Best Practice Guide to Coaching Employees in the Workplace

With the growing need in today’s corporate world to consistently improve employees’ morale and boost their productivity, coaching employees in the workplace is quickly becoming more and more popular among companies all over the world. This article explains.

This collaborative management approach is particularly well suited for uniquely talented employees as it goes a long way to helping them bring out their best work and enjoy both their work and personal life, thus raising the performance of the organisation as a whole.

Coaching employees refers to any coaching imparted by people within an organisation with the aim of raising employee engagement, personal satisfaction with life and work, the achievement of personally relevant goals and productivity in general.

It is a collaborative process that usually occurs between a manager and employee focused on discussing goals, identifying opportunities for improvement to reach those goals by asking probing, and often tough, questions and challenging the employee to think about their goals as well as how to achieve them and then planning clear and coherent steps to achieve them.

It requires managers to evolve beyond the traditional supervisory role of controlling and monitoring their employees and adopt a more consultative one. This is why coaching employees can be a difficult skill for managers to master as most are used to directing work rather than collaborating.

According to CEB research, less than half of employees (45%) feel that their managers are effective coaches. The Coaching Conundrum 2016 a coaching research report by HR consulting firm BlessingWhite also found that most managers love to coach, and most employees like to be coached but only one in two survey respondents in North America and Asia receive coaching (even fewer in Europe).

Furthermore, the survey found that most managers are expected to participate in coaching employees but only a quarter have compensation tied to their coaching activities.

Why coaching employees produces results

The latest SHRM/Globoforce Employee Recognition Survey revealed that 21% of HR professionals believe coaching employees is directly tied to their performance, while 45% said it is “very important”.

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Furthermore, BlessingWhite’s The Coaching Conundrum 2016 survey reported that managers who coach regularly describe tangible benefits (e.g., increased team productivity) and two thirds of employees who receive coaching say it improved their satisfaction and performance.

In April 2015 the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology published a study of the effectiveness of workplace coaching in which they concluded that coaching employees did result in a number of key positive effects for learning and performance outcomes.

Also, earlier in 2012 the University of Wollongong Research Online Sydney Business School did a study on how and why do managers use coaching skills and concluded that despite the difficulties which managers may face in deploying a coaching approach, the respondents to this survey were very positive about the benefits, for themselves personally, for the people they coached and for their organisations.

employee coaching

Credit: Pexels

What methods do great leaders use to coach their employees?

Effective coaching has to be a well-thought-out process. Here are eight great steps you can take:

Create mutual trust

Trust is the foundation of any coaching relationship. Without some degree of mutual trust between the manager and the employee in their day-to-day relationship, effective coaching is simply impossible. The employee should be able to feel like they can connect to you on a personal level despite the hierarchy.

Start the meeting

In opening a coaching meeting, it’s extremely important for the manager to clarify, in a friendly, non-judgmental, non-accusatory way, the specific reason why the coaching meeting was arranged. The employee should be put at ease, especially if this particular coaching is a result of poor performance.

Get on the same page

The most critical step in the process of coaching employees is getting them to agree verbally that a performance issue exists before going any further, a step many managers often miss. The manager should specify and define the particular behavior in question then and get the employee to recognise its consequences.

Cite specific examples of the performance issue, clarify your performance expectations on the issue at hand, probe to get the employee to share their understanding of the consequences associated with the performance issue and then ask them for verbal agreement on the issue.

Discover what the employee already knows; this can give you new information to work with and also help you correct any erroneous data the employee may unwittingly have.

If the employee offers excuses, respond empathically to show that you understand where they are coming from and rephrase the point by taking a comment that was perceived by the employee as accusatory and recast it as an encouragement to examine their behavior.

Explore alternatives

Next, explore ways how the issue can be resolved by encouraging the employee to identify alternative solutions, specific alternatives at that and not generalisations. Avoid jumping in with your own unless they can’t think of any as the goal in this step is to maximise the number of choices for the employee to consider by nudging them to fully explore all their possible suggestions, as well as their pros and cons.

Secure a commitment to change

The next step is to help the employee choose an alternative, not make a choice for them. The manager must make sure they get a verbal commitment from the employee regarding what action they intend to taken as well as when and how they plan to do so and also support and praise the employee’s choice.

Evaluate their performance

Regularly check to see if they are correctly implementing the alternative they chose.

Effective managers make sure to gradually increase the time frame for checking on the employee, with the ultimate aim of making the employee able to monitor and correct their own performance.

Provide feedback

Let the employee know if they have successfully executed what you both planned during the employee coaching sessions. If not, go over what still needs some work. The employee should be praised or given some other type of reward for mastering any performance issue that required coaching.

Feedback should be specific and timely, occurring as soon as practical after the interaction, completion of the deliverable, or observation is made. It should also be made with a sincere voice. Avoid a tone that exhibits anger, frustration, disappointment or sarcasm as this just closes the employee off.

coaching employees in the workplace

Credit: Pexels.

Make coaching employees in the workplace a habit

Coaching employees is about creating a shared understanding about what needs to be done and how it is to be. Unlike sports, with coaching employees the coach doesn’t take an authoritarian approach but rather looks to collaborate with the employee to identify, target, and plan for better performance.

Coaching employees focuses on improving individual performance against key performance indicators or job expectations as well as career development and employee growth.

It focuses on the employees’ strengths and weaknesses, their natural skillsets and personal goals, and then helps provide them with a clear pathway to achieving them, as well as the company’s goals, using performance data and feedback.

Managers often already conduct scheduled meetings with each of their subordinates. This can be ideal to conduct coaching as both the manager and employee can prepared enough for the conversation.

However, not all coaching sessions need to be or should be scheduled. There are many ‘teachable moments’ that present themselves in the workplace on a regular basis. These are moments or opportunities to provide coaching in real time as a situation or scenario is unfolding.

66% of employees who receive coaching say it improved their satisfaction and performance…

In Summary

Employees in organisations with a strong coaching culture also enjoy greater job satisfaction and engagement. These organisation in turn enjoy higher retention rates as managers and employees build stronger relationships through their coaching conversations.

And since the number one reason employees state for leaving a job or position is “their manager” it’s no surprise coaching employees would boost not only their performance at the job but also their dedication to the organisation.

Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald is a freelance writer with a pen that is keen for entrepreneurship, business and technology. When he isn't writing insightful articles on employee engagement and corporate culture, Gerald can be found writing for a number of media outlets.