How does the lofty idea of creating a gentler, kinder planet lead to increased employee satisfaction, retention, and productivity?
Back in 2007, Google software engineer Chade-Meng Tan (commonly known as Meng) was working on a personal project to, as he puts it, “create a better world.” With input from neuroscientists and experts in mindfulness and emotional intelligence, he developed Search Inside Yourself, a training program for his fellow Googlers to learn emotional intelligence and mindfulness – essential ingredients in honing happiness, fulfilment, and productivity.
Not long after launch, the classes became the company’s most popular employee development program, and it wasn’t long before it jumped the walls of Google to reach businesses and organizations worldwide. It grew so much that in 2012, Meng wrote a book and co-founded the non-profit Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (SIYLI). Today, it teaches individuals, and coaches businesses on how they can foster mindfulness, focus, and emotional intelligence among their employees – and, by extension, boost productivity, collaboration, and creativity.
Emotional intelligence = productivity
According to Meng, how productive we are has to do with emotional intelligence (or, EQ). An employee with a high EQ tends to be more curious and interested in long-term learning than someone with a high IQ but a lower EQ. They are more in tune with their own feelings and how to manage them under stress, and are also better capable of reading others’ feelings and offering support – skills that make for a more inclusive and thoughtful manager or team leader. According to a World Economic Forum report, EQ is one of the top ten skills needed to succeed in a near-future (2020) economy driven by new technologies.
Boosting EQ in the office
Business can help improve a workforce’s EQ by offering employees an environment in which they’re allowed to focus on training their attention span, understanding themselves better, and creating more effective mental habits. And, according to SIYLI, the best way to do all these things is through mindfulness meditation.
“Mindfulness is about the training of attention in a way that allows your mind to stabilize,” says Meng in an article for Inc. When an organization calls on SIYLI to overhaul or tweak its practices, improve employee productivity, or shape its corporate leaders for the future, it sets up a program tailored to the specific needs of the company, but based on the concept of mindfulness meditation, with a focus on increasing self-awareness, empathy, communication, and resilience.
A win-win situation
The positive effects of mindfulness meditation might seem evident for individuals. Scientific research using MRI scans has shown that people who meditate and are more mindful in how they approach life and, specifically, work tasks, have more grey matter. Also, the areas of the brain associated with learning, memory, and perspective, as well as emotional control, empathy, and compassion are more developed.
But for corporations, mindfulness is equally important because it improves a person’s decision-making ability. If a manager is allowed to take the extra minute to, say, breathe deeply before or during an important meeting, he can centre his thoughts around a specific problem and thereby focus on the decision and task at hand, along with possible outcomes of the decision being made.
In short, meditation, and mindfulness can boost employees’ emotional intelligence, and emotional intelligence, in turn, can increase productivity. You could say it’s a no-brainer.