Five Ways to Get Young Recruits to Embrace Emotional Intelligence

Developing EI-savvy young workers can help leaders immediately and the workers over their entire careers, says best-selling author Daniel Goleman.

Daniel Goleman, author of the bestseller “Emotional Intelligence,” is a regular contributor to Korn Ferry. His latest book, "Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body," is available now. 

Another school year is ending, and offices around the world will soon be getting an influx of new recruits with fresh ideas, an eagerness to work and, often, a sense that they know everything.

If you’re a leader, you will have to overcome that know-it-all-ness pretty quickly to teach your new recruits any technical skills and policies important to the job. But it may be even more critical to get past that to develop the emotional intelligence (EI) skills, competencies that younger workers may not understand the value of in the workplace, let alone over the course of their own careers. Indeed, research suggests that it’s Millennials who underrate it the most, even as seasoned managers increasingly acknowledge how crucial emotional intelligence is for effectiveness, particularly in leadership.

A Korn Ferry survey of 450 HR leaders found that 92% see emotional and social skills as crucial in a globalizing economy. But 69% of recent graduates said such soft skills “get in the way of getting the job done” and that they would succeed at work without them.  The clincher: 83% of HR directors said those grads would never become high performing without social and emotional competence.

Fortunately, people in the early stages of their careers can be more receptive to learning, including developing EI competencies…if they see the need.  There are a few things a senior leader can do to help their younger colleagues develop emotional intelligence competencies that can not only improve performance immediately but also throughout their careers.

Be a model.

If you exemplify emotional intelligence, you are more likely to inspire its improvement in those you lead. Put more bluntly, leaders who lack EI can’t inspire it.

Be an advocate for emotional intelligence.

Beyond being skillful in emotional intelligence yourself, point out the import of an EI skill, such as listening, and how that might up that person’s performance.

Give feedback on the spot.

Give your feedback of how they’re doing—for better or worse—in a form that’s news-to-use rather than a critique to defend against.

Polish your own coaching and mentoring skills.

The ability to coach others is an underrated and too often ignored aspect of leadership that can offer folks on your team opportunities for development they won’t get otherwise.

Set up times for discussions with multiple direct reports.

Those first four tips are things managers can do during one-on-one interactions with younger works. But team talks are a chance to establish group norms for helping each other with each person’s development of EI, as well as EI norms for the team that support high performance and collaboration. While a team leader’s EI does not directly correlate to team performance, team EI norms strengthen team performance.

By establishing norms like shared self-awareness, more open communication, and ways to raise buried issues or disagreements, leaders can make emotional intelligence an integral part of their team’s daily efforts and boost outcomes. For junior team members—or those who have less experience working on a team—this can be particularly compelling. Once they begin to develop this shared team EI, junior members can be more open to cultivating EI competencies individually.

Your company may offer some training programs that boost emotional intelligence and you can point younger employees to them. One reason: Enhancing this skill set will serve them in their careers for a lifetime.

Leaders can also apply specific EI competencies that might help junior team members along in their field. For example, a clinical director at a hospital might offer a training program on balancing empathy with emotional resilience for new nurses.

By taking the time to identify an employee’s values and aspirations, a leader can offer guidance and feedback on emotional intelligence abilities that align with their goals. Such mentorship boosts career satisfaction and strengthens trust, the vital foundation of high-functioning teams.

Click here to learn more about Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence Coaching Certification.