Emotional intelligence (EI) testing may hold the key to successful recruitment and workforce development in e-business.
Factors such as hypergrowth, which can see staffing levels quadruple in a matter of months, coupled with a dramatic shift in people’s roles within the company, mean that an e-business must have a workforce which is prepared for change if it is to succeed, believes Vip Vyas, managing director of management consultancy Breakthrough Technology.
“One minute your office assistant could be typing up a report, the next he or she could be your office manager with five staff,” says Vyas. “EI can help companies prepare for that change. It can show them what it’s going to take to operate in a chaos environment, in which people sometimes work 15 hours a day.”
Such sentiments are especially pertinent in the current unsettled climate for e-commerce companies. “The e-business landscape is largely uncharted territory, involving frequent revisions of corporate strategy, business processes and operational tactics. E-businesses need people who are not stuck in their ways but are able to adapt themselves to unforeseen challenges,” stresses Vyas.
“The repeated concern I hear after talking to directors of e-commerce in large multi-nationals is whether their staff are going to be flexible enough emotionally to face the challenges of the new economy.”
Emotional intelligence describes a raft of “people skills” as opposed to the intellectual qualities that IQ is concerned with. EI was applied to the workplace by US psychologist Daniel Goldman and the term encompasses self-awareness, emotional management, self-motivation, empathy, relationship management, communication skills and personal style.
Unlike IQ, a person’s EQ can be developed. With the help of EI, Breakthrough Technology works with companies to develop what it calls an “organisational agility” and takes a four-step approach to the process. It begins with research and assessment, which typically involves meeting with the directors to uncover the core issues facing the company and then an assessment of what would constitute a “breakthrough” for it.
After this breakthrough, it carries out an organisational values and transition audit, through workshops, to discover what is driving the performance and also to make the company aware of its blindspots – “the real good and yuck stuff that is at the heart of business results”, says Vyas.
Next, an “emotional competence” people model is developed that identifies key competencies to deliver the business’ strategy. The final phase is the implementation and coaching stage where the people model becomes “a living thing”.
Vyas says, “We, and our clients, are interested in people going beyond understanding competencies to living them daily.”
One of Breakthrough’s clients is The Skills Market, a business-to-business on-line recruitment company set up this year, which is trying to implement a new market model in recruitment.
“The Skills Market has a unique product and aggressive growth strategy: the company has grown from eight people to 32 in two months. We’re working with them in building a flexible, learning-oriented, open-minded culture that is aligned to the business vision,” says Vyas.
Following the rapid growth, the company is consolidating, explains Skills Market CEO Daniel Elkins, and is working with Breakthrough Technology to look at how best to use its resources and to come up with a strategy.
“We need to create a different architecture that’s more flexible,” explains Elkins. “We’re not recruiting people for specific roles – we have a heavy requirement for people to evolve and be adaptable. For example, we have been in a period of development and planning and we’re shifting to a more production-oriented, problem-solving organisation.”