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From Boss to Leader: Four Reasons Employee Coaching Works

By May 8, 2023July 14th, 2023No Comments

America’s workforce has rarely been as restless as it is today: over the last 12 months, the “quit rate” has averaged nearly one quit for every three workers. Against this backdrop of near-record quit rates, employers are increasingly embracing employee coaching as a means of cultivating worker engagement and growth.

Like athletic coaching, employee coaching is a management style that focuses primarily on connecting deeply with workers in a way that empowers them to excel. Business experts suggest a coaching approach to managing employees because it tends to be more collaborative, encouraging, team-oriented, and focused on strengths rather than weaknesses. Effective manager coaches serve a range of roles, from an accountability partner to an expert advisor on strategies to accomplish goals, and the results are impactful.

Coaching Works

According to Gartner HR Practice, “Research shows that employees who report to managers who coach effectively are 40% more engaged, exhibit 38% more discretionary effort, and are 20% more likely to stay at their organizations than those who report to ineffective coaches.”

There are four primary reasons why employee coaching works:

  1. Applied Learning. Unlike the hypothetical teaching found in business schools, online learning, or a library of business books, weekly coaching in the context of week-to-week work challenges allows employees to apply their learning as they go. One study suggested the combination of training and coaching increases productivity by an average of 88% (Public Personnel Management). This real-time applied learning can be measurable, as employees track their progress against goals and tweak their approach to ensure success. Coaching questions may be: “What have you already tried? How could you turn things around? What could you do differently?”
  2. Safe Place to Open Up. Once they’ve gained an employee’s trust, managers can provide a confidential coaching relationship allowing employees to share challenging thoughts and emotions. This takes time and requires managers to suppress the impulse to jump in and fix things, but it’s worth the effort. Better still is an outside coach or manager / mentor who comes from outside the employee’s day-to-day management structure. This separation of coaching from everyday work can make employees feel safer and more comfortable in opening up to discuss their weaknesses and sensitive workplace issues, such as conflicts with co-workers.
  3. Guided Reflection. By asking questions that demand honest observation of an employee’s situation, a competent coach can provide an excellent opportunity for guided reflection. Strong coaches provide an unbiased sounding board for employees who answer and ask tough questions of themselves and their coach. Too often, we ask and answer questions in the same thought, leading to a narrow set of thinking. It’s often the awkward pause between a blunt question and the possible answers that opens us up to new solutions. A coaching approach asks questions that encourage not only thought but seeing the possibilities, such as: “What could happen and what would you do if all obstacles somehow disappeared?”
  4. New Perspective. Coaches offer a fresh perspective not colored by past relationships or the context of an employment environment. A coach who’s worked with hundreds of employees in a variety of settings brings a perspective difficult to achieve for most people. That fresh perspective can lead to not only credibility but also discernment to solve problems. How often do we think there’s no other way than to bulldoze through a relationship challenge because we’ve tried everything we can think of? A coaching question might be: “What underlying assumptions are you making about that person or situation? Are those assumptions hurting or helping the relationship?”

Organizations short on staff or who want to create a safe and unbiased space for employees to accomplish their growth and retention goals are increasingly turning to outside career development coach services to fill the gaps. Costs have dropped as more coaching is now done virtually and the industry is maturing, making coaching services affordable not only for executives and upper-level managers but also for new managers and emerging leaders. Outside coaching typically provides additional confidentiality and a broader outside perspective. With nearly one quit per three workers and an estimated cost of turnover equal to 50% or more of an employee’s salary, the return on investment can be high.

Easing the continued high quit-rate will require more “bosses” to learn how to be effective coaching leaders. As appreciation of that reality grows, “connector managers,” as Gartner calls them, and outside career development firm coaches, are helping employees achieve new levels of engagement and satisfaction.

John Courtney is the CEO of NextJob, a 501(c) partner providing development coaching that helps leaders, managers, and high-potential employees “Grow Instead of Go.” NextJob also coaches laid-off employees on their job search, cutting unemployment spells by half and reducing employer unemployment claims by as much as one-third.

501 offers members complimentary reemployment coaching packages, through NextJob, to help your laid-off employees land jobs much more quickly. Contact us for more information on job search packages.

(Image by Freepik from Freepik)

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