Most landscape companies fail to look at a critical piece of the employment puzzle when they’re hiring, and that can lead to poor choices, says Glenn Bertha, success coach and recruiter with LandOpt LLC.

That critical piece is “emotional intelligence,” and while it’s a concept that has been around since the 1990s (author Daniel Goleman penned the book “Emotional Intelligence” in 1995), most people still don’t know what it means. Turf recently spoke with Bertha to find out more about this concept and why landscape companies need to adopt it into their hiring process.

Emotional intelligence, or “EQ,” is defined as the ability to recognize and understand emotions in oneself and others and the ability to use this awareness to manage behavior and relationships. Those factors are incredibly important when it comes to hiring someone to come work for your company. Yet most landscape companies fail to look at any of that. Typically, that’s because they’re caught up on skills or IQ. But Bertha says that’s just touching the surface of what that person is all about and failing to dig deeper could result in a bad hire.

“What people typically look at when recruiting is information such as where the person went to school, what they studied and what kind of knowledge they have,” Bertha explains. “But if you think of it like an iceberg, those things are only the tip. The bigger part of the iceberg is emotional intelligence. Admittedly, that’s harder to bring out. It’s below the surface. But it’s huge and you have to know how to bring that out in people when evaluating them.”

Looking at EQ

In order to be good at recruiting, Bertha says you must “do your homework on emotional intelligence.” You need to understand how to assess an individual for their “EQ not just their IQ,” Bertha adds.

It all boils down to the cost of turnover, he continues, adding that 46 percent of new employees fail within 18 months of being hired.

“It costs a tremendous amount of resources to bring someone onboard, assuming you got the right person to begin with,” he says. “If it doesn’t pan out, that cost just keeps escalating. But the high cost of turnover could be greatly reduced if you look at emotional intelligence as part of your process.”

And Bertha stresses it absolutely must be a process — a well-defined one, at that. He says his company’s hiring process is 11 steps and one of them is focused on emotional intelligence. The goal is to weed out candidates who are likely to fail.

Bertha says it’s important to come up with a process that works for your company. Part of that process should include some sort of personality assessment. He says that his company uses the Activity Vector Analysis, or AVA. But there are certainly others to consider as well. While this should be an important part of the process, Bertha advises not getting too caught up on it. He calls it just “one tool in the tool bag” and an assessment alone should not be a reason to count someone out. That face-to-face time during the interview process is so important, too.

“When you ask the right questions during an interview, it will give you some insight into the candidate’s emotional intelligence,” Bertha says. “One of my favorite interview questions to ask is: ‘Can you teach me something as though I’ve never been exposed to it before?'”

How to send a text, how to refill the water cooler or how to do a puzzle are all examples, but Bertha says it doesn’t matter what it is. The point is that you should pay attention to how they respond as it reveals tremendous insight into their personality. It will tell you whether this person puts thought into what they’re saying or whether they just throw a lot out there.

“The key that you really want to look for is that the person asks empathetic questions to you — or whomever is being taught how to do something,” Bertha explains. “They should be asking, ‘Do you understand?’ or ‘Am I being clear?’ throughout the process. This is a component of a high emotional intelligence quotient.”

Putting a hiring process in place

If you don’t have a hiring process in place, Bertha recommends developing it by taking a hard look at the way you’ve hired in the past. What’s worked — and what hasn’t? When you have hired someone who has failed, where did things go wrong? Why did they fail? As you think about those questions you’ll have a much better grasp on what exactly you’re looking for in a candidate and that should help you develop your hiring process.

While it may sound like a lot of work, it’s not something that can be put off, Bertha adds.

“You can’t afford to not do this,” he urges. “I understand resources are limited — particularly time — but it will cost you significantly more if you choose a bad hire.”

By putting in the time to refine or create your hiring process, these efforts will pay off for you with some very specific rewards, Bertha says. That includes employee loyalty, reduced absenteeism and improving your brand, just to name a few. And these things are “priceless,” he says. For that reason, it’s absolutely worth the investment in developing a hiring process that includes emotional intelligence as a critical factor. Don’t be a company that makes it a missing piece.