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ATD Blog

Getting Results: How to Move the Needle With Emotional Intelligence Training

Monday, August 29, 2022

As an L&D professional, you’ve probably experienced the most common setback in our field—executives turning down your proposal for a new training program—many times. But have you had the opposite challenge?

Let’s say you propose rolling out emotional intelligence (EI) training across your company. Let’s also assume the case you present to your senior leadership team is strong—bolstered, for example, by a Yale-led study demonstrating that emotionally intelligent managers have happier, more creative employees. And let’s imagine your execs say yes. What now?

How to Get Started From a Blank Slate

Whether you’ll be training a small group or your entire organization, setting up an EI training program can feel overwhelming, especially if you don’t know where to start. So, let’s take it step by step. Here are the steps to take when you receive the green light to move ahead with EI training:

1. Evaluate existing EI training offerings, best practices, and solutions to determine what suits your organization’s needs and culture.

2. Establish specific goals and metrics for your EI training so you know what success looks like.

3. Roll out a program that will move the needle to ensure your organization derives the most benefit from an emotionally intelligent staff.

I address the first two steps in my previous blog post “Assessing Emotional Intelligence Training.” But what about the third step—actually designing an internal program from scratch or selecting an existing EI training program?

Whether you choose the build or buy approach, you’ll be looking for the same characteristics. Here are a few of the best practices in EI training that are most likely to help you reach your organization’s goals.


How to Make EI Training Work for Your Organization

Make learning opportunities short and frequent. Many professional training programs—including most covering EI—put learners in multiple full-day sessions. But a massive amount of research, including a recent study cited by the National Institutes of Health, shows that our brains learn new skills more effectively with shorter study sessions and frequent breaks.

Whether you design your own EI training program or sign up for an existing program, be careful not to overwhelm your employees with too much new information crammed into too short a time span. An effective EI learning program should be designed to roll out new concepts and skills in small, digestible amounts delivered over months, not days or hours. This allows participants to internalize what they learn and put it into practice, getting positive reinforcement from a series of short follow-up sessions.

Enable learners to practice their new EI skills. Many EI learning programs focus primarily on theory and teach these skills through academic lessons only. But as the American Psychological Association has argued for many years, when it comes to skill acquisition, differences in performance come down to the amount of practice.

Give employees a chance to test out their new EI skills in psychologically safe, judgment-free environments. Your facilitated live sessions will benefit from practical activities and real-time feedback. Additionally, follow-up activities can be asynchronously assigned that allow for practice in the real world that can be reviewed and built upon in follow-on live sessions.

Check on learners’ progress regularly. Your learners might sit quietly through EI training. They might even show enthusiasm about the course material. But are they learning the skills? Are they practicing them? Are they taking away the specific lessons you hope they are?

A key component of any successful EI learning program is checking-in with your employees throughout the training to assess how they’re feeling about the material, what they’re taking away from it, and what if any challenges they’re experiencing. The sooner you can identify a struggle for a learner, the sooner you can help them get back on track—and the sooner you can discover whether it reflects a larger problem in the learning design. If it does, this approach offers a chance to adjust the materials to better suit the intended learning objectives.

Bottom line: Your EI program must itself be emotionally intelligent. This requires awareness of how the material is landing with its participants and what effect it’s having on them. Both the curriculum and facilitation should have a feeling of responsiveness and provide opportunities for feedback. This will allow you to fine-tune the program over time to best meet the organization’s needs.


The Right EI Training Program Moves the Needle

There’s a mountain of credible research out there demonstrating the connection between emotionally intelligent employees and better business results, such as the Yale study cited above linking EI training to greater innovation and happier employees.

But rather than provide you with more stats, here are a few real-world examples of how organizations have enjoyed tangible benefits after going through our EI program, Oji Emotions:

Higher sales

Lower burnout

  • A Connecticut hospital’s nursing staff—among the highest-stress positions—went through our EI program and saw a drop in burnout.
  • After putting their team through Oji Emotions, an auto-dealership group saw a significant reduction in employee burnout (as well as an uptick in collections). A whopping 85 percent of participants reported feeling better equipped to deal with challenges faced at work and home.

Improved communication

  • After a manufacturing company implemented EI training to support high-potential leaders going through a company reorg, they were able to create more effective transition plans.
  • A university’s customer service team leveraged our EI training to substantially improve their overall student satisfaction scores.

For a practical approach to implementing EI training within your organization, book a chat with an Oji Emotions specialist.

About the Author

Andrea Hoban is co-founder and chief learning officer at Oji Life Lab.

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