Emotional intelligence, like other soft skills, is traditionally taught in the workplace using in-person methods such as instructor-led training (ILT), on-the-job training and coaching. This approach is based both on research and experience demonstrating its success as well as the philosophy that people skills should be developed … with people.
However, these modalities are often expensive, time-consuming and difficult to scale, especially one-on-one methods like coaching. In addition, with the increase of remote working and the often global dispersion of an organization’s workforce, getting even two people together for coaching – let alone a group of employees for a classroom session – can be difficult.
Is there a better way? Can emotional intelligence be taught digitally? More and more training providers are answering, “Yes.”
John Hansen, CEO of Media Partners, wrote last month, “In the hands-on world of self-directed, personalized and engaging training, well-designed e-learning is a great soft skills training choice.” The technologies supporting online, mobile and other forms of digital training are improving, and while on-the-job coaching and training are still the most preferred methods for leadership development, almost half of respondents in recent research said video, e-learning, gamification and adaptive learning are “very useful for impacting learning” when it comes to leadership development.
As a component of leadership training, then, emotional intelligence should be developed not only through in-person methods but through digital methods as well. Training companies and experts are increasingly focusing on these methods in their soft skills and emotional intelligence training products and programs. In fact, last month, Oji Life Lab, a training company focused on digital learning, launched its first offering for business, the Emotion Life Lab, a mobile learning platform for emotional intelligence.
“We’ve built a digital learning platform that combines the convenience of a mobile app with learning science techniques like spaced repetition, self-reflection and spiral learning,” says Andrea Hoban, co-founder and head of learning at Oji Life Lab. “On top of that, we add what I call the ‘warm accountability’ of a live coach, in group sessions and one-on-one.” Combining digital learning with in-person learning creates a blend of experiences that the company says will make the estimated $60 billion spent on soft skills training more impactful.
Like Oji Life Lab, Key Step Media uses a combination of virtual training and coaching to develop emotional intelligence. Its curriculum uses research by Daniel Goleman and distributes content in the form of videos and articles. Learners then use journaling and coaching to reflect, practice and improve their skills.
Christopher Hanes, director of experience management at Global Knowledge, similarly believes that blended learning is an effective strategy for emotional intelligence training. He recommends pairing in-person group training with “self-paced, computer-based” learning as a pre- or post-training activity.
Accenture’s talent and organization blog states that machines can “use analytics and cognitive computing to teach people how to improve their social skills or more accurately read other people’s emotions,” including using digital coaching. Organizations are also using virtual reality to help employees develop empathy by almost literally walking in another person’s shoes. Technology can help bridge geographic distances, enabling employees to get to know co-workers on other sides of the globe, again supporting greater empathy.
Assessment, a key component of any training but often particularly emotional intelligence training, is also being digitized. In addition to online assessments, online journaling and bio-feedback are good options, says Michael Brainard, Ph.D., founder and CEO of Brainard Strategy. Biofeedback “analyzes how leaders react emotionally to certain situations by reading skin temperature and pulse,” and can help learners understand their reactions and how to control them.
“The key is trainings that are highly interactive, not just theoretical,” says Kira Nurieli, owner of Harmony Strategies Group. “When participants actively engage in training, they internalize the concepts and develop a deeper appreciation for how to apply them in their specific situations.” While in-person training certainly can provide that interactivity, technology is increasingly able to support interactive learning as well, whether that’s in the form of virtual instructor-led training, digital coaching or even virtual reality.
In the digital age, soft skills like emotional intelligence are only becoming more important. Fortunately, the digital age presents innovative and effective ways of helping employees develop those skills, as well.