The first article in this series on mindfulness training explored the research demonstrating its benefits in the workplace. But how can learning leaders develop mindfulness training programs in order to achieve those benefits? Here are some tips.

Before Implementation

Before you implement any mindfulness training programs, make sure the training will fit with your organizational culture. If you can’t genuinely articulate the program’s benefits, you won’t get buy-in from employees. Link those benefits to employees’ everyday work, so they will understand the impact mindfulness will have on their lives. Learners will then be more motivated and engaged.

As with any training initiative, it’s important to decide ahead of time what your goals are and how you’ll measure progress toward those goals. If you can demonstrate a return on your investment, you’ll be able to obtain executive buy-in. Also, be sure to measure the right goals. Mindfulness is “a gateway to self-awareness, not an end in itself,” according to a Fast Company article. Don’t forget the impact mindfulness will have on the customer experience; that impact is important and will help with executive buy-in.

Recent Training Industry research, conducted with Allen Communication, found that 88 percent of respondents believe that relevant and consistent training content makes L&D more palatable, and 73 percent believe that L&D communications need to stand out more. Especially if the concept of mindfulness is new to your organization, it will be crucial to effectively “sell” it to your learners if you want to ensure its full benefits.

If you have an employee who already practices mindfulness, see if he or she will serve as an internal advocate for the new program. Your advocates can support the importance of mindfulness by telling their coworkers about the benefits they have seen from their own practice. Their behavior might speak for itself.

Mindfulness Training Tips

Those internal advocates might also serve as teachers. If you already have an employee who meditates, for example, ask him or her to offer a regular workshop or mindfulness group for the office. Whether you have internal instructors or not, make sure you offer a variety of mindfulness practices, from meditation to yoga, guided imagery to Tai Chi, and allow each employee to determine the best practice(s) for him or her.

Along these lines, avoid making mindfulness training a requirement. According to David Brendel, a psychiatrist and executive coach, doing so “in a top-down manner degrades the practice and the people who might benefit from using it of their own volition.” The point of mindfulness is to be more aware and accepting of your own thoughts and behaviors; it can’t happen by force.

It might help to start small. Encourage employees to take short (one- to five-minute) breaks every 90 to 120 minutes to meditate or simply breathe or walk and to eat lunch away from their desks. If you can, provide a small, quiet space for mindfulness practices. Even while they are working, employees can practice “mindfulness-in-action” by becoming aware of their thoughts and emotions while they are doing some other task or activity.

You can also incorporate mindfulness practices into your meetings to make them more effective – and demonstrate mindfulness techniques. Before the meeting, ask participants to do a self-check of their mental state. Then use the first five minutes for a group check-in. Make the goals of the meeting clear, and include not just the topics for discussion but such goals as making connections among team members. When doing strategic planning, create possible scenarios and discuss them nonjudgmentally. Wrap up the meeting by mindfully agreeing on next steps. Mindful meetings can encourage creativity and innovation.

Mindfulness “practice” is a term used intentionally. Like any new skill, it takes practice to become an effective habit. Provide employees with the time and space to become mindful. Then celebrate results.

Stay tuned for the final article in this series, which will explore mindful leadership.