Employee coaching is a simple concept for which there's no real structure. Coaching means giving an employee the tools he needs to be successful in his job. Tools include constructive feedback, performance appraisals or opportunities for learning new skills, such as training or job shadowing. Employee coaching isn't a one-size-fits-all proposition. It depends on company policies and practices, leadership expertise and employee and organizational goals.
Some employers have moved from the traditional progressive discipline policy to a coaching philosophy that reinforces good performance and corrects substandard performance without using punitive measures. Within the context of disciplinary action, coaching is the new way of ensuring that employees strive for high performance ratings. But the "employee coaching" concept is one that can be interpreted in as many ways as there are employers.
The key to any form of employee coaching is building relationships. If your employees believe that you're an ineffective leader or if they simply don't trust you, all of your coaching efforts and techniques will be for naught. Therefore, establishing yourself as a credible leader who can balance advocating for both the employee and employer is an excellent path on which to begin employee coaching. Leigh Branham, author of "The Seven Hidden Reasons Employees Leave: How to Recognize the Subtle Signs and Act Before It's Too Late," notes that employees' lack of trust in leadership is one of the reasons they become disengaged and eventually leave the organization. Sustaining positive relationships with your employees may improve your retention levels and is fundamental to effectively coaching employees.
Public vs. Private
Coaching can be public as in positive reinforcement, commendation or congratulations on a job well done during a staff meeting, or it can be private when you have to provide constructive feedback for performance that doesn't meet the company's expectations. Speaking of coaching, legendary football coach Vince Lombardi's advice was to praise team players -- in your case, employees -- publicly and criticize privately. The more you do to build up an employee's esteem, especially by recognizing him in front of peers, the more likely that employee is to take ownership of his role in the organization's goals. Likewise, don't humiliate employees publicly. Give constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement in a private conference with the employee.
Provided your annual evaluations aren't merely ratings sheets that merely tell employees where they stand on a scale of 1 to 10, performance appraisals are an excellent example of employee coaching. To be most effective, the appraisal should be timely, comprehensive and culminate with a one-on-one discussion with the employee. During the appraisal meeting, supervisors must encourage two-way feedback, because without it, the meeting loses it effectiveness as a coaching tool. Performance appraisals also should include goal-setting activities to clarify the employee's role and assist him in developing his own professional goals.
Employees who are in jobs that are technical or skills-based may benefit from regular training, which is a common practice in coaching employees. Whether the training is in-house or through a local college or technical institute, it's a win-win for the employee and employer. The employee acquires new skills or improves the skills he has to be more productive. In exchange, the employer benefits from employees who are not just more productive, but perhaps more engaged in their work because they realize that the company has invested in their success. Diana O'Brien, a managing principal with the consulting giant, Deloitte, says not investing in training for employees is like cutting the company's budget on computer equipment yet still expecting the benefits of advanced technology.