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Want to Unlock Millennials' Potential? Boost Their EQ

This is part of a special advertising section featuring case studies offering solutions to talent-management challenges.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013
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Although much of the panic surrounding their generation has subsided, many millennials still struggle to find and maintain employment. According to recent numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor, unemployment among millennials (ages 18-29) was nearly double the national unemployment rate in January 2013, having risen faster than any other demographic.

Some of this can be blamed on a still-recovering job market, but the persistent nature of under- and unemployment among millennials suggests this demographic lacks some skill necessary to obtain employment. What separates these smart yet unemployable people from their less gifted but more employable contemporaries?

Employers want EQ, not IQ

In the 1990s, the U.S. Department of Labor conducted a survey examining what companies want from their employees. The report identified five critical workplace competencies:

* Locating and allocating resources

* Acquiring and interpreting information

* Understanding complex systems

* Technological literacy

* Interpersonal skills

When it comes to the first four requirements, today's young employees are advanced relative to their older peers at the same age. More millennials will have a college degree than any generation before them. They are adept at searching for, finding and synthesizing information. With regard to technological literacy, the Pew Research Center called millennials digital natives in a landscape of immigrants. However, the fifth competency -- interpersonal skills -- is where many young employees fall short. And that's a big problem.

Drs. Joyce Hogan and Kimberly Brinkmeyer analyzed the content of employment ads in newspapers across the United States over the course of a year. Of the total positions advertised, 47 percent required strong interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills were deemed essential for 71 percent of the jobs involving client contact, 78 percent of the jobs requiring co-worker interaction, 83 percent of the jobs involving subordinate interaction, and 84 percent of the jobs requiring management interaction.

"These studies clearly indicate that career success depends on the ability to successfully interact with others, build and maintain relationships, and manage one's social environment," says Robert Hogan, founder and president of Hogan Assessment Systems. "One's ability to perform those tasks depends on EQ."

EQ, or emotional intelligence, is the ability to identify, process and manage one's own and others' emotions. EQ has three parts -- perception, control and sharing -- each of which has an intrapersonal and interpersonal component.

Emotional Perception

* Self-awareness. Are you in touch with your emotions? This awareness helps individuals understand the emotions causing their current moods.

* Detection. Are you aware of others' emotions? Without a high degree of emotional detection, individuals are likely to misinterpret others' intentions, actions and motives.

Emotional Control

* Regulation. Can you maintain a positive emotional state? People with a high degree of emotional regulation seem calm under pressure and resilient in the face of failure.

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* Influence. Can you intentionally affect others' moods? Individuals with a high degree of emotional influence are able to empower and instill confidence in others.

Emotional Sharing

* Expressivity. Are you able to effectively communicate a desired emotional state to others? Can you smile and provide polite customer service, even when you don't feel like it?

* Empathy. Are you able to experience the emotions of others? Empathetic individuals are able to more deeply engage in social interactions and collaborative experiences.

To Boost EQ, Start with Personality

Emotional intelligence is a function of personality. Personality has two parts:

* Bright-side personality, or normal personality, describes peoples' strengths and weaknesses when they are at their best.

* Dark-side personality describes people when they are stressed, bored or simply not paying sufficient attention to their behavior.

Hogan measures emotional intelligence by assessing the bright-side personality characteristics that contribute to individuals' ability to identify, process and manage emotions, as well as the dark-side personality characteristics that can interfere with their ability to do so.

"The starting point for any coaching process is to narrow down the characteristics that are driving problem behaviors," says Trish Kellett, director of the Hogan Coaching Network. "From there, you can build individuals' self-awareness -- an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.

"Self-awareness is the keystone of success in the workplace," she continues. "By understanding our natural strengths and weaknesses, we can learn to compensate for those behaviors."

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