The value of employee coaching at scale
Employee coaching at scale can be a catalyst for behaviors that change cultures in order attract and retain the best workers.
September 12, 2022
The value of employee coaching at scale
In a time of massive change and uncertainty, business leaders must be courageous, inclusive, and lead with purpose. But it's not just about the leaders—every employee has a role to play in helping the organization grow and remain flexible. Everyone across the enterprise needs to be on the same page, and employee coaching is emerging as one of the best options to do this with a sustainable way to scale.
Workplace coaching has typically been reserved for the most senior leaders of an organization. The onset of digital technology made coaching available to everyone—but there was more to be done. While technology has helped enterprises achieve employee coaching at scale, coaching needs to be connected to business goals in order to drive organization-wide change.
So, how is employee coaching in the workplace defined? Let's look further into the value and benefits of coaching in this space.
Consider the typical employee today: They've probably had to navigate some uncertainty and anxiety. They may have had to change how and where they work and are new to working from home. New protocols may have made it more difficult to have informal face-to-face encounters with their coworkers and managers, causing some to disengage from their work or workplace culture. As a result this led to many organizations deploying digital coaching platforms during the pandemic as a way to address employee well-being and engagement.
But did those digital coaching engagements at scale help to create real, lasting business change?
For coaching at scale to change the organization, individual coaching engagements must be aligned to an organizational goal, such as becoming a more agile or inclusive organization. When coaching and organizational objectives are connected, coaching has a ripple effect across individuals and teams that accelerates organizational change.
When coaching employees at an enterprise scale, the most effective programs have two main qualities. They're connected, which means individual coaching journeys and goals are aligned with business objectives; and they're sustainable, meaning that a mix of approaches and content are deployed to suit each level of the organization.
We're not talking about giving frontline people the exact same coaching as the CEO. The best coaching engagements are tailored to specific needs, which can differ widely based on your situation.
First, employee coaching starts with an organizational goal. This is followed by sending experienced coaches out to harness the power of digital coaching platforms and data-driven intelligence to accelerate behavior change across the organization. It's not just coaching at scale, and it's not just the traditional, one-on-one high-touch coaching. Connected coaching scales a distinctly human coaching relationship across all levels and functions, helping to embed coaching at the center of talent management strategy.
Beyond the coaches and digital platform, there are five key tactics that can help you to achieve effective connected coaching and accelerate behavior change at scale.
Coaches start with a clear understanding of the organization's goals and the gaps in the workforce that need to be addressed before that goal can be met. Each role in the organization gets a success profile looking at the capabilities, experience, mindset, beliefs and motivations an individual will need to succeed in that role. As coaches break off into their one-on-one engagements, they focus on where the employee needs to grow and change to unlock their potential while keeping the broader organizational objective in mind.
It's said that you only need around 20 percent of the organization to adopt new behaviors in order to achieve a critical mass and drive culture change. The big question is, who should those individual influencers be? The obvious starting point is senior executives, who play the dual role of communicating the vision and acting as role-models. But leaving this initiative with just the senior executives is a mistake; you'll need business unit leaders, middle management and individuals on the frontline to act as catalysts to achieve critical mass.
Human connection lies at the heart of coaching, regardless of whether it's delivered in digital or analog form, and that's why it's important to include experienced coaches when scaling. Skilled coaches not only create a connection with individuals, but they also have developed a repeatable, measurable approach to coaching performance. They use sound psychological theory and research-based best practices to accelerate behavior change and produce measurable improvements.
It is, of course, difficult and costly to roll out that level of bespoke, high-touch coaching that senior executives receive across the entire organization.
Connected coaching journeys involve adapting a mix of professional coaching approaches and content to fit the needs of cohorts and teams. Taking this tailored, but not custom-made approach enables organizations to scale coaching sustainably and bring the power of one-on-one coaching to many more individuals than would have been possible otherwise.
As the connected coaching program rolls out and scales, momentum can be felt and measured. Professional coaching platforms generate masses of data from many sources, ranging from before-and-after assessments and 360-degree feedback to completion rates for online learning. Virtual connections and self-directed learning enabled by digital platforms, such as Korn Ferry Advance can also gather consistent data on how people throughout the company are faring and plot new trainings and professional development as needed. Analyzing this data and gathering the necessary insights accelerates movement toward the outcomes that matter.
When you scale coaching across your organization, many more employees can have access to the growth and lasting behavior change that has long been observed with executive coaching, from greater self-awareness to emotional intelligence.
However, each employee's coaching journey must vary by level, seniority and job role. Organizational objectives provide the common threads for connected coaching and sustainability at scale, but the content and approach should be tailored to individuals and groups based on their roles and career paths.
There's a difference between executive leadership and being a true Enterprise Leader. Enterprise leaders thrive in a disruptive environment. They are able to lead not just the enterprise but the entire ecosystem, and have the capabilities to perform and transform with agility. But Korn Ferry research has found that less than 14 percent of executives can be considered true Enterprise Leaders.
Luckily, Enterprise Leaders can be developed with sophisticated assessment, development, mentoring and stretch experiences – including coaching. Coaching at an executive level provides leaders with the tools they need to lead through disruptive times.- to know what to do when they don't know what to do.
When it's connected to an organizational goal, coaching for high-potentials can have an even greater impact. High-potentials not only hone their skills as future leaders but also help to accelerate transformation in the organization.
High-potential employees have a tendency to thrive when they are challenged regularly, and coaching can help push them out of their comfort zones. Coaches have the ability to encourage these employees to use creative problem-solving in the workplace—as opposed to standard practices—as well as lateral thinking. This kind of support will not only help them face the work-related stresses and pressures that come with leadership but also help them to innovate and drive the organization forward.
People in the middle of the company's hierarchy often find themselves in the actual middle. They're dealing with demands from executives as well as pressure from their team, and the two don't always align. Middle managers benefit from coaching in communication, team dynamics, fostering a culture of inclusion and much more. Mastering interpersonal skills, empathy, influence, delegation and self-awareness can make the most difference for them. Coaching middle managers has a ripple effect because they're well positioned to push the behavior change down to their teams.
When a frontline employee is promoted to management for the first time, they might be sent to a workshop to "learn how to be a manager." But a workshop alone isn't magically effective—people usually learn best by implementing, testing, reiterating, experimenting and developing on the job. A first-time manager can benefit from coaching in terms of navigating the transition from individual contributor to building effective teams, collaborating with others, delegating and so on.
The benefits of coaching are evident even for the newest people in the organization. They can benefit from the professional development, critical thinking, time management, focus and motivation that coaching can provide. Junior and frontline employees can access a digital platform for learning journeys tailored to their level and skillset and get scheduled nudges to help them achieve their career goals.
By designing and deploying a connected coaching program, organizations can align with a shared purpose at all levels. All leaders need guidance, from the CEO right down to the individuals on the frontline. Teams need a purpose-driven mission with a clear and singular focus. Connected coaching can help to integrate individual aspirations with organizational goals. It can help to build agility, increase self-awareness and position leaders for organizational impact.
All of these elements breed a work culture that people want to be a part of—and that, in turn, creates value at every level and for the organization as a whole. The opportunities are vast: successful, empowered employees improve productivity and create a platform for future growth.
To find out more about how employee coaching at scale can work at your organization, talk with our experts about our successful workplace coaching platforms and programs.