SMB Matters | Talent | Performance Management

Coaching Employees: How to Grow from Good to Great

June 29, 2023 ·

Coaching Questions

Best practices from our HR experts

It's hard to imagine a pro sports team reaching the World Series or Super Bowl without an effective coach. Even the best players can do only so much on their own. It's the coaching process that brings them together as a team. Coaching teaches individuals how to work in unison, overcome failures, learn from mistakes and strive for "the win."

As an employer, you want high-performance employees with the best skill sets and qualifications to help your business succeed. But success doesn't come from "management." Getting the most from your team—productivity, creativity, forward-thinking—takes leadership coaching to achieve. So, let's see how your business can flourish by coaching employees for success.

Benefits of Coaching Employees

Employee coaching is vital to business success. It's a powerful tool, with many wide-ranging benefits for both the company and individuals. Even for the team members who do the coaching, there are substantial rewards. Here are some benefits to expect when you coach employees effectively.

Improved job performance

Many organizations struggle with performance management. By coaching employees, you'll identify and improve performance issues. Coaching encourages employees to "do better" by providing positive feedback and guidance. Compare that to typical management styles, which often address only weak points or failures.

Increased employee engagement and satisfaction

By coaching employees, you're demonstrating the company's interest and its intent to help employees grow and succeed. It empowers individuals to solve problems, take risks and institute reasonable action on their own. In return, employees become more motivated and engaged, which leads to increased job satisfaction.

Enhanced teamwork and collaboration

Successful coaching of employees helps them learn how to work together better. They'll understand how to collaborate effectively and support the contributions of fellow employees. Strong teamwork can build confidence in all your employees when teams overcome obstacles together.

Development of new skills and abilities

Coaching promotes new skills as knowledgeable leaders share their experiences and techniques. Learning from leaders who've already walked the path accelerates growth and success. This professional development creates employees who are better suited for today's and tomorrow's challenges.

Development of management skills for coaches

The coaching process helps managers and supervisors polish their own management skills while guiding others. Communication, delegation and conflict resolution skills can increase as leaders provide one-on-one coaching. The more you coach employees, the more you understand how to explain complex processes, what works and what doesn't.

Improved profitability

When a business improves job performances through coaching conversations, productivity may increase. In and of itself, that helps the bottom line. But productivity may also enhance customer satisfaction—and that leads to more business down the line.

Coaching Techniques

When properly implemented by a team leader, a coaching leadership style should incorporate these battle-tested coaching techniques:

  • Active listening. Listening carefully, without interruption or judgement and responding with understanding.
  • Asking open-ended questions. Using questions that can't be answered with a yes or no, which provokes more detailed answers.
  • Providing constructive feedback. Honest, respectful and actionable feedback identifies areas for growth and improvement.
  • Encouraging self-reflection and self-awareness. Prompting employees to think deeply about how thoughts, feelings and behaviors affect their performance.
  • Setting SMART goals. Target goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely (SMART) to clearly define and measure progress. TriNet's employee growth and talent retention tool for performance management helps you align your employee and company goals while capturing real-time feedback that builds communication.

Coaching Process

An effective coaching process actually begins when human resources onboards new employees. Components of this onboarding process are often referred to as the "four Cs":

  • Compliance, when HR provides an overview of policies, rules and regulations with the employee, grounding them thoroughly in their new position
  • Clarification, when someone (often the hiring manager) establishes the employee relationship foundation by explaining job descriptions, goals and expectations; often considered the true beginning of coaching relationships
  • Culture and connection are often handled by the employee's direct manager, establishing the work environment and interpersonal relationships between workers.

These introductory phases set clear and dependable workplace foundations. Once established, the advanced coaching process can begin. Here's one strategy for implementing a successful coaching methodology:

Assessment of employee strengths and opportunities for improvement

Typically, there are four main obstacles that hinder employee performance. Begin by focusing your assessments on these topics:

  • Does (or can) the employee dedicate enough time to improve or gain needed experience?
  • Is the employee's training sufficient and has the possibility of further training been discussed?
  • Does the employee have the necessary resources and tools to succeed and grow?
  • Is there good motivation for the employee to strive for success?

Examining these typical roadblocks, along with noting and promoting employee strengths, helps resolve performance issues. TriNet's strategic HR support can help you discover individual talents and strengths based on team performance with psychometric assessments and then develop employees' strengths.

Identification of areas for improvement

When helping employees with performance issues, first describe the expectations they're having trouble meeting. Focus on specifics. Stay objective. Voice confidence in their ability to improve their performance. Mention potential challenges and discuss ways to overcome issues. Collaborate as much as possible with the employee when setting deadlines or addressing looming deadlines.

Development of a coaching plan

Record the coaching plan, for each employee, in a physical document. Include the goals you've identified, including deadlines and measurable performance indicators. Having a physical document helps maintain consistency between coaching conversations. It shows the employee you're not "making it up" on the spot or misremembering details. Have the employee sign the plan—and sign it yourself, reinforcing the team effort concept.

Teaching and coaching sessions

Employee engagement is critical for improvement. Work with employees to uncover roadblocks and performance problems. Ask what parts of their jobs are the most challenging. Engage and include them in the action plan, so they're invested and involved. Ask about any personal performance issues they're encountering or any personal goals they're trying to achieve. Work together to find solutions for existing or new tasks. Remember, coaching is a team effort. Collaboration is essential.

Regular check-ins and feedback

Coaching and development sessions are two-way streets. Managers may ask: "How can I support you in this?" or "How can I help you achieve your goals?" These questions demonstrate that managers have an active role and personal stakes in employee successes. Provide feedback regularly and create space for them to give you feedback. Make sure coaching plans clearly define when follow-up evaluation meetings are due. Remind employees of upcoming meetings well in advance. Offer to meet immediately for a coaching session anytime the employee feels it necessary.

Evaluation and measurement of progress

Coaching involves letting others complete a plan—without interference. Evaluate progress from a distance. Encourage employees to discuss problems they face, before problems escalate. Measure progress equally between coaching successes as well as project successes.

Challenges in Coaching Employees

If it was easy, every company would coach with excellence. But there may be roadblocks in the workplace and workforce.

  • Resistance to change. It's normal to fear the unknown. A lack of trust in the process, or lack of confidence in themselves or the coach can cause problems. A good coach promotes confidence in the coaching and in the process. This helps inspire confidence in employees as well.
  • Lack of time and resources. Be mindful of the time and resources available to both you and the employee. Ensure that everyone has the resources to overcome obstacles and if not, look for a solution together. Teamwork is the key word.
  • Communication barriers. Lead like a coach, not like a boss. Two-way dialog helps overcome boss-employee stumbling blocks.
  • Executive coaching. Upper management can be resistant to development coaching. Leaders are used to handling issues on their own and being self-reliant—certainly good traits. When coaching executives, offer frequent feedback, discuss high-level organizational goals and share leadership coaching skills.
  • Cultural differences and individual preferences. Be aware of these for each employee. Strive to create a respectful and inclusive coaching environment. Strategies may be adjusted and adapted based on each employee's unique needs.

Put Me In, Coach!

Employee coaching has tremendous benefits for any business, large or small. That starts with HR, by setting the stage with a structured coaching system that provides tools, resources and guidance. HR also functions to train supervisors and management on proper feedback and coaching skills. Forms and templates can be provided by HR to document coaching sessions and track progress. And HR can offer regular feedback to leaders on their workplace coaching efforts and provide the right resources. TriNet's leadership training services to help you with training so you can prepare your leaders with the skills to push your business to the next level.

TriNet helps companies reap the benefits of good, consistent coaching by offering many essential resources:

  • Access to experts who can help you develop a coaching culture
  • Guidance and best practices for coaches to employ
  • Help with developing a unique coaching approach
  • Ongoing HR support, including feedback and evaluations on your coaching efforts

With TriNet’s help, you can improve coaching effectiveness—helping employees and management achieve goals faster and more efficiently.

This communication is for informational purposes only; it is not legal, tax or accounting advice; and is not an offer to sell, buy or procure insurance.