Employee coaching is a powerful tool for improving employee performance and fostering a growth mindset within your organization. By investing in coaching initiatives, organizations can create a supportive environment that encourages continuous learning and development. Here’s how your company can identify the best coaches and implement a solid employee coaching program, with real-world examples.
🔍 What you’ll find in this post
What is employee coaching vs. training?
Employee coaching is an individualized process that aims to develop an employee's skills, knowledge, and performance. It is a collaborative relationship between a coach and an employee that focuses on setting goals, providing feedback, and encouraging self-reflection.
In addition to improved performance on the job, some benefits of coaching include:
- Increased employee engagement
- Better communication
- Improved problem-solving skills
- Higher job satisfaction
And while all employee coaching is a form of training, not all training is coaching. The main difference between coaching vs. training? The goal of training is to increase skills, but coaching also focuses on the attitudes, behaviors, and mindset that employees bring to the table. Coaching employees to improve performance can actually improve the way that they approach their work and leadership within your company.
Real-world success: Employee coaching examples
Employee coaching is used by companies of all sizes, with success at every level. These examples use separate approaches to reach the same goal: more engaged and collaborative employees who are invested in the success of their work.
Google's Project Oxygen used an evidence-based approach to identify the most critical managerial behaviors that improve employee performance. At the top of the list of behaviors that make the best managers? Their ability to coach employees.
By developing managers who functioned as coaches rather than top-down supervisors, Google’s project saw an increase in employee satisfaction, performance, and retention.
Atlassian, an Australian software company, developed a set of coaching tools called Team Playbook to help teams identify and solve their problems. By providing practical exercises and facilitating structured conversations, the Team Playbook has improved collaboration, communication, and performance across the company. Even the sports reference reinforces the idea of coaching, with all employees as players who can call a set of “plays” at any time. It’s a strategy that gives everyone on the team an ability to lead.
👉Learn more: Find ready-to-use leadership activities that you can roll out to your employees.
Effective coaching techniques to support learners
Coaching to improve employee performance will only be successful if your coaches are effective. Because engaged teams are 21% more profitable (and the majority of companies that embrace a culture of coaching have a healthier bottom line), it makes sense to invest in a coach who knows what they are doing.
But coaching employees to improve performance requires more than just understanding the assignment. So what makes a good trainer?
1. They practice active listening and empathy
Good coaches start where employees are. This means listening to employee concerns with empathy and understanding, and checking in but not over-monitoring their behavior or decisions.
2. They understand goal setting and action planning
Goal setting and action planning are how things get done. Effective coaching techniques include knowing how to set realistic targets on an individual and group level.
3. They provide personalized constructive feedback and guidance
Good coaches know which employees need the drill sergeant approach (and which prefer a lighter touch). Regardless of delivery, constructive feedback and targeted guidance are key to getting results.
4. They work to develop trust and rapport
Employees need to know their coach is on their side (and not just a spy for the C-suite). This starts with active listening and empathy, but developing trust takes consistency and time.
5. They encourage self-reflection and self-awareness
It’s like the old joke:
How many therapists does it take to change a lightbulb?
One, but the lightbulb has to want to change.
Same with coached employees. Rather than superficial change, coaching is about developing self-reflection and awareness that leads to a change in attitude. The best employee coaches know how to cultivate a culture of self-reflection that leads to positive, lasting change.
How to roll out cost-effective employee coaching
You don’t need a full plan to ensure success — but it doesn’t hurt. In general, your employee coaching plan should follow this approach:
- Acknowledge what’s working: Praise and highlight excellent work first.
- Identify potential pitfalls: Outline what’s challenging (and why fixing it matters).
- Get employee feedback: What do employees see as the problem (and the solution) when it comes to mentoring and coaching in the org?
- Figure out what’s standing in the way: Time? Money? Motivation? Skills?
- Get SMART: Set goals as a team (and as individuals) that follow best goal-setting practices.
- Plan: Set up a coaching plan, both long- and short-term, with measurable waypoints.
- Evaluate what’s working: And make changes to what’s not.
We know that not every company has a Google-level budget to implement employee coaching. Here are some cost-effective ideas you can implement today.
Peer coaching is a cost-effective method that involves employees coaching each other in a structured manner. This approach:
- Encourages knowledge sharing
- Promotes accountability
- Fosters a supportive work environment
Organizations can establish peer coaching programs by training employees in coaching skills and providing guidelines for effective coaching conversations.
Group coaching brings together a small group of employees to work on common goals or challenges. A skilled external coach facilitates the sessions, promoting shared learning and collaboration. Group coaching can be more cost-effective than individual coaching, as the coach's time and resources are spread across multiple employees.
Developing an internal coaching program involves training current employees as coaches and providing ongoing support and resources. Many organizations refer to this as a mentoring program, and some have mentors assigned to new employees during onboarding.
This approach can be more cost-effective than hiring external coaches, and it ensures that coaches are familiar with your organization's culture and values. Internal coaches can also serve as role models for the rest of the workforce.
But make sure that internal coaches have the bandwidth, brainspace, and time to take on this role. Even if your company can’t offer money for this service, consider giving coaches comp time or other perks for their service. Assigning compensation in some form shows employees and coaches that this is a valuable part of your company’s culture.
👉 Discover more: Learn how to effectively cross-train employees into new roles and responsibilities here!
Virtual coaching platforms
With advancements in technology, organizations can leverage online coaching platforms to provide personalized coaching experiences for employees. These platforms offer tools for goal setting, tracking progress, and providing feedback. By utilizing online coaching platforms, organizations can scale their coaching programs and save on costs related to travel and in-person sessions.
Make sure that these platforms aren’t just about training, though. An important part of effective coaching is personalization that goes beyond just teaching a skill. You may need help adapting an existing platform or building a coaching program from the ground up.
Get started with EdgePoint
By embracing coaching as a core component of their talent development strategy, organizations can build a high-performing workforce that drives success in today's competitive business landscape. But starting from scratch (or zhuzhing up an existing lackluster program) is challenging.
EdgePoint Learning is here to help. We can develop training for the employees who will be the active coaches in your organization to train them on coaching best practices and skills. We can also help develop training or performance support materials to enhance or incorporate into your coaching programs.
At EdgePoint, we know that continuous improvement and support for employees is a critical part of your coaching program, and we can help you get there. Get in touch today to learn more.