a tool that not only accurately measures EI but also offers an engaging and fresh experience for your candidates, why not try a demo of Emotify for yourself?
1. Schneider, W. J., & McGrew, K. S. (2018). The Cattell–Horn–Carroll theory of cognitive abilities. In D. P. Flanagan & E. M. McDonough (Eds.), Contemporary intellectual assessment: Theories, tests, and issues (pp. 73-163). New York, NY, US: The Guilford Press.
2. Mayer J.D., Roberts R.D., & Barsade, S.G. (2008). Human abilities: emotional intelligence. Annual Review of Psychology, 59, 507–536.