Consider this scenario:

I spoke with a teacher of 16 years who shared that her peers tell each other to log onto the company’s training video, turn off their cameras, do chores and then return five minutes before the end to close the session and receive credit for completing the course.

As a learning and development (L&D) leader, I’m sure this would naturally elicit an initial negative reaction. We put a lot of hard work into what we do, and most people appreciate being valued for their efforts. However, after taking time to put yourself in your employees’ shoes, how do you think this should make you feel? Should you feel frustrated by their choices, angry this is how people treat the program you assembled, or accepting that it may be time to freshen up the training curriculum?

We tend to know that emotions come and go like the weather. What we feel one moment may change a few minutes later. Taking control of our emotions in the workplace can teach employees to make clear decisions that respect and balance the emotions of everyone involved.

Defining Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the awareness of how to manage one’s emotions. Simply put, EQ is the ability to understand a person via their emotions. The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence has studied the merits of imbuing these skills into managers to increase employee engagement, happiness and workplace performance.

There are two distinct organizational strategies forming these days. The first is to create a culture that is structured, measured and monitored. This philosophy states that senior leaders need latitude to make decisions, and that employees are more satisfied working on specific tasks without the burden of making choices.

The second organizational strategy is a culture where employees have latitude and feel the freedom to make decisions that balance the organization’s mission, short-term, long-term and personal goals. Today, employees prefer to be recognized for their unique contributions to the company and to have a say in decision making. Thus L&D leaders must continue to instill EQ skills into their training programs to teach employees how to practice these skills themselves, as well as to create a holistic and meaningful work environment.

Personalizing the Learning Experience

Integrating EQ into your training programs can have several steps. First, it begins with personalizing the employee experience.

Recent research from Amy Wrzesniewski at Yale builds on the idea of personalizing the employee experience and affirms that when employees have the skills to self-manage and communicate what they value in and outside of work, they can become more committed to the organization.

Consider using tools to ask employees how they want to apply the skills they will learn toward reaching their goals. Getting them to think about how their learning will help them in ways that matter to their growth can enhance your training courses. This can demonstrate an empathetic approach toward training that can empower and motivate employees to learn new skills.

Agile Learning Design

When an organization develops a plan to incorporate EQ as a training component, it’s doing more than onboarding an employee who can strive for the organization’s goals and mission. It is also creating someone who has built that emotional connection, which allows for a plan of professional growth to be developed.

Agility, adaptability and an openness to change are critical skills employees can learn when engaging with your programs. A common psychological phrase is called reframing. Educating employees on how to see a situation from others’ perspectives can help them manage their emotions and learn to communicate in a variety of scenarios.

Inclusive Training

Many organizations today understand the value of encouraging an open and inclusive work environment that promotes equitable opportunity. Yet, undoubtedly, there are often cases when an employee may cross the line, or misinterpret something due to miscommunication.

To avoid this, you can build self-awareness skills into your programs. Whether through teaching empathy or understanding our own implicit and explicit biases and perspectives, learning leaders can incorporate important EQ skills into training to promote inclusivity and cultural competence. This can help you educate people with the skills and decision tools to think through different scenarios when they may need to speak up or take action toward behavior that goes against company values and beliefs.

Next Steps

Talking about emotions, especially in the workplace, has a stigma in our society and can be considered contrary to an organization’s best interests. However, understanding employees’ emotions can have a serious impact on the modern work environment. And since L&D is recognized as a critical success factor to the business, imbuing employees with skills to understand emotions and communicate effectively is critical.

EQ deals with understanding and recognizing the basis of how people should be treated. This involves respecting your employees as people and training them how to do the same with their fellow teammates. No matter what EQ skills you decide to incorporate into your L&D training programs — from empathy to agility —  your emotionally intelligent training program should be built around specific soft skills relevant for your organization’s success.

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