Leveraging Online Learning to Drive Culture

Moving from classroom to online training enabled a health care company to bring the benefit of Emotional Intelligence training to more of its global leaders.

In 2009, a global diversified health care company embarked on a company-wide cultural initiative, the goal of which was to build a highly engaged and high performing culture that operated and behaved in alignment with its new cultural values, which included Compassion, Innovation, and Performance.

Early on, the company recognized that developing its leaders in Emotional Intelligence would be a key component of driving this cultural shift. “We realized that Emotional Intelligence went hand-in-hand with our cultural initiative and that in fact, it is the foundation of our organization’s values,” says the leader of the company’s Enterprise Talent Development group.

The company started delivering IHHP’s Science of Emotional Intelligence classroom-based training programs to its senior leaders as part of its senior leader program, which is a year-long leadership development program for their top talent. “The reaction to the EI training was extremely positive. We have highly analytical leaders, and when they realized EI wasn’t something soft and squishy, that it was a hard skill based on research and brain science, they really engaged in the learning” the leader explained.

“Emotional Intelligence exploded when we brought it to the next level of leaders down. They had seen the senior leader’s behavior change as a result of the program and felt a shift in the culture—and they wanted to learn more.” The company’s internal facilitators became certified to deliver the Emotional Intelligence training program, and in the last 5 years, they have delivered the classroom training to more than 3,000 leaders, consistently ranking as one of their highest rated training programs.

Going Online

In 2007, the company began to explore delivering general training online as it wasn’t feasible to train everyone in a classroom. Back then it offered four on-line classes—today they offer more than 80 facilitator-led on-line classes.

Wanting to bring the benefit of Emotional Intelligence training to more of its global leaders, the company and IHHP partnered in 2016 to take the classroom-based Emotional Intelligence program and design it for deployment as a virtually facilitated offering. “Our client had the knowledge and experience in designing and delivering training online, as well as a passion for our EI programs, so it made perfect sense to partner with them to develop our online Emotional Intelligence offering,” explains Sara Ross, vice president of Product Development and Innovation for IHHP.

The online Emotional Intelligence training product co-developed with IHHP consisted of three two-hour modules that would be spread over one week or over a three-week period, depending on the needs of each group. Online class sizes ranged from 20 to 50 people and leveraged many features of virtual learning platforms to ensure an engaging experience. The features included:

  1. Virtual breakout rooms
  2. Usage on Webcams/video for both the facilitator and participants
  3. Whiteboards
  4. Short video clips
  5. Chat
  6. Polls

The virtual training is being delivered to all levels in the organization: executives, mid-level managers, physicians (yes, doctors need Emotional Intelligence training!) and individual contributors, including a large nurse population.

Best Practices in Online Learning

The following best practices were incorporated into the online Emotional Intelligence solution:

  • UseVirtual Breakouts: Having people in virtual rooms of two to three provides the safety and interactivity needed for robust conversations and deep application of the content.
  • Interactivity is Key: Like any learning, it needs to be interactive. In addition to breakout rooms, make use of all the different interaction tools—polls, white boards, chat, etc.—described above
  • Create an Online Experience: As you are redeveloping exercises for a virtual platform, start first with the goal of the exercise vs. just translating it to the online platform. It may be that the direct translation of an exercise for virtual may not be effective. To get the same outcome from an exercise, it may need to be redesigned.
  • Engage Right Away: The first 10 to 15 minutes is critical for engaging people. Make sure there is an engaging interaction in the first few minutes
  • Get off to a Good Start: Have the first 10 minutes scripted and polished. It still needs to be genuine, but you want to nail the first part.
  • Make It Comfortable: Alleviate any fears people might have. For Emotional Intelligence, this involves being clear that this isn’t anger management, couples counselling, or something soft and squishy. It’s based on brain science and research.
  • Focus on the Why: You need to do housekeeping for people who are new, but don’t do it first thing. Start with why they want to participate and what the value is from participating.
  • Not Too Long: The ideal length for a learning module is 90 minutes to two hours; the ideal class size is 15 to 30; and the length between modules should be no longer than a week.
  • Keep Calm and Carry On: Technology issues will happen. Stay calm and be confident. Deal with any issues and do not get (or at least do not appear to be) flustered. The good news is that Emotional intelligence facilitators have learned strategies to perform under pressure! 
  • Have Support: For new facilitators, have technical support available for the first few sessions and/or the first 30 minutes.
  • Set Expectations: Communication and expectation setting prior to the training is very important.
  • Prepare Participants: When participants register, provide an e-mail that explains logistics, times, materials, what they need to do to test the technology, etc.
  • A Week Prior Have the Facilitator Send a Personal E-mail: This is done to ensure sure participants have the materials they need (participant guides, pre-work, etc.) and the goals for the training. This creates a personal connection with the facilitator before the class has started.
  • Engage Before the Training: Provide short, simple, and interesting pre-work assignments that get people engaged with and reflecting about the content of the training.

So Far, So Great!

Since the rollout of the online Emotional Intelligence program in late 2016, the response from participants has been extremely positive. In addition to the obvious benefit of eliminating the time and cost of travelling, having online learning provides the opportunity to create a sustained learning program over a period of weeks.

“People are enjoying online learning and find it very engaging. We are seeing that the material is living beyond the classroom (OK, computer), and people are putting the strategies into practice. At the end of the day, that’s what learning is about: help people change their behavior so they can become better leaders—regardless of their role in the organization,” the company concluded. “By offering the Emotional Intelligence training to a larger group of our global leaders, we know we can have an even greater impact on our culture and ultimately, our performance.” 

Want to attend IHHP’s online Emotional Intelligence training? You can learn more and register for an open enrollment program at: https://virtual.ihhp.com/liveonline/

Bill Benjamin is a training and leadership expert; a partner at the Institute for Health and Human Potential; and a contributor to The New York Timesbest-selling book, “Performing Under Pressure.” 

Bill Benjamin is a training and leadership expert; a partner at the Institute for Health and Human Potential (www.ihhp.com); and a contributor to The New York Times best-selling book, “Performing Under Pressure.”