Inclusion matters

How does EQ and DQ drive better workplace outcomes? LaTonya Jackson provides the answers

After two years of a global pandemic, civil and social unrest, and an increasing focus on one’s health and wellbeing, employers are taking both initiative and accountability for the safety and wellness of their workspace. From hiring DEI directors and building our employee resource groups, to enabling workplace flexibility and broadening benefits packages to include mental health components, forward-thinking employers are listening to – and anticipating – the needs of their team. But, as always, there’s still more work to be done.

A better workplace starts with EQ and DQ

When hiring a new employee or building out a new division, organisational leaders and HR managers spend a lot of time and effort to recruit and hire individuals who will be most competent for the role(s). Does a potential employee have the intellectual capacity to fulfil the needs and requirements of a specific job? And while this is an obvious hiring criteria, as companies begin advocating for a more diverse workforce, simply satisfying a competency requirement isn’t enough.

When deciding if someone is the best option for a necessary role in your company, and overall team compatibility, it’s important to also look at an individual’s emotional intelligence (EQ) and diversity intelligence (DQ). 

Inclusion is only as strong as your team’s EQ

Fostering an inclusive and equitable workforce has gone beyond being ‘nice to have’ and is now an integral component of structuring a team. In addition to reflecting an organisation’s commitment to increasing the participation and representation of traditionally marginalised groups, it also brings an impressive positive impact on the bottom line. A study by McKinsey & Company shows that more diverse teams financially outperform non-diverse teams. One key to success, however, is ensuring that company leaders are empowered with the tools and training necessary to create a truly inclusive environment. From that same study; “While overall sentiment on diversity was 52 percent positive and 31 percent negative, sentiment on inclusion was markedly worse, at only 29 percent positive and 61 percent negative… Hiring diverse talent isn’t enough – it’s the workplace experience that shapes whether people remain and thrive.”

This is where EQ and DQ come in: EQ and DQ play key roles in how your employees function together, as a team. Referenced initially in 1964 but popularised by the 1995 book Emotional Intelligence by scientist Daniel Goleman, emotional intelligence is the ability of individuals to recognize their, and others’, emotions. Leaders with high emotional intelligence can understand when an employee isn’t fulfilled at work, when a client is moved by a presentation, or when a stakeholder doesn’t have the emotional bandwidth for an intense conversation. While we often prioritise skill-based competencies, emotional intelligence makes a leader not only more relatable but more capable of mentoring, thereby fostering individual growth. It is a key component that can make or break the psychological safety of a work environment – particularly, when a more diverse workforce enters the mix. 

Benefits of a more respectful environment include more engaged employees, higher productivity, increased creativity, and better problem solving

A strong DEI programme is reliant on the emotional intelligence of those in leadership positions. Companies can embrace DEI with the best of intentions but fall flat in execution if team leaders and employees don’t possess the EQ to recognise the nuanced emotional needs of their diverse employees.

Better DEI is also possible through DQ

We all deserve a work environment that allows us to create our best work. This usually comes from feelings of security, empowerment, support, and value – if we feel a sense of connection and security at work, we are more inclined to perform our best. With a team of competent individuals who can recognise and empathise with their teammates’ experiences we can build a more unified work environment. Leaders can make this an even better environment by hiring individuals who also possess DQ: diversity Intelligence.

Diversity intelligence is the capability of individuals to recognise the value of workplace diversity and use this information to guide their thinking and behaviour (Diversity Intelligence LLC). When a workplace leader possesses DQ, they are able to approach situations with a conscious recognition – and understanding – of the ways in which diversity is a factor. They then are able to view a situation holistically and, rather than isolating or ignoring diversity, see it as a component that plays a role in workplace interactions. It isn’t enough to simply follow discrimination laws that support protected classes under law. Leaders must demonstrate active understanding that diversity improves teamwide critical thinking, problem solving, and productivity. DQ supports the concept that a non-homogenous group of people working towards a collective outcome leads better, stronger, and more innovative ideas.
How it all works together

Homogenous teams lead to homogenous ideas. By developing a diverse and inclusive workforce, companies benefit financially, while team members evolve mentally, emotionally, and psychologically. Leaders in today’s organisations can maximise the impact of their DEI initiatives by ensuring – at the hiring level – that employees possess not only intellectual competency but also EQ and DQ. It’s up to leaders to go beyond merely hiring more inclusive teams by taking action to set these teams up for success. This can be accomplished through DEI training, workshops, and webinars, and by placing a priority on hiring emotionally intelligent individuals. Benefits of a more respectful environment include more engaged employees, higher productivity, increased creativity, and better problem solving.

When we focus on EQ and DQ in the workplace, we’re able to break through barriers to understanding and focus instead on listening to one another, exploring ways to innovate together, and realising the positive impact of diversity in organisations.

LaTonya Jackson, Ed.D. is the vice president of services at Media Partners



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