A complete guide to employee coaching

businesswoman talking to employee

Looking to boost productivity, improve morale and accomplish goals? With employee coaching, you can help your team achieve their best. We'll show you how.

We all know the role a coach plays in athletics and sport. Using their experience, knowledge and insights, they help athletes and sportspeople maximise their potential and reach peak performance. It might take time, but the results are more than worth it.

So, what if there was a way of applying similar ideas and approaches in the workplace? With employee coaching there is. Using the right tools and methods, employee coaching can help staff to overcome obstacles and achieve their workplace goals.

The skills they learn through coaching can help foster a greater sense of morale and empowerment, boosting productivity and job satisfaction in the process. To help your team go the distance, we’ll equip you with what you need to start coaching them.

In this guide, we’ll go deeper into what employee coaching is, how it differs from mentoring and the benefits it offers.

What is employee coaching?

Employee coaching refers to any form of coaching within a business that aims to:

• Improve employee engagement

• Boost satisfaction with life and work

• Achieve relevant goals

• Increase productivity

It’s a collaborative process where a manager and employee discuss goals and identify opportunities to reach these goals, learn specific skills and improve performance. This might involve asking the employee some tough questions to challenge them to think about their goals, and how to achieve them.

From here, employees can plan clear, actionable steps to accomplish the goals they’ve identified. This means that managers must go beyond their usual supervisory role.

Instead of controlling and monitoring their employees, those in the coaching role act more like consultants. For this reason, coaching employees is not without its challenges – especially for those used to directing their team as opposed to collaborating with them.

colleagues having discussion

What are the benefits of employee coaching?

Increased employee engagement

If you’ve noticed enthusiasm waning in your team, then coaching can help employees become active participants in their role once again.

Greater commitment to development

Today’s workers expect an organisation to be invested in their development. Employee coaching demonstrates your commitment to their career growth, which has the added benefit of increased employee retention.

And when people want to stay, it leads to lower hiring costs, improves productivity and keeps important employee knowledge and talent on your side.

Identifies high-potential employees

A manager can identify employees that display high potential. These employees are the ones with the capacity for future leadership and greater company success. Identifying them early means you can nurture them further.

Improved communication

Strong communication plays a huge role in the productivity, and thus the profitability, of your organisation. And when employees can effectively communicate up and down the chain of command, then the increases in morale, productivity and commitment can be vital.

How does coaching differ from mentoring?

Although the two approaches sound similar, coaching and mentoring are distinct. While they can both help to develop an employee’s skills and career, there are several differences.

Mentoring describes a relationship in which someone in a more experienced role (either internally or externally) shares their knowledge to support the development of a mentee.

Like coaching, it involves questioning, listening and clarifying to understand the employee’s needs – but mentoring relationships tend to last longer. Coaching relationships are shorter but are used to achieve more specific goals concerning employee productivity and performance.

colleagues having a chat

Mentoring is driven by the mentee, whereas with coaching, the opposite is true. The mentee sets the goals and what they want to work on. Throughout the relationship, they request time with their mentor and come to them with problems they want to solve.

In employee coaching, the coach tends to set the agenda. There’s a specific skill or goal the coachee wants to achieve, and the coach will provide advice based on their experience and expertise on how to get there.

Mentoring also differs from coaching in that a mentee’s needs don’t necessarily relate to company-wide performance or initiatives. Mentoring relationships are also a great way to build your network – a feature that coaching is less concerned with.

However, for teams looking to build the skills they need to succeed in their current role – coaching is definitely the preferred option.

Getting started with employee coaching

Looking to put your knowledge and expertise to use and begin coaching your employees? Try taking these steps to get started:

Create mutual trust

Any coaching relationship needs to have trust at its centre. Without mutual trust between the manager and employee, effective coaching that leads to actual results will prove a challenge for both of you. So, while a clear hierarchy between the two might exist, the employee should still feel at ease in a way that lets the two of you connect.

Get the meeting going

In your first meeting, you should emphasise the specific reason(s) for arranging the coaching session. It’s important to clarify this in a friendly, non-judgmental way that doesn’t make the employee feel like they’re on trial. Even if it’s a result of poor performance, the employee should still be comfortable with what you’re saying.

man talking to businesswoman

Get on the same page

Before anything else proceeds, getting the employee to verbally agree that a performance issue exists is crucial.

The manager should call on specific examples of when the behaviour was demonstrated, making sure the employee recognises why it needs rectifying.

Discover what the employee already knows too. If they respond with excuses, then reply in an empathetic manner to show that you understand their point of view.

They might take some of your comments in an accusatory manner. If so, rephrase the point by reframing it as an encouragement to examine their behaviour.

Explore alternatives

Now you can begin to explore how the issue might be resolved. Encourage them to identify specific alternative solutions, whilst being careful not to do this for them unless they can’t provide any themselves.

The goal at this stage is to provide as many choices as possible for the employee to consider; nudge them into exploring all their possible suggestions, including their pros and cons.

Make sure they’re committed to change

Next, you should help the employee choose an alternative as opposed to choosing for them. In doing so, you should get a verbal commitment from the employee regarding the action they plan on taking, along with when and how they aim to do this. Be sure to support and praise the employee’s choice.

Evaluate their performance

Here’s where you get to see how they’re progressing. Schedule in regular checkups to make sure they are putting their plan of action into practice.

If they’re making good progress, then try gradually increasing the time frame for checking on the employee. Eventually, you’ll get to the point where they can monitor and correct their performance.

businesswoman helping colleague on a call

Provide feedback

If they’ve executed what you both planned during the coaching sessions, then let them know they’ve been successful. If not, you’ll need to go over the areas that still need work.

Whether it’s praise or giving them some kind of reward, they should know their success in mastering their performance issues hasn’t gone unnoticed. Your feedback should be specific, genuine and timely, delivered as soon as possible.

And if you have to deliver criticism, then make sure it’s constructive. If you display anger, frustration or disappointment then the employee is unlikely to respond well to such an approach.

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