On February 25, 2021, one of the top Indian business daily flashed a headline – “It will be working from home, post-pandemic too at many top companies.” It wrote, companies like, Tata Steel, Philips, Infosys and Maruti Suzuki are evaluating job roles to permanently enable employees working from home, or remotely – even after the pandemic. This is just one example, out of many unique outcomes of last year’s disruptive business turbulence, causing a potential mental or emotional impact on many employees.
Virtually across industries, many such significant changes have taken place in several facets of businesses including traditional operational processes. As has been widely witnessed, many desk-bound office jobs – temporarily, partly or fully – shifted to remote working – almost overnight, as it were. Such a shift is being contemplated in several work-areas by a number of drug companies, as well.
For understandable reasons, another concurrent and instant demand surfaced for a critical hard skill – involving applications digital tools and platforms. This was mostly to ensure that key business communications and customer engagements, at least, keep ticking during the crisis, despite unprecedented initial headwinds.
However, sans a catalytic soft skill that helps address several current-environment specific several organizational needs, even applications of digital skills are unlikely to be able to leverage the full potential of digitalization. While navigating through today’s uncharted frontiers, where there are no footsteps to follow, the organization will need flexibility and resilience among leadership, ensuring employee adaptability to change, and creating a new climate of fostering creativity with digital technology.
Interestingly, this soft skill – ‘Emotional Intelligence’ – often referred as ‘Emotional Quotient’ or EQ, wasn’t discussed, as much, for various reasons. In this article, I shall deliberate, why this much-known soft skill is indispensable for business excellence in the new normal – from the pharma industry perspective.
EI/EQ in business isn’t a new idea, but more important now than ever before:
Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer coined the term ‘Emotional Intelligence (EI)’ in 1990 describing it as “a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action”.
In 1995, Daniel Goleman in his book ‘Emotional Intelligence’ defined EI as the ability to:
- Recognize, understand and manage our own emotions and,
- Recognize, understand and influence the emotions of others.
In other words, ‘this means being aware that emotions can drive our behavior and impact people (positively and negatively) and learning how to manage those emotions – both our own and others.’The ability to manage emotions is measured through Emotional Quotient (EQ).
EQ – a cutting edge of excellence, especially in the new normal:
Much before the pandemic, in 2018, McKinsey & Company had projected that between 2016 and 2030, demand for people with high EQ would grow across all industries. Again, in May 2021, the Company reiterated: ‘To meet this challenge, companies should craft a talent strategy that develops employees’ critical digital and cognitive capabilities, their social and emotional skills, and their adaptability and resilience.’
However, with unprecedented changes in pharma business dynamics, the process has been further accelerated. EQ is now expected to be a cutting edge for performance excellence – in any organization. Hence, digital savviness may not be just enough in the new order for organizational turnaround aspirants. Sans people with high EQ, among both – the leadership and staff members, digital transformation alone may not be enough for commercial success.
Long ago, Daniel Goleman epitomized it in his article - ‘What Makes a Leader?’ This was published in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) in January 2004, where he wrote: ‘IQ and technical skills are important, but emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership.’ This old advice assumes even greater importance, in the new normal.
With emotions prevailing in workplaces, high EQ improves performance:
COVID pandemic has demonstrated to all, including highly tradition bound and slow to change – the pharma industry that the name of the game of survival, particularly when a crisis strikes as a bolt from blue, is quickly adapting to changes. A time came as ‘national lockdown’ started – when a sense of losing control and confusion, virtually engulfed the work environment, which is so necessary for livelihood. A key example of these changes include, a sudden shift from remote working, related to remaining engaged with customers.
Alongside, home life and work life got merged for many. New ways of remaining in touch with customers, sometimes gave rise to a sense of seclusion or alienation, causing mental or emotional stress. Many employees’ keen desire and expectation of the return of the old normal – in the same form, are causing more emotional complications with them.
A study by EQ training provider TalentSmart also found that emotional intelligence is responsible for 58% of one’s job performance. Thus, any pharma company’s ability to be in sync with all employees, at the emotional level, is one the key requirements to boost performance. It will determine the effectiveness of digital tools given to employees to deliver the deliverables. Further, as other studies established, ‘the ability to connect with people on an emotional level – is crucial to maintaining strong and resilient teams.’
Some telltale signs of low EQ in an organization:
Some common telltale signs of low EQ in an organization, were well captured in an article with Covid pandemic in the backdrop. This was published in Inside HR on September 01, 2020. The manifestations of low EQ include, when employees:
- Don’t want to take responsibility for their own feelings, but blame others for those,
- Let things build up and then blow up,
- Often overreact to life’s minor events while struggling to remain in emotional control.
- Lack empathy and compassion,
- Tend not to consider others’ feelings before acting,
- Lack self-awareness of their own emotions and the emotions of others around them.
Such signals, if not addressed promptly, can lead to a number of adverse business outcomes. Especially when, quick adaptation to fundamental changes in the business environment, business operations and key customer behavior, is the name of the game. People’s EQ in an organization, could often stand between business success and failure – in the new normal, more than ever before.
As pharma industry has started navigating through the new normal with wide-scale application of digital technology, employees also need to keep pace with these changes, and come on board. In such a ‘never before’ situation, emotional needs of both internal and external customers are to be properly understood, and effectively addressed, just as the need for digitalization within the organization.
Notably, low or high EQ are not genetic, neither are these pre-implanted in the brain by God. EQ comes as one learns through ongoing experience in life, and also from the advices of elderly, interaction with peers, superiors and training by professionals. This is a lifelong process of learning, which is continuously honed through practice in real life situations. It’s not bizarre, at all, if EQ of an individual has changed before, during and after the pandemic. What really matters is fathoming, how is the employee EQ today, monitor it continuously, and help the individual as and when required – to help the organization.
Several studies have established high employee EQ as a stronger predictor of success, that helps strengthen hard skills like digitalization by helping to think more creatively while using the tech tools and platforms. Thus, amid unparalleled changes in business operations, customer behavior and the need for quick adaptation to digital technology, fostering employee EQ to encourage them committing to the corporate shared goal, is an imperative for pharma’s performance excellence - more than ever before.
By: Tapan J. Ray
Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.