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Emotional Intelligence: Why EQ is more important than ever for your mobile employees


Table of contents

  1. Evolving to meet the EQ demand
  2. Helping mobile employees confront uncertainty
  3. Embracing new levels of EQ in talent mobility
  4. Scaling with EQ to be more employee-focused
  5. Principles in Action

The emergence of Emotional Intelligence as a model for interpersonal workplace behavior has been three decades in the making. Emotional Intelligence (commonly referred to as EQ) encompasses employee-centric behavior centered around verbal habits, purposeful thought, empathy and authentic support. In recent years, leading companies and industries have embraced it as well — including the Global Mobility industry.

In a nutshell: the business case for EQ is the human case for EQ.” – Josh Maday*

In March 2020, at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, EQ quickly shifted into the mainstream of human resource management, in both the public and private sectors. Due to the unexpected work-from-home mandates driven by the virus’ worldwide impact, interactions with colleagues and business partners became far less personal, taking place for the most part across virtual home offices or in remote “work-from-anywhere” workplaces. Ad hoc, in-person meetings became nearly non-existent, along with the ability to share and respond to a colleague or client’s personal or professional challenges and triumphs through face-to-face encounters.


Evolving to meet the EQ demand

Many organizations responded by quickly implementing support programs, activities and educational resources to promote high EQ that will extend through this crisis and beyond. It’s happening at all levels: more frequent ”all-hands” videoconference sessions hosted by empathetic leaders, virtual collaborations intended to build team camaraderie, regular check-in chats between supervisors and staff and even virtual happy hours after business hours. For many, “Zoom” calls have also become the de facto standard for meetings, at least for the foreseeable future.

As a result, EQ-driven behavior for remote workers – including the mobile employee workforce – is now more important than ever. For many, the comforts of home don’t provide the same professional and emotional connections to colleagues and peers, compared to the pre-pandemic workplace relationships, interactions, routines and other interpersonal dynamics that many of us took for granted.

Whether employees are working from a virtual environment, a physical one or a hybrid of the two, the concepts of emotional engagement and focusing on the overall employee experience are two ways that companies can demonstrate their high EQ, as well as show employees that they are valued within their company. These concepts are also two fundamental principles described in the Evolution of the Experience model (see diagram below and read this blog to learn more) developed by Shane Smith, a Global Human Resources executive and consultant with 28 years of experience across the beverage, manufacturing and software industries.

Essentially, as companies move away from a “Utility and Productivity” mindset to one that’s more focused around “Engagement” and eventually “Experience”, or creating the ideal environment for an employee, then they can achieve more meaningful and lasting connections with their employees.


Helping mobile employees confront uncertainty

Talent Mobility professionals – Global Mobility managers, HR directors, CHROs and relocation management companies (RMCs) like Graebel – have had unique experience with EQ for years. Mobile employees, by definition, are (or are about to be) physically separated from many of their colleagues, extended family, and friends and placed in unfamiliar situations. RMCs, Global Mobility teams and employees accept those challenges, though, because the relocation itself fulfills a business imperative: the employee’s unique skills and talents are needed elsewhere to provide even greater value.

Global Mobility managers, along with their RMCs and partners, are expected to anticipate and solve mobile employee challenges in ways that require the highest level of EQ in some of the most trying scenarios. As crisis situations like the pandemic, political or social unrest, or natural disasters unfold, employees confront more uncertainties and complexities than they’ve ever faced before. In light of all of this, having a well-planned employee journey experience where consultants are primed and ready to help them through unpredictable circumstances is critical to a mobile employee’s overall satisfaction and happiness.


Embracing new levels of EQ in talent mobility

Nearly every element of the relocation experience is more complicated than it was just one year ago. Household goods shipments, real estate transactions, immigration approvals, personal travel – nothing can be assumed or taken for granted. And in that environment, relocation support not only calls for a heightened level of attention to tactical activity, but also a heavy dose of EQ-related support for relocating employees. Specifically, the industry’s historical commitment to Duty of Care must be overtly evident to mobile employees end-to-end through:

  • Active Communication – Consistent, regular communication helps to reassure mobile talent that mobility professionals and their RMC’s consultants are working on their behalf, monitoring developments, identifying challenges and solving problems. This kind of communication goes beyond responsiveness – it’s proactive. In a crisis or time of uncertainty, it’s important to anticipate the needs of mobile employees, providing just enough information at a time as to not overwhelm them.
  • Flexibility – Navigating pandemic-related Global Mobility complexities takes a team, and the mobile employee is an important part of that team. Their suggestions, requests, concerns and opinions must be heard and addressed whenever and wherever possible.
  • Empathy – No matter how senior or experienced, everyone who relocates faces unknowns. The high EQ imperative for mobility managers and consultants in all cases is to make sure the mobile employee knows someone is watching out for them and can relate to their concerns – at both a logistical and emotional level.
  • Compassion – No two employees are equally comfortable with or adept at transitioning to a new assignment in a new location. Mobility professionals must quickly determine a mobile employee’s unique areas of anxiety and then respond compassionately with solutions and information to reduce those concerns.

It’s noteworthy that all these EQ attributes have only recently been fully embraced by organizations company-wide, but they’ve been a mandate for many years with Global Mobility teams. These professionals, who are trained to respond with a people-first mentality and who naturally show empathetic leadership qualities, typically thrive in scenarios where a high EQ is necessary – and they often do it in heroic ways.

As the two consultants featured in this case study demonstrate, many emotionally-charged circumstances require the highest level of EQ to overcome unique dilemmas faced by mobile employees, especially during COVID-19. These accounts demonstrate how potentially negative outcomes were turned into exceptional employee experiences.


Scaling with EQ to be more employee-focused

Individualized, high-EQ care for each relocating employee is the ideal approach. But does personalized talent mobility service suffer when it’s scaled? Can a company be expected to provide this kind of high-touch, high-EQ support when it has hundreds or even thousands of mobile employees?

Yes, it’s not only possible, but large companies are implementing fundamental strategies to increase their EQ throughout their businesses.

To scale properly, high EQ happens when the expectation of providing high levels of employee care is engrained in the guiding principles of the company itself. Read more about how the late Arne Sorenson, Marriott’s former CEO, embraced EQ and an empathetic leadership style during COVID-19.

In addition, scaling services to more employees often calls for engaging consultants and other partners, and that’s certainly true in mobility. To ensure a mobile employee’s success and happiness, an RMC’s consultants and their supply chain partners often work directly with employees.  To avoid a drop-off or compromise in a company’s EQ-based mobility support, it’s critical that these partners are carefully vetted to ensure they share complementary core values and guiding principles related to EQ.

Another important thing to note about scaling EQ within a growing mobility program: it doesn’t have to break the budget. The strategies for cost-control presented at the recent insideMobility® Digital event are applicable here as well. Decisions about services require evaluating the perceived value of the service by defining goals, identifying stakeholders and establishing cost efficiencies while always staying focused on maintaining exceptional employee experiences.


Principles in Action

Consider what’s going through the mind of an employee who has accepted an international or domestic position and now must relocate. Now imagine the tremendous expectations and responsibility placed on Global Mobility teams as they provide seamless service to the employee and their family utilizing their full EQ portfolio, including:

  • Empathy and active listening
  • Emotional maturity
  • Awareness and inclusion
  • Honesty and humility
  • Anticipation and intuition

What an opportunity for demonstrating EQ! Those attributes are just some of the signs of a company that is in lock step with the needs of its employees, and they’re trademarks of successful mobility program management.

At Graebel, each of our employees are encouraged to perform every aspect of their jobs in accordance with our guiding principles of “Understand Clearly, Care Deeply and Grow Purposefully,” and we are supported from highest levels of our company. In other words, we’re expected to serve with the highest level of EQ possible.

The pandemic, social injustice, global human rights, and environmental and climate-related issues are giving all of us the opportunity to embrace and manifest higher EQs. For our own employees and company, we’ve expanded our commitment to our overall Diversity Equity and Inclusion program and Corporate Social Responsibility to continue to evolve in these important areas – and we’re seeing it gain importance with many of our clients.

Want to learn more about how you can elevate the EQ in your global mobility program? Contact us today.

*Josh Maday, The Case for EQ: Why Emotional Intelligence in Business Matters, 2020/03/10, SAP Customer Experience