The How and Why of Building a Coaching Program for Your Employees
by John Rampton
Every organization is looking for ways to keep their talent motivated and committed to company goals. When employees start showing up late, not performing like a team player, and slacking off on productivity, managers start to worry that they are losing their talent’s focus, and desire to still work there. Even worse is the idea that once committed team members are no longer making the contribution they once benefited the business with, and it’s starting to impact company results.
The why of coaching
In looking for a way to bring these employees back to highly motivated performers, companies realize that their leadership has to take a different approach in how they approach employees, opting for a role as coach and as head of a coaching program rather than a pathway like micromanaging. While an organization should still have a disciplined framework and performance appraisal system, a coaching program simply adds another layer to leader-employee relationships, offering a way to provide feedback, and offering a roadmap for behavior guided by goal setting and encouragement.
Similar to a coach for an athletic team, an organizational coach observes behavior, provides feedback, and then creates the strategy to alter the behavior until it is aligned with the goals in a way that generates success. Receiving recommendations on how they can do better and then providing the forum in which they can discuss it and receive the tools to do so has been proven to improve athletes performance and it can do similarly for those in other work environments.
In many businesses the manager is now assigned to be the coach or the manager might decide to assume the role of "coach" themselves. Many manager chaff against this responsibility, sometimes because being a coach doesn't fit as compactly into their preconceived notion of management style.
Benefits of enacting a coaching program include:
- A coach can help integrate new employees into the existing company culture, including sharing what are the most acceptable behaviors and practices. This has been proven to help new talent adjust quickly and settle into their roles.
- It’s been proven that employees are more motivated when they see opportunities for professional development, so a coaching program can develop those opportunities for each employee. The coach can share knowledge as well as work with each employee on developing specific skills necessary for the next career rung.
- A coach can assess where the weakest links are in the organization in relation to organizational goals. Then, they can work on skill building with those team members, crafting training, and drills that will improve their performance and contribute to the overall goals. This makes the team stronger and more competitive.
Overall, a coaching program becomes mutually beneficial and provides a significant return on the investment it takes to create it.
The how of coaching
An effective coaching program starts with effective managers who understand what it means to coach their employees. Some of the key traits to have include being an active listener, looking at each employee as a unique individual rather than just someone that works there, setting a good example, praising a job well done, offering constructive criticism, plan to make changes, and pushing your employee in a productive way. These types of coaching behaviors can then shape a successful coaching program.
Rather than looking it as a program, which often invokes the idea of a beginning and end to the coaching, look at it as a process instead, which means that it goes on over the course of many weeks and will continue as long as there are behaviors to adjust (which generally means always). While there is an overall process, coaching is approached on an individual basis as there is a need for an employee to change their behavior and develop further or as each new employee comes on board.
Start with an initial session that reviews the behavior, includes input from the employee, and offers a specific plan for addressing how to make changes over the course of coming weeks. This is followed up with the opportunity for the coach to observe the employee and provide feedback, as necessary. From there, the coach can sit down again with the employee and go over what is going on and exchange perceptions and how the coach can help the employee reach specific goals. This process can continue until the behavior is changed and the goals are reached.
A written plan can also be a good addition to the coaching process because it provides a clear framework that can also be used for measuring progress. This can be combined with performance reviews to assess positive changes and accomplishments along the way that can be rewarded. A written coaching plan should only have three or four key suggestions for improvement to make it doable for the employee rather than overwhelm them.
Key recommendations for an effective coaching process include:
- Include appropriate alternative behaviors so the employee understands what the ideal behaviors should be in alignment with the organizational culture.
- Continually coach employees throughout the course of the year rather than looking at it like training that may only happen once a year or on a quarterly basis.
- Use positive reinforcement to shape behavioral changes in employees to keep them motivated over the long-term.
- Focus on incremental changes rather than large alterations in behavior because true change happens over time in a stepwise fashion. This also allows the needed "practice" time for the employee.
- Don’t look at employees as you because they are individuals and will think, say, and do things differently than you might.
- Separate your manager hat, which you don for delineating tasks, from your coaching hat, which you should wear to work on professional and personal development.
A coaching program can be introduced over time and is a flexible and fluid process that can adjust to the needs of employees who are looking to improve themselves and for the organization that is seeking more highly motivated, productive employees.
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