Coaching is catching on as a go-to employee development strategy. Find out how you can make the most of it.
Coaching and mentoring has been taking the business world by storm.
It’s an especially hot topic in the realm of human capital management. Organisations are starting to leverage coaching and mentoring in a lot of different areas. From traditional uses in learning and development to leadership development to onboarding to wellness and well-being, it’s being seen as an important driver of better business success and likely won’t be just a flash in the corporate pan. According to research and analyst firm Brandon Hall Group, 77% of organisations say coaching is important or critical to their overall business.
An increasingly dynamic workplace is what’s ignited such ardent interest in coaching and mentoring. The fast pace of business, constant change, high performance expectations, and greater workplace diversity have all made it much more important for organisations to regularly and effectively share internal knowledge and expertise in order to improve individual employee performance and organisational performance by proxy.
“Employees need actionable feedback.” -Stanley Fung, @NewYorkLife.
— Bersin (@Bersin) April 4, 2018
The consistent feedback that results from trusted coaching and mentoring relationships is what’s key. Feedback’s not only coveted by today’s development-oriented employees, but when delivered through constructive social learning situations, it’s also great for helping them iteratively improve their performance over time; 80% of all corporate learning takes place through on-the-job interactions with peers, experts, and managers. Coaching has the ability to support giving feedback in much more detailed and meaningful ways through the development of relationships and trust.
Feedback from coaching is especially effective when it comes to developing those subjective, hard-to-accurately-quantify, increasingly important soft skills. They’re going to be valuable tools employees will need to have at their disposal in the future of work, not just for their own benefit but for their employers’ too as soft skill-intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030.
The problem with coaching and feedback
The great thing about feedback is the fact that it can come from anyone anywhere in an organisation—peers, managers, experts, you name it, everyone in an organisation is an expert at something. Here’s the catch. There are two particular problems that plague organisations, preventing them from maximising coaching as a driver of business success: coaching can be time-consuming and costly to arrange, especially at scale, and giving good feedback is difficult to do.
According to Brandon Hall, even though 91% of organisations use coaching and mentoring in learning, only 13% use it more than half the time. Part of the reason is it’s hard to train and gain access to enough coaches, peers and subject matter experts who have the skills to do an effective job as well as feel comfortable coaching. That makes is tough to find and leverage the right expertise in specific ways across an organisation. For global organisations, the best expert might very literally be a world away.
Also, giving feedback is hard. People don’t like to hear negative feedback, especially from people whose opinions they value. If feedback was always positive it would be easy. Everyone loves to give positive feedback and everyone loves to receive it, but that isn’t what really moves the needle when it comes to improving performance. The challenge for coaches is giving specific, guided feedback, even if it’s critical, which is much more meaningful for someone on the receiving end.
How you can make the most of coaching and feedback
There are now technological tools available that organisations can leverage to eliminate the logistical difficulties involved in matching employees with the right mentor while enabling constructive feedback at scale. Employees and subject matter experts don’t have to meet in real life anymore to have a meaningful coaching and mentoring conversation. Nor do employees need to be limited to one expert at a time.
Thanks to virtual collaboration and video capture tools, employees can reach out across their organisations to find the right experts to coach and mentor them. They can record themselves providing demonstrations of skill and competency and then solicit feedback from across the entire enterprise regardless of geography. And by leveraging these tools, organisations can enable feedback at scale, allowing multiple people to weigh in.
It’s a modern framework for feedback that provides employees with a safe way to practice and learn by reaching a broader audience of experts asynchronously so they can solicit feedback at the point of need from multiple trusted mentors and coaches. It’s something we at D2L have dubbed, Social Assessment. Here’s how you can use video Social Assessment in the workplace.
Social Assessment is key for developing soft skills, which are hard to quantify and tough to measure in terms of improvement. Social Assessment allows people to demonstrate soft skills in situational-based scenarios—a presentation or staged customer interaction, for example—and then solicit feedback from across the organisation, which is crucial for iterative improvement. The use of technology lets employees test their skills in a safe and trusted environment, and that creates a powerful opportunity for experts to provide feedback on their practice so they can show improvement over time.
To offer constructive and meaningful feedback, however, coaches need to know what “good” looks like. Real, high-performing employees or well-developed personas can help in that endeavour by providing inspiration for evaluation criteria. They also need to understand exactly where people are along their career path so they can determine what types of feedback will be most meaningful and suggest ways they can incrementally improve their performance. You need to know where someone is before you can be comfortable being critical.
Structure is also key for providing more constructive and meaningful feedback, especially when it comes to soft skills development. Rubrics are a tool coaches can use to structure what good looks like. They quantify the impact of coaching and mentoring on soft skills development by provide parameters around feedback, like the specific skills or competencies coaches will evaluate in relation to an employee’s performance. In the case of soft skills, that could be anything from body language to enthusiasm to customer empathy. They also establish clear-cut guidelines for iterative improvement.