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Ian Baxter

Saba Software

Vp Marketing, EMEA

Read more about Ian Baxter

It takes two to tango: getting employees in the game


Can you imagine Sir Dave Brailsford—formerly performance director of British Cycling—waiting until the end of the season to give his players feedback? Of course not. (If that were the case, his team wouldn’t have led the cycling medal table at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games).

The same idea holds true in the workplace. It’s the coach’s (manager’s) job to continually review the team’s performance and give players (your employees) suggestions for improving their game.

And there are plenty of incentives to do so. The right coaching, at the right time, can pay huge dividends for employers seeking greater loyalty, productivity and contribution.

But let’s face it. Coaching often requires a significant financial investment—either in time or money or both. Right? Wrong.

The truth is, coaching can be easier—and more cost-effective—than you think. Your organisation can make huge strides in small bits of time and for not a lot of money.

Plus: The rewards for coaching are huge. Check out these facts:

According to a Bersin by Deloitte research study organisations that are highly effective at coaching were approximately:

  • 130% more likely to have strong business results
  • 33% more effective at engaging employees

They also enjoyed:

  • 21% higher business results
  • 42% higher employee productivity 

And of special interest to learning and talent management professionals, Bersin found organisations with strong cultural support for coaching rated 75% higher in hiring the best people, developing employees and retaining their top people. 

Not convinced?

Recent research from Human Capital Institute (HCI) and International Coach Federation (ICF) cements the idea that having a strong coaching culture is good for business. According to the study:

  • 81% see improved team functioning
  • 79% see higher employee engagement
  • 70% increased productivity
  • 67% faster on-boarding
  • 71% faster leadership development

If your company is already investing in learning and talent development programs, adding employee coaching can make your existing programs more effective. And if you’re not already investing in employee development, now’s a great time to start tapping into the benefits.

Not only does coaching make people more productive and engaged, it can help your company achieve its goals.

As with any good relational tool, coaching can only be effective when both parties care, are involved, and are committed to its success. That’s why it’s important to remember your goal: aim for commitment, not just compliance.

Why? The old ways of changing employee behaviour (including progressive discipline and traditional performance appraisals) simply don’t work. Sure, they may lead to resentful compliance, but these strategies rarely address the real performance issues at hand. And they don’t inspire employees to become what you want: fully committed and high-performing members of your team. Employee coaching is the better approach because it can eliminate the need for discipline altogether.

How do you ensure your team have their heads in the game?

Seven tips for getting employees on board:

Without some level of employee commitment, coaching will fall on deaf ears — and the whole conversation goes nowhere. But we’ve got seven tips to help your coaching cause.

Tip #1: Build trust.
Employees need to know that their leader is providing coaching for the purpose of personal development — not just to get the job done. Taking the time to listen, setting a good example, offering praise, keeping people informed and being non-judgmental can go a long way toward building that trust.

Tip #2: Focus on the positive.
For coaching to work, employees need an open mind and a growth mind-set. So instead of telling people what they’re doing wrong (which is negative and threatening), tell them what they’re doing right. Tell an employee that you appreciate the fact that their reports were delivered on time or that you’re impressed by their diligence with arriving to work on time. Then propose alternate behaviours for the problem areas, taking the time to carefully explain how you’d like to see things done in the future.

Tip #3: Emphasise learning.
To keep employees engaged, change how you talk to them. When setting goals, for example, discuss what they can learn from those tasks and experiences. Most people really want to learn — and it’s not threatening in any way. When we learn, we don’t expect to be perfect, but we do want to do well and improve. It encourages the right behaviour, without any of the negativity.

Tip #4: Be inclusive.
According to a recent article by Jessica Burnette-Lemon,6 research about how the brain works may shed clues on how leaders can affect employee change. In the article, UK-based consultant Hilary Scarlett said, “Our brains are wired to be social, and social rejection has an impact on our IQ. So make sure every member of the team feels part of the manager’s ‘in group.’”

Tip #5: Coach on a frequent (not yearly) basis.
Try to offer each employee some “quick-hit” coaching on a weekly basis (at a bare minimum) and a daily basis, if possible. Touching bases quickly and frequently costs almost nothing, yet it can net big rewards. Most of the time it takes two minutes or less, and the employee will walk away feeling like you care.

Tip #6: Recognise employees’ individuality.
Remember, everyone’s personalities and thought processes are different. Just because you approach decision-making from a more rational perspective, doesn’t mean others do, too. Acknowledging and working to understand different methods of communicating and working — as long as the job is getting done — can go a long way toward increasing your value as an effective coach.

Tip #7: Encourage small, incremental changes.
Instead of overwhelming employees with a laundry list of changes, identify the most important improvements and feed employees only a few at a time. Celebrate those “wins” before moving on to other improvements — and don’t forget to recognise the small, incremental achievements along the way.

Follow these quick tip pointers for better coach-employee communication:

  • Nurture employees’ need to feel a sense of growth by making learning resources available and even setting learning goals.
  • Make sure to articulate your expectations clearly, so there’s no confusion about what you want. 

Ask permission before giving feedback. Unfortunately legacy HR systems can be more of an inhibitor as they fail to support the zeitgeist of today’s employees, particularly the way they want to work and interact with each other. Today’s HR technology can play a significant role in supporting these new coaching practices.

The ability to create intuitive learning programmes specific to an employee’s needs and to provide instant feedback and guidance outside the annual review programme both help to coach and engage the employee to become more productive. It is therefore important to assess how well your current system supports the new coaching practices and to consider change if they inhibit progress.   

Whether you’re directly involved in HR talent and learning programs or not, you likely recognise the value of coaching — for improving not only your learning and talent programs, but also your workforce productivity. In the end, coaching is a venture that’s well worth the time and energy. In fact, coaching is increasingly viewed as an opportunity to enhance employees’ engagement levels, loyalty, retention and overall satisfaction.

And when you consider the minimal time and financial investments needed to get your coaching program off the ground, it’s hard to argue with the sense of urgency. Are you ready to take your teams to the next level?  Then it’s time to get serious about coaching. Take these suggestions and use them to get your teams moving in the right direction today.

3 Responses

  1. Fantastic article. I have in
    Fantastic article. I have in fact printed this off (all credit given ofc) for our company management meeting today!

    1. Great that you’ve found it so
      Great that you’ve found it so helpful – I hope it is just as well received in the management meeting 🙂

      1. Thank you so much Shonette.
        Thank you so much Shonette. Yes it was indeed….. maybe not with the gusto I took to it though!

Author Profile Picture
Ian Baxter

Vp Marketing, EMEA

Read more from Ian Baxter

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