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Measuring the importance of “Soft Skill” training through Emotional Intelligence

By February 11, 2010No Comments

Emotional Intelligence and Experiential Training and Development –

        Published in the Association for Experiential Education “Horizon” Newsletter

By Tim Walther, M.S.

 As Experiential Training and Development practitioners, we all understand and value the importance of “soft skills” training. This synopsis provides an overview of Emotional Intelligence as it relates to Experiential Training and Development.

Experiential Training and Development (ETD) practitioners understand and value the importance of “soft skills” training.  As practitioners, we intuitively know that experiential methods develop these skills, often very quickly.  However, by their very definition, “soft skills” are hard to measure.  Without such measures, we as trainers lack the data to develop business model for selling such trainings to skeptical front line managers, human resource directors, and other key corporate decision makers.  “Where is my return on investment?” is what you know they are thinking. 

                One excellent measure of soft skills that has emerged in today’s training and development research  is emotional intelligence (EI). EI research provides the ETD practitioner an opportunity for assessing areas of ETD programming and tracking the results.  Detailed in leading publications, including the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal, and recognized by training and development experts world wide, EI has literally redefined what it takes to be effective in the workplace.

                What is Emotional Intelligence?  There are two primary models that have surfaced in the realm of EI: the Goleman model and the BarOn Model.  Goleman’s model identifies four strategic areas: awareness of self (emotionally); awareness of others’ emotional states; management of self; and management of other’s emotional states. Dr. Reuven Baron defines EI as “an array of personal, emotional and social competencies and skills that influence one’s abilities to succeed in coping with environmental demands and pressures.”  A competency may be defined as a personal trait or set of habits that lead to more effective or superior job performance.   BarOn has identified EI competency areas, each with sub-constructs, to include  intra-personal, interpersonal, stress management, adaptability and mood competencies.

 Today’s business is unlike the previous decades.  Everything happens in real-time.  Other factors that have emerged in today’s business world include globalization, technology, speed, competition, decreased organizational hierarchy, a shift from management to leadership and employee retention challenges.  Businesses today now require innovative training and development solutions that not only impact the bottom line, but provide valuable employee incentive as well.   While technical competency and cognitive ability are important for today’s business person to be successful, it simply isn’t enough anymore.  It is simply an occupational hurdle – an expectation that today’s corporate professional already has these skills and abilities.  Where research is showing a big difference is in identifying those professionals with low EI and high EI.  And everywhere that research has been conducted, the professionals with higher EI are running circles a round those without strong emotional competencies.

                Fortunately, it has been shown that EI, unlike IQ, can be learned.  Furthermore, research indicates that experiential training is a particularly effective method for developing EI.  Properly designed and ongoing EBTD training and development focused on developing specific EI competencies will have valued, lasting impact.

                How is EI Measured? The BarOn EQ-i is  a current measure of choice for emotional intelligence.

Normed on over 60,000 people in thirty countries, the EQ-i is a paper and pencil test that has 133 brief items and a 5-point Likert response set.  It takes approximately 30 minutes to complete.  The test has been used to predict successful job performers, including Air Force recruiters, district managers in a large automotive corporation, middle manager insurance sales persons, non-college educated successful businesspersons, and upper level financial consultants for one of the Big 6 consulting firms, as well as aggressive behavior in the police force.  Employees who are selected using the BarOn EQ-I show greater productivity, reduced turnover and consistently out perform their co-workers. (EQ-I Technical Manual, Baron, 1999).

For the ETD practitioner of the future, Emotion Intelligence assessment tools and training and development applications certainly deserve attention.  Focusing soft skill development toward specific EI competencies can lead to great advances in demonstrating the efficacy of ETD programming.  At last, we may have the answers we have been looking for, and a process for addressing those age-old questions of the efficacy of soft skill training.  For more information on the emotional intelligence assessment and training, contact Grand Dynamics at


Tim Walther, M.S. is the President of Grand Dynamics, Inc., a training and development company specializing in corporate retreats, business consulting and health and wellness services. Grand Dynamics is based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Tim holds a Bachelor of Science in Applied Business Psychology and a Masters in Experiential Education focused on organizational development and leadership applications. Grand Dynamics provides a variety of services incorporating the use of Emotional Intelligence as a platform for increasing personal and professional performance for individuals, teams and organizations. For more information, you can contact Tim Walther at or call 307-733-1989.

This article was published in the Association for Experiential Education Newsletter, Horizon, Fall 2002.

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