For those who might be coming across this phrase for the first time, employee coaching is increasingly becoming a great tool to facilitate personal and professional development. Unlike sports coaching that dons an authoritarian and dominating cape, employee coaching is more about collaboration to bring about shared progress for an individual as well as the organization. Most organizations today are adopting executive coaching as a means to equip their executive team with the skills and tools to facilitate effective leadership. However, scaling it to the level of employee coaching is still loaded with ambiguity, especially with the rise of a remote workforce. The most effective way is to create a rationale to conduct employee coaching beyond the realms of the four office walls and take small steps to create a virtual practice.
Employee coaching and excellence
Before we move on to a few starting practices to make virtual coaching effective, it would be good to understand why coaching is important beyond the executive level and how its importance augments with the workforce going remote.
Benefits to the employees
Let’s start with the benefits of employee coaching to the obvious beneficiaries, i.e. the employees. Coaching is most importantly a tool to help employees gain greater clarity over their long term goals and align them with their professional aspirations and performance. Employee coaching then enables them to work in a more structured and goal oriented manner which yields better performance and greater productivity. Research shows that 80% of those who have experienced coaching in the workplace report positive impact in their performance, productivity, communication and wellbeing. It augments collaboration, self reliance, invariable leading to more promotions and better appraisals.
Employee coaching has an impact beyond the professional realm as well. It is an effective way to efficiently create a work-life balance which is not skewed towards either side. At the same time, it equips individuals with self awareness and self knowledge to effectively deal with any challenge that might come along the way. Therefore, it is a win-win situation for both personal and professional development.
Benefits to the organization
It is not only the employees that benefit from employee coaching, organization as a whole stands to gain. On the most obvious level, better performance and greater employee productivity translates to more revenues. At the same time, employee engagement and, therefore, retention gets a great boost. With coaching, employees feel valued at the workplace and acknowledge organizational effort towards the former’s development. This encourages employees to stay longer, augments their motivation and converts them into advocates attracting the best talent. On a deeper level, employee coaching boosts leadership capabilities with clarity of thought and action in the organization. This translates to seamless succession planning with greater ownership coming from the employees, a dream for every business leader.
Coaching in the age of remote work
Conventionally, coaching has been a very in person experience where a human connection is crucial, primarily because physical presence and body language makes it easy for a coach to demonstrate support and accelerate engagement. This is the reason that most organizations have a bias towards executive coaching because the target group is smaller and in person coaching is possible. However, with the transition to remote work, organizations are transitioning to employee coaching and exploring ways to keep the momentum going, albeit virtually. While there are some challenges in the way, fortunately, a few quick hacks can offer some relief.
Set clear expectations and roles
The first step is to emphasize on the clarity of expectations and roles. This means that the employee on the receiving end as well as the coach should be on the same page as to what the coaching seeks to achieve. One set of coaching series could have a particular objective and each session could be one step towards achieving the same. The reason this becomes more important in a remote setup is because virtual interaction can be distracting at times. Therefore, it is very important to establish upfront what the expectations are from both the parties.
Regular check ins and agreement on next steps
Next, the check ins have to be more frequent and regular as compared to the physical sessions. While once a month might be a good start for an in person practice, virtual sessions require greater frequency, like once a fortnight or even once a week. At the same time, it would be a good idea to keep the sessions shorter and more frequent. Ending each session with a few next steps would also help.
Leverage the power of technology
Finally, it would be best to invest in some good digital tools to facilitate employee coaching. On a macro level, organizations could leverage tools to automate session scheduling and reminders. On a micro level, experimenting with coaching apps or more robust platforms could be a nice idea. Such platforms offer expert employee coaching to help them navigate any challenges employees might be facing. The advantage is two fold. Firstly, the entire coaching experience is customized to the personal needs of the employee along with organizational objectives, giving the impact of a 1-o-1 coaching. Secondly, it is entirely online and virtual and does not require physical interventions for effectiveness.
Employee coaching: The rising need
Undoubtedly, employee coaching brings about a plethora of benefits for individuals as well as organizations. However, its importance is increasing manifold given the current circumstances. With so much uncertainty and ambiguity all around, it is natural for employees to feel lost, demotivated and disengaged. To combat these challenges and ensure employee performance and more importantly wellbeing, organizations need to bank on the secret weapon of employee coaching, albeit virtually. Thus, exploring solutions with a technical bent of mind is the best bet, for coaching is one of the most effective tools today to enable organizations navigate their way and embrace the new normal.