9 ways HR teams can build emotional intelligence in their organization

Charlotte Nicol
Published on 3rd June 2020
3 min read

Say you’ve got a colleague who has started behaving differently – perhaps they are quieter, getting less work done and only responding to questions with one-word answers.

If your first thought is to worry about their mental health and wellbeing rather than to judge them for being ‘moody’, good news – you probably have a high ‘EQ’.

What is emotional intelligence?

An emotional quotient, or EQ – better known as ‘emotional intelligence’ – refers to a person’s ability to recognize, understand, manage and reason with emotions, both their own, and other people’s.

According to PsychCentral, there are five categories of emotional intelligence: self-awareness; self-regulation; motivation; empathy; and social skills.

Why is emotional intelligence so important?

Emotional intelligence is essential in modern workplaces because it allows employees to better empathize and communicate with their teams and colleagues.

Emotional intelligence is so important that, in a recent survey of over 500 People managers, most respondents said trustworthiness (39%) along with confidence (27%) and resilience (27%) were more important for employees to have than experience (13%) and education (11%) – showing that empathy and emotional intelligence can be up to three times more valuable than traditional workplace skills.

Employees with high EQ are more likely to recognize the signs of stress and burnout in their teams and colleagues. So, having emotionally intelligent people in your organization is a great way to potentially build engagement and could even lead to improved retention and productivity.

So how do you build an emotionally intelligent workplace? Here are nine tips to get you started.

1. Work out your strategic priorities

Emotional intelligence is a great skill to hone with employees, but it can take time to integrate, especially in a large workforce – meaning it could be expensive, too.

Before you invest in an expensive emotional intelligence course or external consultants, you should figure out what the value of emotional intelligence to your workforce will be.

Wellbeing surveys and exit interviews are a great way to find out how emotionally intelligent your staff already are. If EQ seems low, and if you are noticing employees have low productivity and high turnover, there could be a strong case for emotional intelligence training.

2. Try going it alone

With a plethora of books about emotional intelligence on the market, you could provide the training in-house. Start by ensuring your HR and People team understand the fundamentals of emotional intelligence and that you have worked out a training strategy.

Then, pull individual people or teams into training workshops to teach them what you have learned. If you’re looking to train yourself and your team in the basics of emotional intelligence, ‘Working with Emotional Intelligence’ by Daniel Goleman and ‘EQ Applied: The Real-World Guide to Emotional Intelligence’ by Justin Bariso are great books to start with.

3. Hire consultants

If you don’t have the time to put together your own workshop, if you’re working with a large and complex workforce or if you’d prefer to trust the experts to deliver top-quality training, there are many professional organizations that specialize in delivering emotional intelligence.

While reaching out to these firms, be clear about exactly what you want to get out of the course: whether it’s increased productivity; improved retention; better employee wellbeing; or all of the above.

4. Lead from the top

As HR and People leaders, your attitude will filter down to the workforce. If you and other leaders in the business are often caught being grumpy, cynical or switched-off, your employees are less likely to feel engaged and inspired too.

Make sure you’re leading by example – with within your team, and across the wider board and executive team.

5. Support line managers

Dealing directly with people, line managers need to be particularly equipped with high emotional intelligence. If you’re rolling out training, make sure it’s tailored for managers. Scenario-based learning can help people managers understand more about their own EQ and how to hone their skills further.

6. Integrate training

Emotional intelligence training is an ongoing process. You will need to make training a regular thing if you expect to see any benefit from it. Make it an integrated practice within your business. You could go so far as to write emotional intelligence development into your strategic priorities.

7. Make it part of your company’s values

Emotional intelligence thrives in a culture of open communication. So, make sure you’re encouraging employees to open up to one another.

You could create dedicated spaces in your workplace or set up a stream via an online communication tool such as Microsoft Teams or Slack so they can speak openly and without fear of judgment, or encourage staff to communicate outside of working hours by organizing more social occasions.

You could also implement training programs that teach managers how to identify emotional difficulty and approach employees about it.

8. Build emotional intelligence into your hiring strategies

By understanding emotional intelligence during the recruitment process, you can ensure you’re hiring the best candidates early on. Not only will this mean less work to train these employees down the line, your new hires are likely to have a positive effect on your existing workforce too.

Include ways to understand candidates’ emotional intelligence in the interview process and benchmark EQ between candidates.

9. Understand the data

Actionable insights are vital to understand emotional intelligence in your organization and its impact across the business. You can, for example, understand employees’ emotional intelligence through surveys and exit interviews. This will tell you whether your training is effective and will also help you to understand the value to your business.

Does your workforce have a high EQ?

With the growth of technology, effective human communication has never been more important – and is something that technology will never be able to replicate. Is it baked into your HR strategy?

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