Like people, companies can have emotional intelligence (EQ): the ability to demonstrate empathy by understanding and addressing the emotions, concerns and needs of others. And like high-EQ people, companies that embrace and exhibit EQ in their communications can create more meaningful, powerful connections — with customers and employees alike.
That’s not just a theory. It’s supported by research that shows that the most emotionally intelligent brands grow faster, are perceived more positively by their customers and have an advantage in recruiting talent and cultivating a healthy workplace culture. In fact, 92% of workers look for organizations that demonstrate empathy when looking for a new job.
So how can learning and development (L&D) leaders help companies realize the significant benefits of EQ? By empowering their people to become brand EQ champions.
As a training professional, you can play a key role in equipping employees with the tools they need to understand EQ and incorporate it into their jobs and throughout the business. These are three strategies you can use to foster EQ within individuals and teams and help them to positively influence their company’s relationships with customers.
1. Teach Empathy Skills
As mentioned above, empathy is a cornerstone of EQ — and it is a workplace skill that can be taught and improved with practice.
Your training sessions can include guidance and best practices for ways employees can become more empathetic in the workplace, including:
- Being thoughtful about communications. 95% of employees believe face-to-face conversations are the most empathetic communication method, followed by team meetings and phone calls. So consider exercises where learners are asked to choose the right channel for specific types of internal and customer communications, taking into account both effectiveness and empathy.
- Transforming content. Practical examples are one of the most powerful teaching tools. Show the real-world application of empathy by selecting pieces of content — which could include customer emails, social media posts and product guides — and update them to convey a more empathetic tone. Then share these before and after examples, pointing out the specific words and phrasing you’ve used and the rationale behind your choices.
- Stepping into the customer’s shoes. To help employees learn to demonstrate empathy in business interactions, have them role-play as the customer in realistic scenarios, such as requesting a replacement for a defective product or calling for technical support. Encourage participants to think about how a customer would be feeling during the interaction and the type of response that would make them feel understood and valued.
2. Encourage Adaptability
In the workplace, adaptability is an important skill for demonstrating empathy by enabling employees to be open to diverse perspectives and cultural, emotional and intellectual contexts. This makes them better equipped to relate to both colleagues’ and customers’ experiences and feelings.
Consider the following ways employees can learn to embrace and display adaptability in their day-to-day interactions:
- Understanding diverse perspectives. Again, role-play exercises can be a useful and intuitive teaching tool. Encourage employees to act out scenarios where they take on different perspectives or work in different cultural contexts. This can help broaden their understanding of diversity and help them better relate to others’ experiences.
- Promoting open-mindedness. Adaptability involves responding effectively to change, which includes letting go of preconceived notions or biases and being more receptive to others’ feelings and perspectives. Try holding brainstorming sessions that encourage employees to contribute — and listen and respond to — as many ideas as possible. The lesson to be learned is that being open-minded to many ways of approaching a problem can lead to innovative solutions.
- Improving problem-solving skills. Adaptability involves adjusting to new information and circumstances. This can be developed through group problem-solving exercises where employees must work together to solve a real-world workplace problem, incorporating and adapting to various perspectives and viewpoints to reach the best solution.
3. Craft an Emotionally Driven Brand Story
Research shows that when making a purchase decision, people actually pay more attention to whether their emotional needs are met than to the functional value of products or services.
So, it’s critical for your company to have a strong brand story: a cohesive, emotionally driven narrative that runs through all your communications and provides customers with a “what’s in it for me.” That can raise your company’s EQ by making your customers feel understood and engaged.
As a training professional, you can work with employees — in partnership with marketing and human resources, where appropriate — to empower employees to effectively, consistently and emotionally communicate about your brand.
- Building your brand story, together. People naturally feel deeper ownership of something they’ve helped to create. So try holding brand-building workshops where employees from different departments and roles work together to identify the fundamental elements of your brand, including ways you can make emotional connections with customers. Consider engaging a branding expert to facilitate and provide a valuable objective perspective.
- Becoming brand storytellers. Help employees make your brand story personal by providing storytelling and writing training, including exercises where they must interview a colleague and write an “employee spotlight” for your company newsletter or social media, or give a presentation about an employee-led initiative. Ask them to focus on how the featured employee or effort embodies the company’s brand story and values.
- Providing a brand playbook. Ensure that all employees are communicating about your brand in the same way — and leveraging the same powerful emotions — by providing them with a communications guide or brand story playbook. This can include the elements of your brand story, key messages, emotional drivers, brand personality and sample communications pieces that show how they all work together.
By helping employees develop the skills needed to demonstrate emotional intelligence, you will not only help your company exude EQ and make deeper, more meaningful emotional connections with your customers — you will also help foster a more empathetic, supportive company culture where employees connect more deeply and meaningfully with each other.