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Corporate Culture: Five Ways to Prioritize EI in 2020

"EI Advantage" offers practical tips on how to build a strong corporate culture grounded in the power of emotional intelligence

The benefits of prioritizing emotional intelligence (EI) in the workplace have never been clearer, but putting theory into practice is not always easy.  As fitness goals and personal resolutions come top of mind this New Year, it’s also a good time for companies to begin a practical conversation about corporate culture resolutions, placing people and emotional intelligence at the heart of business decision-making.

“The EI Advantage,” a global study by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services (HBR-AS)and presented by Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, makes a strong, credible case for prioritizing emotional intelligence across an organization. But the report also shows that senior executives are not walking the walk. The study found that only 18 percent of employees strongly agree that their organizations have engrained EI in their cultures. The study also reveals that ignoring EI can lead to low productivity, lukewarm innovation and an uninspired workforce.

Based on the HBR-AS study, Four Seasons suggests five ways for all organizations to encourage a meaningful corporate culture conversation – one that prioritizes EI and the often-overlooked skills of self-awareness, social skill, self-control, and empathy:

1. Embody your purpose: Today’s employees look for a shared sense of purpose, and while 80 percent of respondents say their organization has a stated purpose beyond meeting financial goals, many think executive behavior does not reflect it. Most respondents believe that purpose and EI are intrinsically linked and that both are necessary for job satisfaction. As a result, it is more important than ever to live by a mission and share it widely throughout all levels of the organization. This purpose must be more than platitudes and buzz words, and be lived out each and every day by the actions and behaviors of senior leaders across the company.

2. Hire for attitude: Four Seasons has long been known to hire for attitude and train for skill. This has less to do with employees having similar interests and backgrounds, and more to do with employees having similar behaviors. Emotionally intelligent employees can be identified with thoughtful interview questions such as, “what is the last kind thing you have done for someone and how did it make you feel?” An inauthentic answer to this question is difficult, with a genuine response guiding an interviewer to a candidate who embodies an emotionally intelligent attitude.

3. Reward a sense of humor: Employees are six times more likely to value a sense of humor than to believe their organizations value the same. Celebrating those who bring joy to the workplace, as well as to client relationships, exchanges with customers and other interactions is a way to demonstrate that these skills are important to business.

4. Encourage employees to be themselves: Four Seasons empowers employees to be themselves at work, which the brand believes is necessary for its people to connect with guests in a meaningful way. Regardless of industry, the study shows that employees who are encouraged to be themselves build stronger bonds with their clients and colleagues, ultimately improving customer experience and loyalty. Four Seasons  Chat platform is one of the few in the industry not powered exclusively by chatbots; instead, it’s powered directly by employees on property, representing a definitive combination of EI and technology. With no rule books or guidelines, employees are encouraged to be themselves and empowered to connect and engage with guests in an authentic, empathetic manner, delivering an unscripted level of care that has become the hallmark of true luxury service.

5. Elevate self-awareness across the employee experience: Survey respondents listed self-awareness (41 percent) as one of the traits most important to them, yet only 13 percent think their organizations value self-awareness. Self-awareness is increasingly becoming an important skill for the long-term success of an organization’s business and corporate culture. To elevate self-awareness and other EI traits, companies should incorporate EI touch points across the employee experience, including facilitated mindfulness activities during on-boarding, 360 performance reviews for senior leaders and leadership development programming that is informed by EI-inspired behaviors.