Coaching is a popular strategy to develop employees, and it’s been effectively climbing its way into the workplace over the last few decades. Regardless of some claims of coaching being a pipe dream, multiple studies show it is a result-driven practice optimising effectiveness and efficiency. The popular phenomenon focuses on improving performance, so employees can feel empowered and valued. This increases employee morale which results in them contributing more productively to the team and organisation. Therefore, investing in employees' continuous learning and development via work-based coaching should be a focus point for every organisation as it leads to more engaged workers, performance improvement and a more successful workplace.
What is workplace coaching?
Workplace coaching can be carried out in a group setting or as one-to-one sessions. The most popular type of the latter is, by far, executive coaching arranged with an individual in an executive function in a work setting. Coaching uses a collaborative, goal-focused, and reflective relationship to support personal and professional development of the coachee. It helps achieve outcomes which are valued by the coachee as well as optimise their performance in a working environment. Coaches neither tell nor prescribe. Their role is to be a thinking partner and support the client by creating an environment optimum for reflective thinking and accelerating and improving the decision-making process. Unlike mentors, professional coaches do not specialise in the client's area of work or focus on providing guidance for career development. They may have experience in the same industry, but Jones et al. (2015) found it is irrelevant and, in fact, it can cause interference. Instead, to produce results, the relationships is guided by specific objectives owned and directed by the client. A growing body of empirical research shows coaching achieves excellent outcomes in leadership, personal growth, improved resilience, workplace wellbeing and more (CIPD, 2021).
Why choose workplace coaching?
Coaching is a great stepping stone for businesses who care about their employees’ professional and personal development and managers and supervisors are learning to recognise the need for coaching. Firstly, technical knowledge and competence is only one factor in professional success. Emotional intelligence, which is not fixed and can be developed (Pool & Qualifier, 2012), is as important. Knowing how to navigate one’s own and others’ emotions, such as anxiety, frustration or self-doubt, but also how to motivate and engage staff and colleagues, are invaluable leadership skills that can be developed through coaching.
Secondly, learning and development does not stop when you leave education; it is a journey of continuously advancing knowledge and skills. For instance, Gallup found millennials expect learning and development opportunities when applying for a job; 87% reported it influenced their decision to accept and reject a position. Wishing to live well contributes towards the importance of learning and learning is pivotal for brain health and wellbeing (Gilbert, 2018). It keeps the conscious and unconscious mind engaged, boosts self-esteem and fosters connections with other people. It explains why many companies find learning increases employees’ job satisfaction and morale (Gallup, 2016). Coaching is a tailor-made way of learning for anyone, and may be the only way for top executives.
Furthermore, living in a contemporary society ridden with uncertainty, competition and constant change, has triggered a state of anxiety in many. The human mind can become fragile when living in an overstimulated state for too long. This may cause, for example, constant fatigue, overwhelm, and, consequently, disengagement at work, which is costly for the workplace. Having one-to-one support from a professional coach who can enable the client to tap into their own unconscious, detangle problems and systemise thinking can be invaluable.
Last but not least, workplace coaching is a way to support the wellbeing agenda in a workplace. Gallup organisation has found workers who were disengaged had high rates of absenteeism. Perkbox supported this finding and their data showed that disengaged UK workers take two times more sick days than engaged workers. Disengagement isn’t necessarily a sign of bad will or intentions. For instance, people become comfortable in the known and can limit their own potential avoiding the unknown and the overwhelm it may cause. That’s why supporting employees’ both personal and professional development can be powerful employee retention strategies. Executive coaching can be helpful in delivering the support in a safe and non-invasive way.
The benefits of coaching
Great way to save derailing executive: incorporating coaching and the 360 feedback is an imperative process to help those in a tedious slump. Using a professional coach who has worked under supervision and developed their own reflective and self-reflective skills can create transformational results.
Increasing emotional intelligence: higher level of emotional intelligence influences better communication, and, as a result, enable to better nurture relationships.
Wellbeing and motivation: When employees develop a sense of psychological safety and their own voice, it increases motivation and a sense of ownership. This boosts employee morale and improves performance.
Active mind active grind: employees become more self-aware, self-reliant and can take the necessary steps to establish and achieve goals.
The different types of coaching
There are different types of workplace coaching interventions available, including a mix of coaching with other learning and development options, such as training or mentoring. It is not a one size fits all strategy. Choosing a coach and type of support should be informed by a needs analysis. Executive coaching may be especially useful for those who may have the industry competence and technical knowledge, but struggle motivating their staff, or developing positive and collaborative relationships. Whether that's taking a 12-month emotional intelligence programme to increase skills like self-awareness and social awareness, or increasing employee leadership skills through training on how to engage teams and the application of the 360 feedback, there is strong evidence the effectiveness of people development interventions can be enhanced through coaching.
Nevertheless, who you are being coached by is paramount to your development. The coaching industry and anecdotal research have leaned towards arguing external coaches produce better results for companies. External coaches, who do not have stakes within the company, and the non-directive nature of coaching itself, allow room for progress without making individuals fall victim to biases we are prone to, especially, in our working relationships. Employees have room to be open and explore their strengths and weaknesses without fear of judgement or altered perception, which may be impacting workplace interactions (Zielinska, 2012).
Deeming the recent pandemic and living in an age of anxiety, coaching is a well-needed evidence-based strategy to support people and organisational development. It can be a subtle but key move to resolve some dormant, neglected or blatantly obvious problems in the workplace.
Author: Sadera Akhtar
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