From IQ to EQ to AQ: What makes AQ so important

By Robert Half on 08/01/2021

Technological innovations, economic uncertainty and unforeseen structural adjustments: these are just some of the many changes that characterise today’s job market. That is why recruiters are attaching increasing importance to employees’ adaptability. This is evident from a Belgian survey by Robert Half. Although IQ still comes first, AQ (short for adaptability quotient) is clearly gaining ground and scores even higher than emotional intelligence or EQ.

From IQ to AQ

The intelligence quotient (IQ) is still at the top of the list of qualities that hiring managers are looking for in employees. A large-scale survey by Robert Half reveals no less than 41% of recruiters are looking for employees with a high IQ. In recent years, EQ or emotional intelligence has also gained importance in that context. It refers to the ability to consciously perceive and control emotions and to express them effectively. EQ clearly influences soft skills, such as leadership ability and communication skills.

But emotional intelligence is now losing ground due to AQ’s growing significance. AQ or adaptability quotient refers to the ability to cope with change. It is measured by the speed with which an employee can refocus and succeed in a climate of rapid and constant change. While 27% of the recruiters surveyed considered EQ important, 32% preferred to look for employees with a well-developed AQ. Moreover, 87% of Belgian managers attach great importance to AQ in the context of continuous change.

The impact of the coronavirus crisis

The pandemic brought the need for flexibility and rethinking to a head. Companies suddenly had to evaluate and adapt their work processes and product ranges. Employers relied heavily on their employees’ adaptability.

Which is why 65% of the interviewed managers considered AQ to be more important than or equally important as before Covid-19. Assessing an employee’s AQ therefore plays an increasingly significant role in the recruitment process. In fact, IQ, AQ, and EQ have come to be almost equally important, as evident from the skills recruiters are seeking these days. Today, 38% are mainly looking for employees who are adaptable and have an agile mindset. Creative thinking skills take second place (37%).

Two-way traffic

Developing one’s adaptability is not just the responsibility of employees. Employers are responsible for facilitating agility within the company. They have to create a context in which employees have the space and opportunity to be flexible. This may start with minor changes in the work organisation, such as flexible hours, alternating workstations or teleworking. But employers should dare to take it a step further by making employees’ job content flexible, occasionally mixing up the composition of teams, experimenting with new software to achieve specific objectives, and so on. Because an agile work environment and a high AQ go hand in hand.

Aanwerven op basis van AQ: een checklist

AQ is de afkorting van adaptability-quotient en staat voor het vermogen om gedachten en gedrag aan te passen om effectief te kunnen reageren op onzekerheden, nieuwe informatie of veranderde omstandigheden. Ontdek hoe u bij sollicitanten kan polsen naar hun AQ via onze handige checklist.

Download de AQ-checklist


Learn from Robert Half’s expert recruiters so you can build a talented team of employees or advance your career. Operating in over 300 locations worldwide, with 12 recruitment offices in Belgium and Luxembourg, including our recruitment agency in Charleroi, Robert Half can provide you with assistance including leadership recruitment, where and when you need it.

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