By Shawn Andrews

Emotional intelligence is largely thought of as people skills — how we perceive and express ourselves and how we develop and maintain social relationships. But neuroscience and brain-based leadership studies have shown that it is so much more.

There is a direct correlation between increased job performance when employees are high in EQ. Emotional intelligence is responsible for 58 percent of performance in all types of jobs, and 90 percent of top performers are high in EQ.

There are direct business benefits to increasing employees’ EQ. Focusing on emotional intelligence alongside skill development can help managers improve worker performance and the company’s bottom line.  According to a research paper entitled EQ and the Bottom Line, “restaurants managed by managers with high emotional intelligence showed an annual profit growth of 22 percent versus an annual average growth of 15 percent for the same period.” In addition, people with high EQ scores make on average $29,000 more per year than their lower EQ counterparts. These benefits and others like it are seen across cultures and societies.

For organizations to boost employees’ EQ and then translate that into tangible business results, it is critical that managers help their staff improve self-awareness, become better listeners and more effectively manage their stress.

Unlike IQ, emotional intelligence improves with age and is something that can be developed over time.  Here are three steps that employers can take to boost their employees’ EQ.

1. Provide communication skills training that helps develop self-awareness and teaches employees to recognize their colleagues’ verbal and non-verbal cues. This means learning how to read the emotional needs of others by assessing facial expressions, gestures and postures and thoughtfully considering others’ feelings when responding and making decisions. This is important in peer-to-peer communication as well as between supervisors and employees. Increased self-awareness boosts interpersonal communication and improves team dynamics.

2. Help employees understand the importance of listening by providing hands-on listening training. Often in meetings employees wait for a pause in the conversation so they can offer their opinion. They are not really listening they’re just waiting to speak.

Melissa Daimler, Pepperdine Graziadio alum and former Head of Learning and Organizational Development at Twitter, so aptly said in a Harvard Business Review article that “’360 listening’, where you’re not only listening to what the person is saying, but how they’re saying it, and even picking up on what they’re not saying, is a powerful — and often overlooked — leadership tool.”

3. Teach employees to manage stress and work collaboratively to develop time management plans. According to the American Psychological Association, 61 percent of Americans say that work is a significant source of stress. To help with stress management, managers should encourage employees to physically remove themselves from a situation that is stressful.

This could mean recusing themselves from a meeting, taking a walk outside or taking time to talk through the situation with a colleague. Managers can also help employees who feel overwhelmed improve their time management skills by working with them to set realistic expectations and deadlines and having regular check-ins to adjust workload and goals as needed.

Managers need to create a work environment that fosters respectful and thoughtful interactions by encouraging employees to use emotional information to guide team dynamics and decision-making. A strategic cycle of assessment, learning, practice and feedback over time will help employees build EQ competencies and become high-performing leaders in their organization.

If employers can raise the collective level of their employees’ emotional intelligence, organizations of all sizes will benefit from stronger teams, more effective leaders and increased bottom-line performance.

Dr. Shawn Andrews is Adjunct Professor of Applied Behavioral Science and Organization Theory & Management at the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School.