Honing Your Coaching Skills

As an employer, it is vitally important to show a clear commitment to the professional development of your workers. Employees are understandably eager to progress with their respective careers, and as such, they recognise the value of employer training, mentoring and coaching in helping them move up the ladder.

Some 78 per cent of employees interviewed in a Robert Half survey said career coaching helps them perform in the workplace, with the same number reporting improved job satisfaction as a result. Of those surveyed, 64 per cent said coaching sessions help improve their motivation at work - something which could lead to increased loyalty.

Can employers do more?

Employee coaching involves carrying out regular performance checks, providing feedback and offering counselling to workers, usually on a one-on-one basis. These sessions can take place within the context of professionals' own continual learning plans. Organisations should consider tailoring a coaching plan for each individual worker, based upon their role, career ambitions, and strengths and weaknesses.

Yet all too often, employers offer little in this area, beyond arranging a review meeting for each worker once a year. As such, organisations could be missing out on a host of benefits. Coaching does not cost much to provide - with time being the main resource required - yet it has the potential to boost performance, productivity, employee morale and motivation. And where employees feel they are learning and improving their professional skills, they are likely to remain with their current organisation for longer.

Improving coaching skills for managers

If you are responsible for coaching employees within your organisation, you need to think about how you can offer maximum value to each individual worker. They need to take away something positive from each session or meeting, whether this is practical guidance to help them progress or simply an improved state of mind as a result of your input.

Here are a few tips for providing more effective employee coaching:

  • Earn employee trust

Trust is vital for any successful relationship between an employee and their coach. It is important that the staff member can talk freely, and that what they say is taken in confidence.

  • Outline meeting goals

It always makes sense to outline the purpose of each meeting at the outset, so that each participant is on the same track and aiming for the same goal. This also helps to avoid drift and diversions, keeping the session on-track.

  • Listen to employees

While coaching sessions may be designed primarily to offer advice and feedback to workers, it is important to let them have their say. There may be disagreement at times - it is then down to the skill and judgement of the coach to get their point across.

  • Provide options 

Instructing an employee to take a single course of action may be counter-productive - there may be resistance to being told exactly what to do. What coaches should aim to do is suggest a range of options, which all ultimately lead to the same end result. This way, the employee feels they are more in control of their own destiny.

  • Set short-term targets

Whichever course of action is decided for an individual employee, get them to make a commitment to act. You can ask them to report back on their progress at the next coaching session, to ensure they have been proactive.

  • Show empathy

At times, employees may make excuses for negative acts or omissions. Handling these sensitively is all-important - you need to show understanding as to why a particular situation has arisen. But at the same time, it is important that the employee understands where they have gone wrong and how they could have achieved a more favourable outcome.

  • Be specific with feedback

When offering feedback, go into detail about what employees have done well or badly - this may help reinforce positive behaviour or avoid making the same mistakes twice.

  • Make yourself available

If an employee requests a quick catch-up at any point - an impromptu meeting with their coach - try to make yourself available. Similarly, if you haven't heard from them in a while, it may be worth making contact, even just to say hello. This can help keep employees engaged with the coaching process, and working towards the goals outlined in the previous session.