Employee coaching is an essential element of any effective continuous feedback model. It pushes your employees to adopt out-of-the-box thinking and to make more mindful, intentional decisions — not only in their day-to-day roles but also when it comes to their overall careers. While employee coaching is a two-way street, success heavily depends on the ability of managers to lead and maintain these coaching sessions with their direct reports.
In order to unlock the secret to efficient and effective employee coaching, we need to define what employee coaching is, then elucidate the advantages of and roadblocks to training your people leaders to coach their teams. Finally, we’ll dive into the strategy and tactics to create a coaching culture at your organization.
What is Employee Coaching?
Employee coaching is when managers empower their direct reports to do their best. Or, as the International Coach Federation defines it: partnering with [people] in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. When most people think of employee coaching, they think it starts and stops at giving constructive feedback; in reality, it’s so much more. Successful employee coaching also includes:
- Setting goals with direct reports
- Working through project roadblocks
- Clarifying role uncertainty or work priorities
- Assessing work-life balance and job satisfaction
- Encouraging continuous learning
- Facilitating career development
- Helping direct reports improve efficiency
Additionally, coaching is always two-sided. Your managers should never come into a coaching conversation with all the answers: they need to listen to their direct report, help them understand all their options, and work with their report to come to whatever decision is best for them. This teamwork helps your employees feel their manager wants what’s best for them and their career, not just the business.
When done successfully, a great coach can increase employee engagement, productivity, and overall team effectiveness. That’s why it’s in your business’ best interest to teach people leaders how to coach their teams efficiently and effectively.
Why Should You Invest in Employee Coaching?
Employee coaching is good for your employees, your managers, and your business. As previously touched on, it can boost engagement, productivity, and team effectiveness — but the benefits don’t end there. Some of the top advantages of training managers to coach their teams include:
1. Increased trust and productivity
One key way to engage your talent is to ensure they have a voice and feel heard within your organization. If your employees feel their manager listens and understands them, they’ll feel more confident in their leadership and more willing to work under their direction as a result. This close, mutually beneficial relationship will also build trust over time, which can have a profound impact on your organization.
In fact, one study found that individuals at high-trust companies report having 74% less stress, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, 40% less burnout than employees at low-trust companies. Teaching your managers how to properly coach their teams can have far-reaching benefits.
2. Employee satisfaction and retention
Ever hear the adage, “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime”? This saying applies to employee coaching as well. Proper coaching gives your employees the tools and skills they need to independently solve problems and achieve their goals. This, in turn, can help your teams become more autonomous and confident, allowing them to set and achieve bigger and more complex goals.
Coaching also helps your teams identify their career aspirations and the skills and competencies they need to achieve them. Having professional growth conversations allows your managers to work together with their direct reports to make those dreams a reality and help employees have a long, fulfilling career at your company.
3. Meaningful collaboration
Coaching sessions not only get employees to think more critically about their professional growth, but also encourage individuals to become more mindful of their actions and how they work with others. One of the skills employees usually pick up in coaching sessions and then – either consciously or unconsciously – apply to their day-to-day interactions with others is the ability to ask thoughtful questions.
Knowing how to ask the right questions and work towards a mutually beneficial solution can help build an organization of empathetic leaders, as well as a company culture that promotes collaboration across departments.
4. Increased innovation
Coaching teaches others how to work more effectively, reminding your employees to consider all their options and how they might affect others before making a decision. Over time, you’ll see this holistic way of thinking become second-nature to your employees.
Consequently, your employees may come up with great ideas no one had considered before, find new ways to collaborate with others, or work together to ensure everyone gets the desired outcome they want. And when individual employees improve, the performance of an entire team – and even organization – can level up.
5. Decreased personal, team, and project blockers
Coaching conversations are more than an opportunity to give and receive feedback: they’re also the perfect opportunity to identify and work around blockers that could be preventing individuals or projects from moving forward. Identifying these roadblocks early on can help your managers swiftly and effectively help their direct reports.
When an issue arises, managers should coach their employee to think of and present all the options they have at their disposal. Then, together, the pair can assess which would be the best solution for the issue in the short-term and long-term. This process can help individual employees progress towards their goals with less friction, putting your teams in a better position to meet or exceed their personal and departmental goals.
3 Common Barriers to Employee Coaching
At Hone, we believe coaching is one of the best ways to foster your team’s learning and development. However, there are a few common workplace situations that will need to be addressed in order to set up your managers and their direct reports for success:
1. Improper training
You can’t just become a coach at the dop of a hat. Learning how to properly and effectively coach requires careful learning and training. While your managers might feel comfortable tackling projects that go awry, issues among team members, personal employee matters, or other more sensitive challenges could arise that they haven’t been properly trained to handle. For example, sexual harassment, a disgruntled employee making threats, or a direct report who continually bullies others are sensitive situations that require managers to tread lightly or loop in an HR professional or lawyer. Training your employees to identify those situations and know when they need to call in backup is crucial to your business keeping employees safe and reducing risk.
2. Lack of organizational support
A coaching mentality needs to come from the top down. Senior leaders need to lead by example and invest in their own team’s professional growth and happiness. Coaching at high levels can trickle down through your organization and ensure every employee benefits from these meaningful, personalized conversations around professional and personal growth.
Additionally, getting support among more senior leaders of your organization can help you secure budget for annual coaching training as well. By incorporating coaching into your business’ training programs for both new and existing managers, you can ensure coaching is being learned and practiced at every level of your organization.
3. Lack of time and resources
Good coaching involves both asking great questions and active listening. When your managers don’t have time to listen or take action on their conversations with employees, they sabotage the process and damage employee trust. In order to have meaningful coaching conversations, your managers need to make regular time for their direct reports, whether that’s in a weekly 1-on-1 meeting or a separate private conversation. Direct reports can tell when they have 100% of their manager’s attention or if their people leaders are distracted during conversations.
Getting Started with Employee Coaching
Now that we’ve defined employee coaching benefits, advantages, and roadblocks, here’s a step-by-step guide to train your managers to lead these powerful conversations:
1. Schedule a meeting
Your managers’ first order of business is to schedule a meeting with their direct report. While coaching conversations can be conducted in weekly or ongoing 1-on-1 conversations, make sure to give your employees a heads up that your next meeting will be dedicated to coaching so they know what to expect. This also gives them time to decide what they want to work on, such as working towards their career goals, honing a particular skill, or improving their work experience. These conversations are a two-way street – in order for an employee to find these conversations valuable, they need to be on a topic that is relevant and motivates them.
2. Establish a goal
Once the meeting arrives, your managers should work with their employee to identify the main goal of their coaching session. Be sure to create a SMART goal – one that is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timebound – or take an objective and key results (OKRs) approach to ensure you have a clear focus for your conversations. You’ll also want to make note of these goals somewhere your managers and employees can revisit and change their goals as needed.
3. Breakdown your goal into actionable steps
Next, managers and their direct reports need to break down that overarching goal statement into smaller, bite-sized pieces. These pieces are what you’ll use to track progress and evaluate success, and will play a large role in continuing to motivate your employee, so they should be created with care.
Here are a few examples of one employee’s goal broken down into smaller steps over time:
|Goal:||Establish myself as an expert in UX design on the team|
|Actionable Steps:|| |
Explicitly identifying how the employee can achieve their goal can help keep them motivated over time while giving your managers a clear definition of success and visibility into whether their direct report is on track. With this information, a manager can better coach their direct report, knowing when to share feedback and praise to push them to their full potential.
4. Evaluate Success
Lastly, your managers and their employees need to have ongoing meetings to check in on progress and evaluate success. This gives them opportunities to discuss what’s working and what isn’t, as well as address any potential roadblocks that could be holding the employee back from achieving their goals. Additionally, it gives managers and their direct reports the time to reassess the goals and actionable steps, update them as needed, and share feedback and learnings.
These ongoing meetings are the most important process of the coaching experience, as it keeps the goal top-of-mind throughout the year and shows your managers are whole-heartedly invested in their direct reports’ professional growth. You managers need to be the driver of these conversations to remind employees that their goals and success matter to the company.
Introducing Employee Coaching at Your Company
Looking to introduce coaching at your organization? Then you need to teach your managers the skills they need to be strong and compassionate coaches. From leading with empathy and vulnerability to practicing active listening, Hone offers a variety of live online learning classes that teach people leaders the skills they need to coach successful teams. Click here to see our upcoming classes or inquire about Hone membership for your business today.