The key to employee improvement: boosting their intelligence - The UpStream

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The key to employee improvement: boosting their intelligence

posted Friday May 17, 2024 by Noel Arcallana

As a business owner, you're likely no stranger to seeking ways to enhance your employees' performance and potential. You're not alone in this quest. Many of us strive to improve our own motivation, perspective, and skills. But have you considered that the key to unlocking your employees' full potential lies in developing their cognitive abilities? Research shows that cognitive skills play a crucial role in not only job performance but also career advancement and overall engagement with the organization. While it's not possible to suddenly increase an individual's IQ, it's important to remember that intelligence is not fixed and can be developed and improved. In this article, we'll explore simple yet effective strategies to help boost your employees' brain skills, leading to a more productive, efficient, and successful organization.

Brain games and brain teasers

The old adage 'use it or lose it' rings especially true when it comes to our brainpower. While we can't force employees to become enthusiastic corporate robots, we can help them stay mentally active and engaged, even in roles that may not inherently stimulate their minds. We've all experienced days where we feel mentally numb, like we're on autopilot. That's where brain teasers and games come in. By incorporating activities like online chess, puzzles, strategy games, and other cognitive exercises into their downtime, employees can sharpen their critical thinking, problem-solving, and innovative thinking skills. This can make a significant difference in employee engagement and overall performance. Instead of simply going through the motions, mentally active employees are more likely to be enthusiastic and present in their work. By encouraging employees to keep their brains active and engaged, we can help them stay motivated and focused, even on the most mundane days.

Encourage physical exercise

Physical exercise has been scientifically shown to enhance cognitive function, memory, and overall brain health. Therefore, giving our employees the opportunity to do any form of exercise either on their break or at their desk could work wonders.

While it may not be possible to encourage employees to do press-ups or squats, especially in an office environment, you can either set the precedent here by encouraging this and leading by example or you can focus on a number of different exercises that can be done while sitting down. Isometrics is one excellent approach to exercise that is seldom spoken of. Exercise like this involves tensing a muscle against a fixed form of resistance. For example, a plank is an excellent isometric exercise because the muscles don't move.

When you translate this into a whole heap of exercises an employee can do at their desk, they could attempt to tense their stomach for as long as possible or try a bicep curl with their other hand as resistance. Isometrics is fantastic for building strength and overall health because it boosts blood flow, and this means that when we exercise like this, we're going to feel a great sense of clarity. Any exercise is better than none at all, and this is particularly true in relation to cognitive skills!

Incorporate brain training programs

If you are actively interested in improving your employees' intelligence, you need to start thinking about the right types of programs that would benefit them. Many organizations prioritize things like e-learning, but they can be very dry, dull, and drab affairs. If you want your employees to actively retain the information they've learned, especially when it comes to an interesting subject matter or things that don't benefit them at all, then you need to start thinking about the best way to prime their brains.

When it comes to something like memory, one of the best ways to learn something is through spaced repetition in combination with active learning, in other words, paying attention and/or quizzing yourself. So, you may want to think about brain training programs or quizzes that actively test your employees on either the subjects they have learned or go straight to assessing their cognitive strengths and weaknesses and then assign targeted exercises to improve specific areas.

Learning is not just about memory, but it could be about focus and attention or processing speeds, as well as special awareness. When you then incorporate exercises that particularly focus on an employee's weakness, bringing them up to code doesn't just mean they're able to do a better job, but they will benefit from it in so many different areas of their lives.

Offer mindfulness and meditation sessions

When we talk about improving our intelligence, we can easily fixate on ramming information down our employees' throats. The problem with this is that it can easily lend itself to a more old-fashioned approach to forcing people to learn, like in school. We all learn in different ways, but we also need to be aware that in addition to finding out things like our employees' learning styles, stress could be a major obstacle that gets in their way.

Not everybody likes school, and so when it comes to learning new things or anything that vaguely resembles a classroom environment, we can instantly put our guard up. Therefore, if we think about learning as being a by-product of a relaxed mind, we then need to encourage the right settings for people to learn, not just in work but in their minds. Mindfulness practices have been shown to improve focus, help manage stress, and benefit decision-making abilities, which are all fantastic in a work setting. The more relaxed we are, the better we can be in bouts of deep learning.

It's about making sure that our employees are alert in that and while some people can benefit from reading information once and retaining it, others will have their own unique stresses or hang-ups that prevent them from doing this, which is why something like mindfulness is not just beneficial for this, but it is going to boost their well-being.

Promote healthy habits

It's one of those things that we can't force our employees to do, but we should encourage a nutritious diet and focus on brain-boosting foods. Proper nutrition will always support cognitive performance, but the big issue with nutrition is that it's a massive rabbit hole that everybody's got opinions on. We can't please everyone, but when it comes to boosting cognitive performance, focus on providing foods that contain the following:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which promote general thinking and learning abilities.
  • B vitamins like folate, B6, and B12 support memory and reduce anxiety and depression.
  • Choline, which is essential for brain development and the formation of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
  • Vitamin D, with some research linking a deficiency in vitamin D to an increased risk of cognitive decline.

We also need to remember that a positive work environment that fosters trust, teamwork, and healthy relationships can bring together people with different thinking styles, encourage shared information, and different ways of thinking can reduce stress, enhance brain function, and ultimately create a workplace culture that prioritizes continuous learning and cognitive health, which are all essential for high performance and employee engagement. Helping our employees fine-tune their thinking abilities is not necessarily something we would consider, but with some of these practices, you might be surprised as to how it boosts performance overall, increases well-being, and does so much more for the culture than you realize.


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