When you think about coaching in the workplace, what initially comes to mind is executive coaching for higher-level employees as part of management training and development. However, employee coaching can be helpful at any level, and there are many benefits—both for the individual and for the company.1 This article examines coaching in the workplace, why it’s important and how to conduct coaching conversations to guide an employee. You’ll learn about the practical uses of business coaching, the most important aspect of this training technique and the five main styles for coaching employees.
What is Employee Coaching?
In business coaching, a more experienced, highly skilled person offers guidance and advice to an employee to help them develop new skills, improve their performance and advance their career. Coaching employees is different from mentoring. In the mentor/mentee relationship, a less experienced worker is guided through a program by a more experienced coworker. Coaching is highly personalized and is often used to help educate and encourage employees to improve their work habits, adapt to a changing workplace environment or prepare for a new role.1
Why is Coaching Important in the Workplace?
If the employee wants to enhance their productivity and learn new skills and is open to feedback, coaching can be tremendously beneficial for them, as well as for the company.2
Coaching employees can:
- Improve employee performance
- Enhance job satisfaction
- Help employees achieve personal goals
- Promote collaboration and teamwork
- Encourage open communication and build working relationships
- Teach workers problem-solving skills
- Increase employee retention rates2
An employee who is engaged in learning a new skill set and is being professionally groomed by their employer for career advancement is happier and more productive. The LinkedIn Learning 2019 Workplace Learning Report found that 94% of workers would stay with an organization longer if it invested in their career development.3
How Can You Provide Coaching in a Work Environment?
Coaching employees is a partnership rather than a teacher/student relationship. In helping the person achieve a greater level of expertise, a coach can use various tools and techniques.1
Some of these coaching methods are:
- Meeting one-on-one regularly, with “assignments” between meetings
- Listening actively and guiding the employee toward solving their own problems
- Using behavioral and personality assessments to determine behaviors and traits that are dominant or may be lacking to better understand work habits and motivations
- Helping the employee set personal goals and develop an action plan, while working with them to overcome obstacles
- Recommending learning resources such as books or classes
- Encouraging the worker to step outside their comfort zone for greater advancement1
The success of such efforts will depend not just on the skills of the coach, but on the determination and drive of the employee.
Tips for Effective Coaching
Successful coaching requires a strong, supportive and trusting relationship between the coach and the employee. In addition to providing frequent feedback to the employee, a coach must also be a good listener. The goal is to create a culture of open communication, where all team members feel that their opinions and ideas are valued by the organization.4
To coach employees effectively, you should:
- Push them to reachable goals and encourage them to take on new tasks, develop skills and expand their capabilities
- Be available to provide support and answer questions
- Encourage staff to interact with each other and share skills and methods
- Build employee confidence by guiding, supporting and recognizing accomplishments
- Ask employees for contributions and welcome different perspectives4
With this approach, you can create a robust work environment that encourages employees to develop their abilities and actively contribute to the organization.
Examples of Coaching in the Workplace
Employee coaching has many practical uses. Here are just some of the scenarios in which coaching employees can be useful.2
An employee’s behavior may be adversely affecting their work or their co-workers. For example, if they are regularly late in completing tasks, a coach can help them to develop time management skills. If an employee is having trouble adapting to workplace innovations, a coach can provide personalized training.2
If a new employee has recently changed careers, a coach can help them to learn their new responsibilities quickly, so the team can be more efficient. There may be job skills that they need to learn for their new position. Coaching can also help a team member to change careers within the organization.2
Coaching can help a new hire to learn what they need to know for their role, such as communication and technical skills. This benefits both the employee and the company. If the company updates its technology and processes, coaching may be needed to show employees how to use the new systems.2
Whether it’s to reach a production quota, a sales goal or some other business metric, a coach can provide an employee with the tools and resources they need to improve their work performance.2
Coaches can teach employees brainstorming, mind mapping, storyboarding and other techniques to improve their problem-solving skills. Employees can use these methods to work with greater independence.2
Relaxation and visualization techniques are two methods that can be used to create a more positive attitude and improve productivity. A coach can work with an employee privately, or they can lead a workshop for the entire department or team.2
Coaching can also be used to teach employees how to set goals, reduce the fear of change, return to work after a long absence and make a company-wide transition when a colleague retires.2
What is the Key to Coaching Employees?
The most important idea to keep in mind is that to successfully coach employees requires collaboration between the team member and their coach. The employee must take responsibility for their own professional development. The function of the coach is to guide, support, encourage and empower the employee to solve their own problems—and to give them the tools and resources to find their own solutions.5
The Five Coaching Styles
There are different ways to guide an employee toward reaching their full potential. It is up to the manager to determine which coaching leadership style is the most effective for the situation and the person being coached.6
This method of coaching employees gives the person the freedom and responsibility to make their own decisions and hold themselves accountable. The coach steps in just to keep everything on track.
Authoritarian / Autocratic Coaching
The coach decides what the employee does and how they do it. In this way, workers learn discipline, how to set goals and how to achieve the desired results.
The coach explains to the employee what they should focus on during the session. They give directions and encourage the worker to do their best to achieve their goals. Feedback is used to apply to the next goal, and individuals are asked to reflect on what they’ve learned. This coaching style provides support and helps with motivation.
With this coaching leadership style employees are taught techniques to understand what limits their decisions and actions. They may uncover unhealthy patterns and behaviors that inhibit their growth. This helps employees rewire their brains for greater professional and personal success.
Relaxation techniques and stress management are two techniques that are used to find balance in all aspects of the decision-making process. Holistic coaching stresses the connection between all areas of life. Employees coached in this style may find a sense of purpose and be able to develop a wider perspective for making choices and finding solutions.6
Effective employee coaching may give an employee the structure they need to achieve their goals, enhance their skills and be confident in their decision-making.6
Encourage employees and be a business leader with an online Master in Management
With the Marquette University online Master in Management degree, you can learn the latest skills and methods to be an inspirational business leader. The 30-credit Master in Management (MiM) program is multidisciplinary, combining leadership training, human resource management, organizational behavior and development, change management and analytics. This holistic program, based on ethical, data-driven and context-based decision making prepares business professionals to become strong leaders.
If you're interested in developing your leadership coaching skills, how to encourage employees, and more about the workplace coaching process, talk to an Admissions Advisor about where a management master's could take you.